Seeing pain, anguish through a child’s eyes

While walking through the parking lot of our local mall, I witnessed a scene that bothers me to this day.

While walking through the parking lot of our local mall, I witnessed a scene that bothers me to this day.

I saw what looked like a mother wearing a Santa hat, screaming at a little girl, who I assume was her daughter. The mother called the little girl a loser. The child immediately started crying. Although I was at a distance, I did notice the hurt in the child’s eyes and the anguish in her crying.

I still remember that scene, and it was two weeks ago.

I thought the whole scenario was rather strange and very sad. My first reaction was to go give that woman a piece of my mind. I wanted to tell her that she was crazy and ought to be ashamed of herself. I always have understood the importance and power of words. When I was a child, I didn’t start talking until I was 9. So words always have held a special place in my heart.

I am a father of a little girl who is the love of my life. She has given me more than I could ever give her, and for that, I thank her.

It is important to remember that it takes a thousand “atta-boys” to counteract the negative effects of being called a “loser” one time.

During the holiday season, I walk through the malls, watching people running about, not looking very happy, stressed out with kids in tow. The parents are looking to buy the latest “stuff” to show how much they love their children. What parents seem to forget during the holidays is that what kids really want, and will always remember, is not the latest toy but the last look. They want more than anything to have their parents’ love, time and approval. Most children will ask, plead and ask again for that latest toy. And two days after Christmas, that very important toy is either broken or missing in action.

I often wonder why this time of year, when people are supposed to be on their best behavior, they wind up exhibiting their worst behavior.

I have not forgotten the look on that little girl’s face, a look of incredible sadness and shock. I also have not forgotten my internal response. My blood pressure went up, and I had to make sure I did not say anything to that woman. But I sure wanted to. If I could have, I just wanted to ask her one question: Whatever that little girl did, was it worth all the screaming, pain and guilt – the pain you caused her, and the guilt you will eventually feel?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask her, but I said a prayer for both of them, especially for the little girl.

Be careful how you talk to people as much as how you treat people. It is those hateful words that will last a lifetime. Not a spanking. Not going to bed early. It is those words from the people you look up to and love the most that hurt the most.

Parents can say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.” But somewhere in the back of your mind, you always will remember not when she told you she loved you, but when she said you were not good enough. Those wounds will last a lifetime.

So to the parents, be careful what you say – because what you say is what a child carries with her forever.

No excuses.

Walter Backstrom is a Federal Way resident. Reach him at