Does everyone deserve to be a parent?


Do you ever want to take some kids away from their parents? I know we’ve all have bad days and moments of frustration, especially while shopping, but I wonder how some people can be parents at all.

I apologise for the language in this article, but it is necessary. This is an accurate account of an incident that occurred while I was grocery shopping with my daughter this morning.

We were walking from the parking lot to the travelator when I heard a man say, “Fuck!” This got my attention because the shopping centre I go to is very family-friendly and as it was mid-morning it was mostly parents, children and some older people going about their day.

I looked up and saw a little boy aged about four running up the walkway. Two adults were walking behind him and I assumed they were his parents.

The little boy was running just ahead of them (as children do) and the man was striding purposefully behind him.

He then said, “Fuck! I’m so fucking sick of you fucking running off when we’re at the shops. I’ve fucking had enough.”

I had picked my daughter up at this stage and was trying to observe while avoiding eye-contact. They got on the travelator right behind me. His little boy had returned to them by this stage.

I then heard the dad say, “No, I’m not holding your fucking hand now. No fucking way. Not when you’ve been fucking running off again.”

The little boy walked up the travelator ahead of where my daughter and I were standing. He smiled at me and I smiled back at him. He didn’t seem abused or upset. He was obviously used to this sort of language.

I then heard the woman I assumed to be the mum say something quietly. These were the first words she’d spoken during the entire episode.

He responded, “That’s right. That’s twenty minutes now. That’ll teach you to fucking running off like that.”

I’ve never been closer to taking a child away from his parents before. I wanted to grab him in my arms and take him home. I just felt so sorry for him. I couldn’t believe the language over what was normal behaviour for a little boy and he wasn’t running very far ahead at all. My kids always run up that ramp and we laugh as they try and scare me when I come around the corner seconds after them.

I walked away. To be honest I was a little frightened. This man was belligerent. He was loud. He was very angry and he was very rude.

I might have a chip on my shoulder but I’m pretty sure anyone would find his behaviour offensive. I hoped it was just a bad day. I hoped he was a good dad most of the time. I clung to the fact the little boy had smiled at me and hadn’t seemed upset at all.

We were at the bread shop when I heard shouting.


“Fuck you, mind your own business you fucking prick.”

Me and everyone else in the shopping centre turned around. This belligerent dad was now at the butcher. It’s one of those butcher shops where the guys are really friendly and yell out greetings and specials to passing customers. They’d obviously taken offence to this man’s choice of language and were braver than I was to say something.

The man was very angry now and gesturing wildly. He was walking away shouting so I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying but there was more swearing and the woman/mother had her head down and was leading her son away.

I felt sick. How could we all stand by and let this happen? I thought of saying something but I was too scared. I thought of calling the police but if they picked him up for anything, perhaps anti-social behaviour, wouldn’t he be angrier when he got home? Short of following them to their car and writing down their licence plate I couldn’t think of what else to do.

More importantly, was it any of my businesses at all?

I’ve come across frustrated mothers but I can usually offer a smile or a sympathetic look and try not to judge. I’ve had my moments of frustration too when I’ve snapped at my kids in public, usually after they’ve given me a huge fright by hiding or doing something dangerous. After one particular episode, an older woman said to me, “Don’t worry love, it will get better as they get older.” I looked at her and smiled and then burst out crying.

But I think this was a bit different and I felt outraged, scared and helpless at this dad’s crazy behaviour.

I once saw a mother hit her child across the face in the parking lot at bowling. I was with my brother-in-law and without a moment of hesitation he had a go at her. She walked away, telling him to mind his own business. I assumed the boy had almost gotten hit by a car or done something extremely terrible and while I choose not to hit my kids, I realised it may have been a rare occasion that I’d just witnessed. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, wasn’t having a bar of it. He yelled out, “Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids!”

Have you ever come across bad parenting and if you have, do you say or do anything? It’s a tough call. At the end of the day my priority is my safety and that of my children. I just can’t get this out of my head.

Should everyone be allowed to have kids? We could be tested or assessed. But then, how do you do that to people? Isn’t it our biological right to have children? It’s a free world after all and I doubt I would have been approved if I’d been assessed to have kids. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to but figured I may as well because I so bored of my job. Now I’m the happiest mother of three possible, but how would they have known that?

Jo Abi is the author of the book How to Date a Dad: a dating guide released by Hachette Livre Australia.  You can read more about her many and various exploits here and follow her on Twitter here.

Do you think everyone deserves to be a parent?