"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, September 03, 2009

No jury would ever convict me

I suppose it runs in the family-- like father, like son and all that. If there is one thing drilled into my head as a child it was that you didn't act up when out in public. Nothing pissed off my father more than other people's kids carrying on noisily in a restaurant, hollering or crying or wandering table to table. It wasn't the kids he'd be ticked off at as much as the parents who didn't do anything about their children's obnoxious behaviour. My brother and I were usually pretty well-behaved in public and as a result got to go to some fairly swanky places with my mom and dad.
I am the same way with my kids. From the earliest ages, they have been taken into restaurants and museums and other "grown up" sorts of places and have always been well-behaved, to the extent that I have had strangers come up and compliment us on their table manners, maturity etc etc. (I know, I know, but like the man said "no brag, just the truth").
I have often been guilty of shooting the parents of misbehaving kids dirty looks and muttering "can't they shut that kid up?" to myself. I've even told small kids wandering table to table in restaurants that they should go back and sit with mommy and daddy, usually in a nice way. My own kids, now 7 and 9, will look at hollering, food-flinging four and five year olds in family restaurants with absolute horror and amazement, as if someone had come into the place with something from the zoo.
Only once have I ever had to deal with my kids chucking a wobbly in public and it was dealt with quickly and with a minimum of inconvenience to our fellow diners. My overtired, overstimulated, underfed son, then seven, once decided to cry in the middle of a restaurant because I wouldn't take him to the attatched karoke parlor at the end of a very busy kid-centered day. I told him to stop carrying on or we would leave, despite having already ordered dinner. He wouldn't quit, so out the door we went, leaving my wife and daughter with money to pay the bill. He hadn't done it before and hasn't since.
If your toddler is throwing a howling tantrum, do not walk away from them as if they were someone else's kid. If they are acting up, deal with the problem or take them home. I understand youthful exuberence and I understand that you don't like to impose boundaries on Junior and that you have your own parenting style or that maybe you're just sick and tired of dealing with your little (Hell's ) Angel. Tough luck, it's a basic social contract/civil society principle - supervise your own brats and don't let them annoy others. Please.

Having said all that, rest assured that if I see you in the Walmart with your crying two-year-old following you up and down the aisles, you will first have my sympathy. If the kid won't stop crying and you do nothing about it, you'll have my scorn. But if some grouchy old man decides to slap your toddler around to get it to shut up, you will not only have my enthusiastic support, I will even help you dispose of what is left of the presumptious old bastard's body.

Directing a wayward child back to its parents is acceptable. Even delivering a verbal scolding to a kid that is seriously out of line is, in some cases, justifiable, but unless you are pulling them out of the path of a speeding car or breaking up a fight, YOU DO NOT LAY HANDS ON OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS. EVER.

Nevermind for a moment that slapping a two-year-old to get it to stop crying is like trying to put out a fire with a bucket of gasoline, you just don't physically interfere with other people's kids, let alone presume to strike them. You can argue the pro and cons of physical discipline and corporal punishment until the cows come home and reasonable people can perhaps disagree about whether parents should spank their kids, but when it comes to complete strangers slapping other people's kids, I think we can all agree its a very, very bad idea.

If I had been present at the Stone Mountain Walmart, the police would have been taking me away in handcuffs, not child-slapper Roger Stephens. He would be counting himself lucky to be leaving in an ambulance instead of a hearse.

No comments: