A few years back, I was doing my daily lunchtime grocery shopping at a supermarket near the office when I overheard this disturbing mother-son exchange just out of the candy and chips aisle. The poor child, infatuated by the many colorful candies cried crocodile tears in a toddler attempt to make his mama buy him some sugar. I mean, we’ve all been there. Many of us are still there. And will never leave. So the kid being a kid cries, yells, screams…so loud and out of control that any moment you think, the alarm in the store is going to go off and firefighters will be storming in. The young mother however, Caucasian organic for vague description purposes, keeps pushing the cart away from candy-land and finally addresses her son.
Mr. Richard, she says, stop now. Your behavior is completely inappropriate and unacceptable.
The child blares over her monotone voice. His cheeks red like tomatoes.
Mr. Richard. I am not getting you the chocolate. And when we get home, you are going to think about your behavior.
The child now bordering convulsion. People looking away. He keeps screaming. You know how kids can be. Yet Mother slowly unloads her mighty greens and fat free products on the belt in front of the cashier, who tries to politely distract the boy from his misery and stop the waterfalls – but falls short and unnoticed by both parties.
And I’m telling you – first you feel annoyed by the kid yelling and you think ‘oh, shut the fuck up already’ but then you realize his organic predicament and you feel sorry for him and wish you could slap him in the chubby cheek to get him out of the grocery state of shock and offer him a hug and a chocolate. Maybe find him a good foster home. But Mother is undeterred. She holds her ground. That’s what all parent books say. Hold your ground. Don’t give in. Rather let your child convulse than show any human instinct in dealing with the situation. In so many words. Go brainwashing!
Mr. Richard would maybe know that his behavior was completely inappropriate and unacceptable – if only he knew what those words meant. Inappropriate…huh? Unacceptable…huh? Completely? No wonder the kid was crying. What 2 year old likes to be addressed like an old man Mr. Richard and with words he does not understand?! And if Mother does not know that her behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable – why should the kid?
I never saw them again but they do cross my mind every now and then. Like today. And I can’t help but wonder if Little Richard (way cooler than Mr.) now has a running prescription for some kind of ADHD drug because in a twisted world of many parents today – the attention to whatever current task should be undivided and any deficit is too big to be overlooked. I mean, a child should sit quietly and be understanding and obedient, right? This is a civilized society – of course a well adjusted mother is going to reach for pills. But if you think about it, which really falls under child abuse – a disciplinary slap in the butt every now and then, or a running and running and never-ending prescription to some mind bending drugs? I sure am glad the latter was not even an option in my world when I was a kid. The ‘pills’ then were shaped like hand palms, or little wooden spatulas or (notorious) ivy twigs. And we ran from those with lightning speed. And chuckled. And knew better next time. So good luck, Little Richard. Wherever you are.