No Wire Hangers

Is there anything worse than being forced to stand next to someone who's being a total jerk to their kids in public?

Yesterday I was standing in line at the supermarket waiting to check out and there was this guy in front of me holding a baby in one arm while pointing an angry finger towards a freckle-faced little girl who was hugging on to the gum/candy shelf for dear life while he basically did everything but shout at her.
No! I said NO! Come Here RIGHT NOW!!
And she's literally like 3 feet away from him, and sort of giving him that "I want some candy" look that kids always get when they're standing next to the chewing gum and Reese's peanut butter cups -- but the tone in this dude's voice was filled with nothing short of loathing.

Now I don't know the guy, and I'm not about to stand here and accuse a father of hating his own daughter -- but there's a difference between the love you feel for your child and the tone of voice you use when you're pissed off at someone. And not for nothing, but how much power is a raised voice ever gonna have against a frikkin' wall of candy?

And it's not like I've ever gotten to the end of my rope in a store with my little boy, but there's dealing with the situation and then there's acting like an asshole because people are looking. Because this was not a stern voice, this was not an authoritative command. This was sentences started with phrases like "I swear to GOD if you touch one more thing.." and "What did I just TELL YOU!?"

And here's the thing -- the little girl was probably 8 or 9 years old, maybe a little younger, so there's no way in hell this was the first time something like this had ever happened. Navigating a child through a store without them touching things you don't want them to touch is like one of the most used motor skills you have to have as a parent after the age of 3. I mean, essentially once you get them out of diapers and teach them to walk -- you're then on the hook for about 14 more years on "Yes, that's nice honey, now put it back on the shelf" duty.

The one thing you never really want to do in a public setting is sort of cut in on a parent who's doing the discipline dance with their kids, but I can't tell you the number of times I've had to bite my tongue when seeing someone just out and out shame or cuss out a kid for looking at toys. And although it would be easy to chalk it up to the extraordinarily amount of white trash that tends to hang out in the state of Florida -- but it's the kind of behavior that honestly doesn't discriminate on the basis of tax brackets.
Rich people can be just as shitty to their kids as poor people -- it's just that
you get to see more of one kind when you're standing in line for a happy meal.
And it's not like I'm mister perfect parent over here -- but sometimes I think what so many people forget when they become parents is what it's like to be a kid.

Because this is how a kid's mind works. Your mom and dad will come up to you and say something like, "I need to go to the bank and do some things, and while we're in there I want you to be on your best behavior. And if you're good, we'll get some McDonalds on the way home, OK?"

So you go to the bank and the child is quiet enough, so on the way home you stop by the closest golden arches, and as soon as you get in the door your child sorta goes nuts. They'll spin in the spinny chairs, they'll point to the toys in the happy meal display boxes, they'll try to get to the playground before you have a chance to order the food -- and every time you're in there you see some parent going apeshit because their kids are acting hyper.
But in the kid's head it's like, "Hey, I was good at the bank. I held up my end of the deal here, pal."
Think about it -- You said if you're good here then we'll go there. There being the place where your kid no longer has to be "good" like he did at the other place. So once the child crosses the threshold of McDonalds, it's like what happens when Terrell Owens reaches the end zone. Sure he's gonna get fined and there might even be a penalty -- but he kept his nose out of the press for a whole week so he could get a chance to take it to the house, so now that he's finally there --
Get your popcorn ready.
News flash -- Kids like to look at toys. Kids want you to buy them candy. Children want to play on playgrounds. And no amount of raising your voice at them is going to change that. What's worse, even though there are plenty of places where you don’t want your children to act up or play -- kids will still find a way to do it. Because for a huge part of a child's life -- ANYTHING can be a toy. The ropes that create the stupid waiting line at the bank, the pens on a chain (hell, I play with those), the shopping cart wheels, the scale near the door of the supermarket -- the world is like Disneyland for people who don't have to pay bills, and if you don't understand that then you'll always end up being the a-hole at the grocery store shouting at the little girl.

So when I take my kid to the store, I set it up as a series of games we get to play. First game is jump on the scale. Next game is pick the cart. You let him push the cart a little, or give him "part of the list" to go find. And if there's toys and candy -- then we'll look at them, but it doesn't mean that we have to buy.

And when things start to get out of hand -- which they of course sometimes do, my signature move is basic:
We're leaving the store.
It doesn't make a whole ton of adult sense, I suppose -- but I've literally abandoned full shopping carts once I've decided it's time to leave the store. Because leaving is leaving. No more playing on the scale, no more riding on the cart -- game time is over and we're going to the car.

It works pretty good at restaurants and supermarkets, and you better believe it works at places he wants to go like playgrounds or fast food places. And like all punitive behaviors, if you handle it calmly and do it consistently -- you can get it to the point where just looking like you're about to take him to the car is usually enough.

And I’m not trying to pull that whole "I'm super parent and you're a dick" move on this guy at the supermarket -- because when you get right down to it, I'm the pushover parent. I buy the toys, and I'll watch the same movie 50 times in a row, but when it's time to be a dad, you gotta step up, you know?
All that being said, guy in supermarket -- You're being a dick.
As a matter of fact, I'm half considering teaching my kid to play the drums
so when they get old enough your daughter can date him just to piss you off.

[Listening to:  Dave Navarro"Rexall" ]


The Ex said…
Yeah, I never understand parents who are so willing to degrade their children in front of other people.

I've always sworn to remember what being a child is like and so far it's working cause uhm I'm still immature.
Satorical said…
I like the leaving the store move. It's absolutely the way to deal with things in a restaurant. Up here the problem is "every turd my child lays is golden," coupled with "I'm too busy to do anything but get the kids to the next appointment."

I saw a woman pushing a SCREAMING 4 year-old in a stroller the other day while her SCREAMING 5 year-old followed behind, hitting his mother.

To which she harriedly said "Don't hit me please."

Awesome parenting, mom.
Hex said…
The Ex -- there are times when kids push your limits, but there's just no excuse for treating them like that. You've got to remember who they are, even if you're stressed out.

Satorical -- If it's gonna be like that, don't even take them to the store with you. There are ways to work that out, seriously.
unMuse said…
when i was a kid, my parents did the "we're leaving" thing. Unfortunately, I ended up learning if I didn't want to be there, just throw a fit. It worked for the first 5-6 years, though.
Hex said…
unmuse -- There's really no such thing as a FLAWLESS VICTORY over kids, because they adapt and learn as they go. It's sort of like I'm raising one of those robot squids from the Matrix, you know?
unMuse said…
oh yeah, I know. I've seen all of my friends with kids and their parenting adjustments. You don't seem like the type to get stuck in Mode A. I think you have more patience than that with him.
Werdna said…
@ Satorical- We have that out here too. I'm amazed at the stuff parents let their kids get away with. I'm coaching 5 and 6 years olds at soccer. So we have the rules of soccer that the kids rattle off at the beginning of practice. Stuff like: Have fun! Don't use your hands! so on...

I had to add rule 5: "Don't touch the coach." Mainly because these precious little snot bags can't figure out I'm not a jungle gym/punching bag like their parents. My own son had no issues with this, but the other kids? WTF...I need to have a rule for this?

I get plenty of parents out here afraid to have any rules or parameters for their snow flakes. I see these kids yelling at and punching their parents, and just wonder if it isn't what comes around goes around.

My parameter is usually like hex's: "we're out of here". Sometimes it is we're out of here and you will not see the inside of this place for a while- that works on the places they like to be.