To the lady who made my daughter cry

Dear unknown lady who made my daughter cry,

I do understand that what you did had good intentions, that you didn’t set out to make my daughter cry and that you were trying to be helpful. I do understand that it wasn’t the most convenient thing for my two year old to want to walk independently down the stairs of Oxford Circus Underground station by herself, at her two year old, slower-than-average pace, at a busy time of day on New Years Eve. She wanted to navigate those stairs by herself and why shouldn’t she, seeing as she does all other stairs by herself all day long. On top of that, her father and I had our hands full carrying her baby sister in the buggy downstairs because there’s no lift access at many of London’s major tube stations.

According to you, however, my two year old walking down the stairs had caused a little queue behind her. A queue of busy adults in a busy adult rush tutting their busy adult tuts at having to wait a few more seconds to reach the station. You appeared next to my daughter and briefly asked me if I’d like any help, which at first I thought was very kind and considerate of you, because actually, it was a little stressful trying not to drop anything or anyone down those stairs. I politely said “no thank you” knowing full well that my daughter was capable of doing the stairs by herself and more-so, that she wanted to. Also, I didn’t really think it was a problem! Perhaps you are a mother yourself, knowledgeable that toddlers can be a little slower to get things done and just genuinely wanted to help. I get it, trust me, but I’d like to explain a little more about what happened next.

Despite me declining your offer to help, you suddenly picked up my daughter by the armpits and swiftly jogged her down the stairs before quickly disappearing to catch your train, leaving her standing alone waiting for us. My daughter, clearly shocked, highly uncomfortable and pretty angry let out a huge scream. A scream of discomfort, a scream of “hey, what the hell just happened?” A scream that filled Oxford Circus tube station for several minutes. A scream that needed me to explain to her why a lady had just picked her up for no apparent reason, violated her personal space, her ability to make decisions for herself and her choice to be physically touched by a stranger. If you think I’m overreacting, I urge you to keep reading.

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You didn’t stop to ask her if she wanted to be carried downstairs (I guarantee you she would’ve said no). You didn’t stop afterwards to apologise for making her cry (I guarantee you heard her, she is not one to cry quietly). You didn’t stop to consider whether or not it was appropriate to physically handle my child without her consent or mine.

So I’d like to ask you, lady from the tube station, would you have also done the same to a slower paced adult who was forming a queue behind them? An elderly person with a walking stick? Someone with a disability? A teenager on crutches? Would you have picked them up without their consent too? I didn’t think so. Does my daughter, simply because of her young age and portable size, not deserve the same respect and courtesy that you would show someone else? Is she not as entitled to use the stairs and complete them herself just as everyone else can? Is it appropriate to touch her just to make life more convenient for the adult population?

“I didn’t like that lady pick me up,” my daughter said to me once she had regained composure. “I know sweetheart,” I replied, “I didn’t either.” I fumbled for an explanation but my whole body ached with empathy towards her as she stood with tears rolling down her cheeks and a look of sadness and confusion in her eyes. My child did not want to be touched by a stranger during a special family day out in London anymore than you or I would want to be.

Sadly I see it all too frequently. Adults picking up children without their consent, for reasons that are usually rather selfish, the child then trying to wriggle away in discomfort. Children deserve ownership of their bodies as much as they deserve ownership over their precious possessions. So in future, lady from the train station, please consider the thoughts and emotions of my child, or any other child, before picking them up. Wait for consent and if it is not given, please respect that choice.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi

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