Stepping over the line.

I popped into a supermarket on Saturday, just to get two things.   It was supposed to be an in and out errand….five minutes max, as the rest of my family were waiting for me.  I found the two items I was after, and in doing so noticed a Mum with her two boys…..the boys at this stage were running around.  Dashing here and there.  The Mum was calling for them halfheartedly.  Somehow she managed to wrangle them up to the counter and I ended up in the checkout line behind them.  What followed was a rather painful five minutes of the two boys not doing what they were asked to do, then two boys physically fighting on the floor of the supermarket, the Mother threatening to take their massive bag of sweets off them (she didn’t – she ended up buying it along with her other groceries) and then there were massive tears from the youngest child as the older child continued to sit on him and hit him….then the Mum ended up carrying the younger one out of the place.  And everyone around finally breathed out in relief.

At the time I was pretty astounded at what was happening.  But at the same time I was trying hard not to judge.  Who knows what had already gone in this family’s day before the supermarket ‘event’.  They may have been up before the birds.  They may have just said goodbye to Dad before he went away for a trip.  Grandma may have given them food with red dye in it and they may react to that.  There’s a whole range of things that could have caused the unruly behaviour.  But because in our generation of bringing up kids we kinda like to let people be, and heavens above if anything ever looked like we were judging, I stood by and said nothing and did nothing……What I would have loved to ask the Mum was ‘is this normal behaviour?’.  Because if it was, that lady needs help.  What those kids were doing was not ok and was not normal.  But who’s going to tell her?

This week in New Zealand I was horrified to read of the murder of an Indian shop owner in a suburb we’re very familiar with.  This event was shocking enough, but then it came out in the news that the two accused of the crime are aged 12 and 13.  Yes.  12 and 13.  As far as I’m concerned every 12 and 13 year old should be at home at 7.30am on a weekday morning, eating their Weetbix, playing minecraft on the computer and about the most trouble they should be causing would be pestering their Mums about what’s for dinner.

But obviously this is not the reality for a lot of families and life is not the simple and easy thing it absolutely should be, for a lot of young people.  And because of this, my heart breaks.

And isn’t it easy to feel helpless?

And isn’t it easy to feel angry and deeply saddened about the way some children have to live, but feel absolutely clueless about what to do to help and make ANY kind of difference?

It is easy to feel powerless.  Absolutely powerless.  But maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to be.  Maybe, just maybe, we all need to step over the line and act on things we see.  And not stand by when we see little things happen, because in my simplistic way of thinking….the little things mount up…the little things add up….and the little things can make a huge difference.

Coming back to the Mum in the supermarket….I could have firmly but kindly knelt down to the little boys and said something along the lines of ‘hey, is that kind behaviour? How about you show me (and the rest of the store!) what a brave and kind big brother you can be’.  I could have said to the Mum ‘hey we all have bad days, can I help you to your car?’.  None of those options would have been judgemental – just a friendly face with a desire to help.

Sometimes we can just step over that line – and actually help.

How about if we see a bunch of kids in our neighborhood, hanging out when they should be at school?  I am naive enough to think that if we actually called the neighborhood police and alerted them to that…maybe, just maybe having an authority figure step into the picture would actually get them back in school.

How about if we did everything we could to support our teachers and youth workers?

What if we actually struck up a conversation with the young single Mum in the same waiting room as us, and took an interest in her and her child?

What if we actually started parenting as a village?

What if we admitted to our friends when things weren’t going well and needed fresh ideas on how to deal with certain issues?

What if we became less timid about sharing our successes and useful tips – not to show-off or blow our own trumpets, but because we saw a real need and could actually provide someone with a practical thing to help them with a parenting issue?

What if?

I certainly don’t have any real answers to deal with these major issues that society is facing….I know I’m simplistic in my thinking and there’s a lot more at stake here than I”m looking at in this short blog post…..but I do know we have power in our shared experiences.  What if we stepped over the line a lot more?


This is a very interesting article, that I’d love you to read – an interview with a pediatrician in New Zealand.  Kiwi kids:  how we can save them.  



10 thoughts on “Stepping over the line.

  1. i so hoped your raise this here… cos i know your heart has been hurting over it and you’ve being pondering it… and cos you have such a balanced, sensitive and strong voice about these things. aka i love what you have to say!

    it is heart breaking watching the news about those boys… my own 12 year old was dumbfounded when we watched it on the news. we sat and talked about it together. the reasons why they might have done it. the motives. the possible back story. how it relates to his world.

    i love your question about parenting as a village. parenting is hard work. we need love, grace, good ideas, more grace. and lots of families need practical support. its probably hard to be kind and considerate when you’re hungry and cold. its probably hard to parent when you’re stressed out of your brain about bills.

    you’re a great mum fee. and a great friend. and a great stranger.

    once voice can make a difference.

    • Thanks friend. I guess we all need to see things we can do to help, and not just feel helpless…..

      You’re pretty amazing yourself.

  2. I too have said nothing on social media about this (eg: the sad stabbling in Auckland) and I read the article about the Starship Doctor this morning. Where do you start? I’m so saddened by it all. We also had the drunk 9yr old in Hamilton situation revisited as some people are in court today facing their judgement. It seems to be everywhere at the moment 😦 But I do love your ‘step over the line’ statement/encouragement. That invisible line has a lot of power eh? Hard to go past it. Even me, who doesn’t care what people think. Challenged again. And already know a situation where I need to get more gutsy! Thanks x

    • It is a very powerful invisible line.

      Good luck with what you need to do. I already think you’re one of the very bravest. xx

  3. Oh, when my twin and I were young, in an alcoholic household, if only someone had stepped over the line… if only if only if only—-dumb game to play from my end now, as an old, Godly gramma! But still a great lesson to remember–if ya see a need, if ya have the answer–even if it’s just a “Jesus loves you” kinda moment—meet that need. And our good Lord will help us. Thanks so for the timely reminder. It’s okay to have our hearts broken, but NOT to let it paralyze us.

  4. I really like what you say about wanting to ask the mom if this was a normal day for her kids. When we were on an intimate travel experience for 12 days last summer, we were in close quarters with 4 other families. One had kids (tween ages) who were completely out of control. Until this mom had seen other children the same age up close, she truly had NO IDEA her kids were not normal. (She worked insanely long hours and was rarely at home, which explains a lot, but primarily explains why she didn’t see many other kids up close.) She knew she was at her wit’s end, but assumed every parent was. I think the experience was eye opening to her. As for parenting as a village, that’s so hard for Americans (as you know), but we’re getting a glimpse of how it can work in a positive way in Toby’s new school this year. All parents are very attentive of all the kids (good behavior and bad).

    • Yeah – I’m convinced that people don’t know what they don’t know……until you’re around other kids and parents, it is hard to know what ‘normal’ is …..the term normal being used very loosely….Glad you’re seeing positive examples at Toby’s new school – it sounds like that was a really good fit for him, and you!

  5. Fiona 🙂 Long time no see!! I know that this post will ring in my ears for a long time to come and encourage me to reach out to other mothers around me. It takes courage to ‘step over the line’ and help someone- I applaud you for encouraging us to do so ….parenting is so tough- It’s very interesting how much the Lord has humbled me over the past 3 years since we adopted our Ellie. Before she was born I would stand at a distance and judge the parent of the tantrum throwing child thinking to myself ‘I would have never let my boys do that!’….It’s so easy as a parent to get wore down and function in survival mode (not that I ever do this…hee hee!!) Thank you again for this encouragement!

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