According to Toya Graham, the Baltimore single mother of six who spotted her 16-year-old son throwing a rock at police earlier this week, her son's first inclination when he saw her was to run.
"He knew he was in trouble," Graham said on CBS This Morning.
Graham had sent her son to school that morning and then headed to a doctor's appointment with one of her five daughters. As the morning progressed and the crowds got larger, officials let students out of school. Graham's daughter told her mother they should go back home.
They did, and Graham saw a boy who looked familiar. Their gazes locked. They both knew their meeting at that place in that time was not going to be good. She had told her son not to get involved with the demonstrations, maybe because she knew 16-year-old boys aren't necessarily fully developed emotionally. No telling who he would follow; what path he might take.
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Her son had chosen to ignore her orders.
"I just lost it," she said. "I'm a no-tolerant mother. Everybody that knows me, know I don't play that."
She ran toward her son and began slapping him and cursing.
Part of me is ashamed to admit had I seen one of my boys throwing rocks at police, I might have reacted in a similar fashion. Cursing wouldn't have been a first choice, but body blows certainly might have been.
I am so proud of Graham for having enough love for her son to walk in the midst of potential danger to retrieve him and take him home.
The way she did it, the way I might have done it, isn't the right way, though.
But I'm sitting in front of a computer telling you that. I am not in the middle of waves of anger and sick-and-tiredness.
As adults, we know of better ways of communicating our feelings, our wisdom to our children. By age 16, they know us as well as we know them.
If Graham's son, Michael, wanted to run when he saw his mother coming toward him, the slapping and cursing shouldn't have been necessary. She probably could have walked over to him, given him "the look," and told him to head home.
But the day before, Graham had attended the wake of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man whose spinal cord was nearly severed while in the custody of Baltimore police, and she had publicly commented about the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager killed by a police officer last summer in Ferguson, Mo.
"My son is my everything," Graham wrote on her Facebook page. "As a mother I couldn't understand half of what Mrs. Brown is going through. My child (is) not a perfect child but (he's) still my child."
That is the woman who lost it when she saw her son conducting himself in a manner that could lead to his senseless death.
That is the woman who cursed and slapped and chased her son home without regard to TV cameras or onlookers.
She was afraid of losing her son. Her fears and frustrations, mingled with her love and raw emotion, overpowered good sense.
From what she had seen in recent months, from the numerous killings of black men by law enforcement officials, Graham knew that the possibility of her attending the funeral of her own son was far too imminent. He was throwing rocks at people who carried guns.
When my son was arrested in 2011 for criminal activity, my first reaction was to exhale. I had not realized how little I had breathed since he chose the path of drugs and the illegal tangents associated with drugs.
When he was arrested, I could fill my lungs again. When he was arrested, the chances of my planning his funeral decreased.
Had I seen my adult son on the streets doing something wrong, I cannot promise you I wouldn't have reacted like Graham.
With her son by her side, walking home with her, Graham didn't have to prepare for a funeral.
Would I have slapped my son, cursed at him, if I had seen him doing things that could have ended in his death either by police or by others in the drug culture? I wouldn't bet against it.
Graham said her son is not perfect, but he is hers. Her actions were violent and abusive. Her cursing was very un-motherly.
But her son is alive. Her son still has a future.
I'm not going to fault Graham, as some people have. I choose to fault a system that makes it necessary for a mother to do what she did to save her son from a situation that could have ended far differently.
I know several mothers who would gladly change places with Graham, accepting the praise and the criticism for her actions, while able to fuss at and hug their sons and daughters every day.