The juggle (and other people’s children)

I remember an incident that happened when I was 14, in the swimming pool of an apartment building that my friend’s family were renting at the time.

A few of us were splashing around in the pool alongside a baby who was probably around 18 months. She was floating in an inflatable ring with her mother poolside. Suddenly the baby tipped over and went underwater and we all just froze. We were too immature to offer any assistance even though we were right there. The mother jumped in fully clothed to rescue her baby and scowled at us as they hurried away. Meanwhile, we found the whole incident vaguely amusing. Needless to say, this is not something I’m proud of!

In the summer my little family spent a night in Oxford en route to Wiltshire, and in a freak accident Savannah managed to get hot coffee spilt on her legs in Starbucks. There were shrieks and wails as we scurried to get ice and cold water. This was before we hurried back to the car where I had some high-strength lavender essential oil that I knew would soothe the burn. And what did the young, trendy students tapping away at their laptops all around us do? Well, nothing. Not that we expected them to, nor wanted them to. But their disdainful glances to one another and heavy sighs showed that they were royally pissed off by the spectacle.

Then last week a friend told me how she was on the tram with her 6-month-old baby safely lying in his pram. Or so she thought. Suddenly the tram jerked and he flew out and crashed into the doors. There were a few eerie moments where he lay lifeless with blood on his face but no-one stepped in to help. Finally a man offered some practical assistance in picking up all the debris from the pram. But he didn’t once meet my friend’s eye – not once.

So what is going on here? And why are we so blasé about other people’s children?

It takes a village, they say, a village to raise a child. But I think it takes far less than that. A sympathetic nod, a smile, and the willingness to step out of yourself and imagine what life must be like for a young juggler. That is, a woman who now finds she has more roles than she can manage. And would really appreciate a little sympathy if she drops a ball from time to time.

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