OPINION: Train abuse aimed at me as a parent showed a huge lack of class

Ruth Davies was a victim of abuse on the train for having noisy children

Ruth Davies was a victim of abuse on the train for having noisy children - Credit: Ruth Davies

Despite moving on from the days where children were seen and not heard, judgement is frequently gifted to parents with a look displaying our babes are not being enjoyed, alongside muttered wafts of “please move away”.

I’m not sure why people do it, do they think we don’t know when our kids are misbehaving? Do they assume we don’t already want the ground to swallow us as we do our best to minimise the unregulated emotions of a child? Or do they believe their input will make the situation better?

It’s a horrible enough feeling for us parents of neuro typical children, for my friends parenting the brilliantly neuro diverse, something that can’t be diagnosed by Mrs Crabby or Mr Intolerance on the table next to us in Pizza Express, it’s absolutely dire and never welcome.

The looks people give are bad enough, but this week I experienced it one step further and it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

I’d been at press shows in London. An element of my work made possible because not only does my industry recognise women are productive after childbirth, employing us regardlessly, but they welcome our children when we meet.

They don’t just tolerate, they invite. I was with Thule to see their latest urban stroller and while I looked, they fed us and entertained with Maggie and Rose, a London based kids club, meaning my work became the children’s adventure – this is having it all, or as close as damnit to it.

I left this inclusivity to get the train home and that’s where it all went wrong.

Most Read

I’d boarded in first class by mistake after waiting on the platform one carriage further along than I’d needed to be.

So, I left my buggy in the connector and walked down the moving train looking for a seat, one babe in arms, another tottering beside me. When none were available for three carriages it was apparent I wasn’t going to get one.

We went back to first class, stepping over those sitting on the floor, where I knew there were many seats by my buggy. I’d paid for two, no one was using these, and I was breastfeeding the baby. It’s hard enough folks, without sitting on the floor.

My kids were tired. One was asleep, the other just chatting. He pointed out trees and cows and football fields. We played eye-spy and went to the toilet three times, which was tricky because train toilets are tiny, but we managed. And then just as we were coming to the end of the journey, Posie started to cry. I stood up to jiggle her back to sleep and a man from the next carriage beckoned me over.

“Can you shut your children up?” he said, but with an added very offensive word between “your” and “children”.

I felt floored yet, while he and his companion continued, I knew I had to stand up for myself. Not lower myself to their level, or raise my voice, but I absolutely needed to explain why they couldn’t speak to another human being in that way.

I was told to go away, again with that offensive word, and at that point I got my phone out and told them I’d be filming the rest of the conversation.

My children had mainly been making happy noises, we were not even sat near to them, and they could have moved, because unlike standard, the first class carriages were nearly empty.

They changed tack, their problem wasn’t because my children were screaming, as they’d initially gunned with, but because I didn’t have a first class ticket. I was told to go and sit in second class where I belonged, or on the floor.

Other passengers came to my rescue, at which point I burst into tears, and a kind man walked me to the barrier as we disembarked so that I didn’t have to encounter them again.

A police officer came to talk to me, she explained this happens a lot, and it’s a public offence. She said if I shared the video on my social media perhaps they’d be found.

Since doing so I’ve had many messages of support but, worryingly, just as the police officer suggested, many telling similar stories. Some from people who now fear others during the enrichment of their children’s lives so much, they don’t go anywhere.

No one deserves to be spoken to in this way, but mothers are often vulnerable, so especially not lone women with children. You never know someone’s situation, as I explained to these people, but I was told to spare them the sermon.

I’m assuming they have a situation which would have caused them to be so unpleasant. Perhaps they’re old and unhappy with each other, or perhaps they’re new friends, each of them bringing a miserable past with them?

 Whatever their story is, I feel for them and wish them the ability to be kinder, but there’s no excuse, nothing that should allow them ever, to speak to others as if they are above them.

This shows only one thing, money might buy you a first class train ticket, but personal class is about being a decent human and it costs nothing.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk