Thursday, December 16, 2010

Degrees of Tolerance

A few months ago, I wrote about the response to a crying child on the subway. Yesterday in a packed subway car, a young mom struggled with a crying toddler and the response from the other riders was decidedly different from that other instance. Why?

New York has been subject to frigid temperatures over the last few days. (It took a good twenty minutes for my ears to warm up yesterday!) This mom had put a blanket over the front of her stroller to help keep her child warm. While she was sitting in the car she had the stroller in front of her, and the blanket partially draped over her so that the child could see her. However, a few stops before she got off the train, she disentangled herself from the blanket and tucked it around the opening of the stroller. The result was a personal cavern for the child, but he couldn't see out which may have contributed to his distress. Once she had created his cocoon, he started to wail. Overall, people seemed a bit more sympathetic. There were a few sympathetic smiles in her direction, and when she finally disembarked, someone tried to help by holding the door for her and helping her steer the stroller. One man did decide he couldn't take the noise and he made a hasty exit when the train stopped to wait for a subsequent train. (I know this was his strategy because he got off of the train that pulled into Penn station right behind the one that I was on. I passed him on the platform.) Now, the mom did attempt to soothe the toddler ("It's okay, baby. We're getting off soon." and "We're going to see ---. Don't cry.") unlike the mom in the other post. And there are other factors that may have played a role in the response:
  • The child in this case was younger than in the other situation.
  • There was an identifiable source of potential distress for the child.
  • It was clear that the mom and her child would be getting off the train shortly.
There was also another difference that I admit I'm a bit hesitant to raise, but is probably worth mentioning: The parent of the non-stop crier in the other post was of a different race than this mother. And I seriously have to wonder if that didn't play a role in the way the mothers were judged by the surrounding public.

Photo by Viktoria Goda from Pexels

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