While it’s important to report suspected child abuse when you see it, sometimes our parental instincts can go into overdrive and we can be quick to judge another parent’s actions without a full scope.
That’s what happened to Megan Burnside, who called the police on a mom struggling with her son at a gas station — a call she’d later come to regret.
Burnside shared the story in a now-viral Facebook post, explaining how a few years ago, in Tennessee, she did what she thought she had to.
“We were at a gas station when we saw a woman with a boy of about 10 years old, struggling to get him in the car,” she wrote. “He was screaming and she was so angry and frustrated. We watched her get him in the car and there was a lot of physical fighting in the car. It looked like she was hitting him as well, so we called the police.”
The post continued: “[The police] came and we left. We then got a call and they told us that the boy was autistic and she really struggled with him, and she had even asked for the police’s help in the past to deal with him because he was very violent.”
“They said they have been helping her and she’s doing the best she can.”
Burnside said she still carries guilt for “turning her in” when all the woman needed was a helping hand. She wished she’d handled things differently.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, the mom-of-four took the chance to redeem herself.
Further into the post, she wrote: “I was at a thrift store and a woman with two kids were in line to pay. One toddler boy was fussing and the other boy was asking his mother to buy things. She was so angry and explosive at both of them, the whole store was aware of them. People stood there and watched them struggle in the line.”
Remembering the mother and son from years before, Burnside approached the family and it was exactly what they all needed.
“I walked over to talk to the little boy and put my hand on his foot. He calmed down. The mother was so frazzled and apologized. She told me she worked nights and she couldn’t even think in the day. I know there were other things going on, but in that moment I told her I understood what it’s like to be overwhelmed. I told her she was a good mom. I told her everything was going to be okay. She cried, guys. She CRIED as everyone else watched her struggle with her burden. Years earlier I would have been holding my cell phone ready, watching to see if she did anything that I should report.”
“I know there’s a place for the authorities to step in, but I feel like we have become a culture who watches for faults instead of opportunities to help.”
Having come full circle, Burnside is calling for us all to try being more compassionate, more understanding and willing to serve when we others need our help.
“If we helped more, we would have to call the authorities less,” she said.
“I am grateful for reminders (even painful reminders) that we are not that separate. We are not that different. True change comes when we are given love and help, not condemnation.”