This post was originally part of a 7Quick Takes, but I gave it a post of it's own when I re read it and realised that it was too long and didn't really belong there.
Never a dull moment.
Outside the Marie Stopes clinic again yesterday with the children when a Volvo estate drew up alongside us. The window lowered and the smart looking lady driver, addressed Colmcille in clipped tones "Where's your mother?" I responded with a slightly wary, stiff smile that she was standing right beside him.
Without missing a beat, or acknowledging me at all, the driver continued to address him. Gimlet eyed she leaned out of her window glaring at him "Do you know what that means?" ( I presume she was referring to the sign which said "Pray to end abortion".)
I stepped forward to her car to answer her, and to deflect her attention from Colmcille, but she leaned past me and said again to him, this time in a louder voice "How old are you?"
And then again, in a voice that was growing more shrill " Do you know what that means?". despite the twinset and pearls and the Volvo estate, it was pretty clear to me that some violent emotions were simmering below the surface that could just bust out at any time. This is where a little experience both in A&E and on Labour ward came in handy. You meet a lot of people on the edge there.
Mindful of the old adage of a soft word turning away wrath, and not wanting an exchange to get out of control, especially infront of the children, I kept my voice as quiet and steady as I could manage.
I told her that I would answer her question but that she mustn't address him please. She responded that in bringing my son with me I had made him a "public voice". I repeated that he was no such thing and that she was absolutely not to speak to him, that her tone was hostile and I would answer any questions she wanted to ask. She snapped back that she was a mother and knew how to speak to children ( I mentally congratulated myself for not rolling my eyes at this). I noticed she had a sleeping toddler in a car seat in the back of the car.
This time she craned her neck out of the window and shouted at him "How old are you?"
Poor Colmcille. He had immediately perceived that this was a mean and angry lady from the outset and was consequently, and quite sensibly, saying nothing. I turned to him and told him that I would answer this lady's questions and that he was quite right not to say anything at all.
Every time I tried to respond to her, she would shout me down with a new accusation. Each time she did that I stopped talking and waited for her to finish. After this had happened four or five times I asked her if she wanted to hear my answer because I was having a hard time finishing a sentence owing to the fact that she kept interrupting me. At this she appeared shocked and said "Oh you're rude! You're not setting a very good example for this..." she waved her hand at the three people standing on the pavement praying the Stations of The Cross and searched for the right term " this...cause" She dropped that word out of her mouth as though she was spitting out something nasty she just ate.
Much of her objection seemed to centre on what she saw as my "brainwashing" of my son, and "using him" to "push my own agenda" on people. I explained, at least when she wasn't talking over me I tried to explain, that I believe that it is a parents vital function to pass on their values to their children. And that among our most cherished values is the passionate belief that all human life is most precious and worth defending.I also tried to explain to her that I believe it is possible to be truthful in what we say to our children about sensitive or "adult" matters, without giving them the whole unvarnished facts.
I think "appropriate" is the word here.
So he knows that when we are talking about abortion we are talking about mothers who, for whatever reason, are scared and feel unable to cope with having a baby ( and by the way, I think there are many good reasons for feeling scared and unable to cope and I don't minimise that one bit. These mothers should never be caricatured as heartless or cold) So I haven't explained the full meaning of abortion, the heartbreaking reality that it kills a baby before it is born and the various means by which this is done. And I would have tried to explain this to her. But she really didn't hear me, and she wasn't prepared to listen anyway.
At some point during our fruitless exchange a couple of cars were backed up behind her and she needed to move off. "I'm aborting you" she snapped as the window slid up and she moved off.
After she had gone, the other three, who had been quietly continuing to pray, were very kind and encouraging and commended me for having remained calm during the exchange. I was glad that they had stayed out of it rather than being tempted to chime in .
I was pleased with the way I had managed to respond to her, in as much as I hadn't lost my temper or said anything that I regretted, but I was surprised that I was a bit shaken inside.
The week before a man on a Boris bike had come past and sounded off at me for the "immorality" of taking children along to the vigil ( at that time I only had that baby and the toddler so they weren't really aware of what he was saying)
He was incensed at the presence of pro lifers outside the clinic and ranted, mostly pretty incoherently, about everything from the catholic church to paedophilia to homophobia. Myself and another chap answered all his questions and responded to many of his allegations, and when he'd had enough he pointed to each of us in turn and gave us his expert diagnosis: "You're a f***ing idiot, and you're a f***ing idiot" and so on, until he got to me and said "and YOU, you're a f***ing immoral, irresponsible idiot".
It was oddly satisfying to be singled out for a little extra abuse.
And with that he jumped on his bike and cycled off, and with a final flourish he showed us all the finger and shouted over his shoulder "You're all f***ing lunatic idiots!"
And the funny thing is, that hadn't bothered me at all. In fact it was quite invigorating.
But this woman was different.
And 20 minutes later she came back.
The window drew down and she said to me, this time with a taut smile "I just want to let you know that I'm reporting you to child protection".
There was a pregnant pause as we regarded eachother. At this point my impulse was to giggle, because honestly, it was such an absurd threat, but when I did find my voice, I confined myself to saying, with a straight face " How are you going to do that? You don't know who I am"
To which she responded seriously, as she indicated down the street "My friend took your photograph".
I half imagined La Femme Nikita was out there in the shadows, observing us from behind a telephoto lens
Perhaps I was meant to believe that even as we spoke, an All Ports Alert had been issued with my photograph attached. " Mother forcing her incorrect views on her child! If you see her do not approach!".
As one of the others observed afterwards, it seems that we are expected to keep our children as empty, value free vessels for the state to fill up as the culture dictates. Parents values = "evil brainwashing".