Yesterday, at Westfield

Yesterday, at Westfield, I saw something that I hope to never see again.

 

A woman up ahead caught my attention because I noticed what she was wearing.  It was the kind of thing I wanted to buy for work; a long dress, bright, comfy and most importantly, easy to wear.

 

Her hair was tied back casually and her two gorgeous boys, around 7 and 10, were beside her, both wearing caps, with the cutest of cute rats tails, poking out beneath them.

 

All seemingly fine, all seemingly normal.

 

There were small groups of people however, gathered, whispering quietly and pointing rather discreetly and I could tell all was not right in Westfieldland that day.  I can speak Greek and by sheer coincidence, I overheard the word, έκλεψε, meaning, ‘she stole’.

 

I followed the gaze of the crowd to the Mum in the nice dress.  To her left there was a police officer, escorting her along gently and walking slightly ahead there was another, rubber gloves on, carrying a well-worn handbag and two new colourful backpacks, the tags still dangling off the zippers.

 

My first thought:  What the fuck?

What kind of a country do we live in if a Mum has to shoplift and quite possibly, enlist her kids to do the same?

 

My intuition however, told me I was not looking at a career criminal.  My gut and those tags on the backpacks, spelled that this poor woman has two kids about to return to school and doesn’t have the cash to get them the shit they need.

 

My heart bled.

 

I wanted to run up and plead with the police, ‘Here’s fifty bucks for the bags, just let her off!”

 

Of course I didn’t.  Instead, I left the huddled whispers and turned down the corridor to my car, away from this undeserving Mum, her two deprived kids and their bleak immediate future.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  She was probably charged with shoplifting and now, would have to come up with money, that she didn’t even have in the first place, to pay for court costs and fines, not to mention the costly and inconceivable humiliation to be endured from her family.

 

And her kids.  All kids deserve to start the year free of anxiety, with fresh stationery, a clean uniform and a bag for all their gear.  A student’s job is to learn at school, not worry about whether Mum or Dad can afford their equipment.

 

As a Teacher, it would be unethical for me to write specifically about some of the situations I have seen.  But I will say this.  There are students who have nothing.  No pens, no lunch, no uniform.  They don’t have rulers, or calculators, so they can’t do Maths.  They don’t bring books, so their reading and comprehension is lacking.  They don’t have the right shoes on, so for their own safety they can’t do Science or TAS (Home Science/Industrial Arts).  They are a little unkempt, so they may be bullied and at times they may bully others.

 

You can spot this kid in a room of 30 students and it is always heart breaking.

 

With another school year on the horizon, I’m going to be more attentive to this plight than ever before.  I’ve already gathered up a big box of spare pens and stationery and I’ll be leaving it on my desk for the year.

 

I take it for granted that I can run over to Westfield and buy whatever my kids need.  Undies, socks, school supplies, a cheap toy as a special treat but I wonder, how many other Mums, like the one I saw, are forced to shoplift basic items, like a backpack for their kids.

 

I’ll be taking my box load of stationery to school on Tuesday.

It would be very cool if you can look around at the things you don’t need and do the same.

 

Robo X

 

Flogging my Blog, #FYBF, over at With Some Grace

About Robomum

I blog after my kids go to sleep. It takes a while. View all posts by Robomum

36 responses to “Yesterday, at Westfield

  • Nathalie Brown (@easypeasykids)

    And this is what makes you a wonderful teacher.

  • Tegan

    Such a sad situation. I hope too, that none of the boys friends were in that crowd, how humiliating it would be for them. Especially without the coping mechanisms to just ignore it. I don’t have a whole lot, but I am grateful for what I do have.

  • mrnathanrussell

    I’m also a teacher, and these kids are obvious in the classroom. I am always troubled that these kids find themselves in situations where they have to get part-time jobs as soon as they are old enough and will often work multiple (often late) nights a week to support themselves and often their family. This further impacts on their learning, ability to complete work and attendance leaving them few opportunities to succeed. It is a terrible situation.

    • robomum

      It snowballs, doesn’t it? I wanted to put more into that post but decided against it… Maybe some other time.
      There is nothing sadder than a teenage kid who can’t realise their potential because they have adult problems at home. Terrible.

      Thanks for visiting.

  • Norlin Mustapha (@norlinm)

    My heart breaks as I read that. It’s true, not many can afford and I feel so sad for both the kids and the family who struggle to make ends meet and have even a decent school uniform. And I do know what you mean by you can spot the ones that need it the most. Our school thankfully buys all the stationery for the kids – well we pay for them of course, but you would never know who doesn’t have what because those who are in need are kept on a “private” register so that they get assistance with payments (or I think they’re exempt? not sure). That way everyone gets the same stationery, books etc that comes straight from the school.

    • robomum

      That is a good thing. It sounds like you’re describing a primary school, so it’s great that all the kids are on an ‘even playing field’. In that environment, a new pencil case can make or break a kid. Thanks for stopping by my blog X

  • Ness

    You sound like an awesome teacher, Robomum. School costs are frightfully expensive. We struggle, but usually manage to come up with everything. I couldn’t imagine being forced to shoplift. Heartbreaking.

  • Lara @ This Charming Mum

    That really is heartbreaking, especially for the kids. My children love stationery and have papers and pens spilling out of their rooms. In fact a brightly coloured rubber or notepad is often their preferred ‘treat’ on a shopping day. I need to remind them how lucky they are.

  • always josefa (@always_josefa)

    what a heartbreaking situation! you initiative to take the spare stationary and have a little bit of a different perspective is a great thing to come of it xx

  • Cathy

    I’m on extended leave at the moment, but I too am a teacher. Your post made me teary – I remember those kids all too well 😦 Our children are lucky – a great reminder to think of those who are less fortunate x

  • Lydia C. Lee

    Each Christmas I give to an orphanage and I always try to pick the older kids who’ve asked for something ‘less cute’ so they’re covered. This year my eyes filled with tears just reading the list, when I got to the 12 year old who had asked for school stationary. I went with her list, and got exercise books and pens etc, the whole bit – it cost $60 (from Kmart – not the fancy stuff). So I can see why a lot of people struggle with that after uniforms, shoes and fees (our public school fees threw my credit card for a six!)

  • becc03

    This story is very sad. I would hope that schools would be able to help out in some manner, but most of them are struggling too. I cannot imagine the humiliation and horror that woman is experiencing.
    I am at a loss really….
    Becc @ Take Charge Now via #FYBF

  • Seana Smith

    How sad, and yes, I have seen kids like this. We had many at the primary school I went too. So grateful to be able to get my kids what they need. Thought provoking post.

  • Enid Bite'Em

    You’re right, this should not be an issue in Australia and it’s devastating that it is. The haves (including the government) have more than enough to ensure every child has the right to an education (including the supplies). I’m glad you’re doing something about it 🙂

    • robomum

      Glad you agree! It’s true, they could solve this for all in one clean sweep but they don’t… They put their money towards ‘more important’ issues. Ridonkulous!

  • Cooker and a Looker

    I can understand this. I’m a law-abiding, quiet, go-about-my-business kind of person, but given the circumstance I would do just about anything for my girls. Maybe I’m one of those tiger mums, or maybe all mothers have the capacity to do things they wouldn’t normally do if the need arises. I feel sorry for mums who can’t provide their children the things they need.
    Great post – long live the power of four!

    • robomum

      Thank you. I think if it came down to it, any Mum would do anything for her kids – an innate compulsion. In my heart, I feel that is what this mum was doing. I just wish her kids were not there to see it.

  • Have a laugh on me

    I got goosebumps reading that, how sad. I bet you must see so much sadness as a teacher and are restricted by what you can do to help. Thanks for sharing this, it has made me get over the funk I’m in today and realise how fortunate I am, GREAT post!

  • crazycrunchychocolatemummy

    That just breaks my heart. I cannot imagine how she must have felt.
    I love your idea of the spare things on the desk for those kids. Your amazing.
    thank you for the post.

  • redlandcitygirl

    Where I live, the local community centre makes up and distributes “back to school” packs for families that are struggling.

  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    This is such a sad situation yet, unfortunately, not uncommon. It really helps put things in perspective, doesn’t it? Good on you Robomum for looking a little deeper, not judging and taking the initiative in your classroom.

  • SarahMac

    Oh, so sad. I want to cry. It’s not bloody fair. We could all be in her situation, it’s just luck more than anything. What a great teacher you must be. I loved this post even though it made me sad. Thank you.

  • Shari Brewer

    I’m a teacher who’s been working in Student Services for the past 7 years and the kids you describe are my clients. Some days their stories are heartbreaking and yet they turn up to school day after day – a credit to them, but possibly an escape from worse at home. I hope the mum in your post was let off with a warning – some compassion by the authorities would go a very long way in cases like this. Thanks for highlighting the plight that many turn away from x

    • robomum

      That’s very true. I don’t want to write about the cases I’ve experienced but I feel the same way.
      I really hope the Mum was let off. I was in that shopping centre again today and I thought about her.

  • Grace

    Oh, gosh. I’m speechless. My heart goes out to that mum and her family. We just don’t give enough credit for teachers – for what they see, what they have to deal with and what they see but have no authority to deal with it. Thank you for bringing all of this to our attention. x

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