Fishwife tale
Why do parents always assume we think they’re right? Tracy Engelbrecht wonders.
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I hear her before I see her.

A fishwife in twinset and pearls, shouting at her teen daughter in front of the hair accessories in Pick n Pay. I admit, I don’t know what happened before I got there. So maybe I’ve misinterpreted everything I saw. If I have, then I’m really sorry.

Perhaps a debate on scrunchies vs banana clips got out of hand. Perhaps daughter dropped some epic bombshell as I rounded the corner. Perhaps she insulted her mother’s embroidered jumper. Perhaps she deserved to be called bloody obnoxious and a pathetic stupid waste of her mother’s time.    

Whatever she did to deserve it, all I see is a girl of about 16 standing perfectly still, listening to her mother call her names. She’s not rolling her eyes. She’s not snarling in that infuriating sullen teen way. She’s just waiting for it to be over.  And she looks like she’s heard it all before. It’s painful to watch.

Banshee Momma doesn’t miss a beat as we approach, and tries to suck me in. She catches my eye with that universal Harassed Mother Glance (like the Masonic handshake, only more desperate). ‘Kids! You know what they’re like!’

She’s sure I’ll understand; haven’t we all been there? She smiles ruefully in mid-harangue. I don’t smile back.

Isn’t the HMG reserved for mothers trying to peel a loud sticky toddler off the ride-on panda?  I don’t think it’s meant to be used to excuse your own screechy public tantrum. It’s like sneaking into the Moms & Tots parking bay when your car is tot-less – just not on, lady.  

I’m offended by her attempts to make me an accomplice. As far as I can see, what she’s doing is not discipline. It’s not even the momentary explosive venting that escapes you when you’ve really reached the end of your rope. It’s just the way she normally talks to her daughter, and she thinks everybody else does it too.

She eyes my stony face. Grabbing the girl’s arm, she literally shoves her down the aisle, hissing ‘See; now everybody’s looking at you!’

It’s on the tip of my tongue – I was so close.  ‘No, you old bat. We’re looking at YOU.’

God, I wish I’d said it. I never would, of course. But I should have.

What should Tracy have done with this misbehaving mom?


Read more by Tracy Engelbrecht

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