I was at Tate Modern recently, waiting by the ever busy bank of lifts, hoping to catch one going down.
Then I saw her, a pretty girl, aged about eight. With her father and younger siblings, on an access day out maybe? No mum seen. With the youngest asleep in the buggy and the middle child holding on, he pushed his way into the lift. Leaving his eldest child teetering at the lift entrance.
She was willing her legs to walk her in, leaning forwards, hoping. Impatiently, her father, minimising her feelings, demands she join us. But all too quickly the doors shut. Leaving the girl, on her own, outside.
Surely no mother would do that? Would the girl be ok, did she manage to navigate the escalator? Instinctively, I had to wait and check. Being cross, that her father could be so unconcerned, unbothered about her safety. Would he have behaved in the same way in a busy shopping centre?
Fortunately, all was well. She re-joined her father and the younger ones. But, why did he not help his eldest child overcome her fear? How could he let her stay apart, heedless of any risk? Minimal though that might have been.
Enclosed spaces can be scary, bodies pushed against each other. As a wheelchair user I’m protected, safe from unwelcome contact. But that young girl was left alone, her fear un-faced. Excluded, her needs unmet.
I watched, as her father walked on, nothing said, she trailing behind. Why no interaction, why no concern? The English un-noticing, or too reserved to comment, much less intervene.
Will her mother be told? How will she feel? What help will the girl receive to conquer her demons?
I’m left wondering, concerned. Wishing I could have made a difference, a positive intervention.
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