What to Do?

Irina Echarry

Photo: Caridad

The first blow — one of surprise — he received directly in his face. Then the sobbing for the toy turned into a cry of pain. The pain was caused by incomprehension, according to the boy’s father, who had hit him. The mother, resigned, limited herself to simply giving the boy a hug.

At once I knew that she must have received the same treatment from time to time. That’s why I didn’t open my mouth when the man shouted: “I don’t have money to buy you that; look at the public embarrassment you’re causing me.” Then he continued to give a spanking to the little boy who couldn’t have been more than seven.

When these types of things occur, I always wonder: Why didn’t they ever happen to me? Didn’t I used to be a child? I remember when a friend in elementary school showed up to class one day with marks on her thighs. Laritza said that her mother had done that with a rope. I knew that the mother was raising her two boys and one girl alone. She was always bitter and I didn’t like to look at her in the eyes.

That was something terrible but distant, because while other kids experienced the same thing, that never happened in my house.

One image stays locked in my memory: When they de-criminalized the dollar in 1994, I remember a girl screaming for a doll in front of the window of a new toyshop on Obispo Street (by the way, she looked horrible: all made up and dressed up like an adult). Her mother also gave her a spanking so that the girl would be quiet as the woman yelled that she didn’t have “that kind of money” (referring to dollars).

Most of the time I’ll come up and say something to those irate adults, though I’ll usually end up being offended: “It’s my child, so you keep your busy-body butt out of it.”

But today I witnessed another version. Though it was without physical blows or crying, I can’t say that it was any less aggressive.

Photo: Caridad

A mother was talking with her son, speaking to him in a low voice: “It’s not my fault that my job doesn’t pay me the same as what Yeney’s mom makes. You’re going to have to get used to that. You have to understand that we’re poor people and we’ll never be able to buy toys.”

With his eyes wide open, the youngster responded: “But when you get paid we can buy them?”

The exasperated mother got even closer to him, and in a very soft voice, containing her desire to scream (we were on a bus), she told him: “Forget the toys, pretend they don’t exist and just grow up. This isn’t the time to think about games.”

The first of June was International Children’s Day. That date is remembered by schools and the media. Some kids receive gifts, and at the Karl Marx Theater a version of the play “El Camaron Encantado” was performed. It’s a cute work by Jose Marti dedicated to childhood, and I’m sure there wasn’t an empty seat in the place.

But wherever you go (even among those who you see at the theater or who might buy some gift) there are kids who are the victims of their own families. Households enduring desperation, shortages or fatigue take out their stress and frustration on the very weakest.

The worst thing is that many of those who mistreat their children are nice people willing to do good and help anyone. However, any “incorrect” phrase or act by their offspring sends them out of control and they fail to show kindness in their treatment of them.

Alienated by the day-to-day routine (it’s true that wages fall short, the prices of everything keep going up and the double currency destabilizes everyone), they forget — among other things — that their relationship with money is not a children’s concern.

It’s so sad, especially because I don’t know what I can do.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

One thought on “What to Do?

  • Whenever I see such scenes–and they happen up here with increasing frequency, too–they upset me; likewise, it is unproductive to speak with the parent, for they usually tell you to mind your own business. Due to the increasing stresses in our economy, I see such scenes with more frequency. Such traumas have lasting effects on children, too, and with cuts in psychological counseling services the consequences of such trauma will grow into full-scale anti-social and sociopathic behaviors when such children reach adulthood.It is interesting, however, that some abused or neglected children manage to overcome these contitions and, as adults, flourish; others, are crushed, or forever distorted, by theise childhood traumas.

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