Thursday, October 27, 2011

call security

Harv was at DIA this morning. And while I was on the phone with him, he witnessed (and I overheard) this scene:

An 18 month old having a temper tantrum on the floor of the airport. A loud one.
According to Harv, the Mom was quietly ignoring said baby, likely exasperated while waiting for her flight. Resisting in her core NOT to give in to whatever demands he had: He wanted his mom to give him candy like the boy next to him? He wanted to tug off the neighbor man's tupee? He wanted to take off his diaper? Maybe he just wanted to scream about the unfairness of life. Don't we all have those moments?
An older woman came over and told Mom to pick up the baby and make him stop crying.
Mom said, "no." I wish I could've seen the faces to describe them. I can only imagine the mom's look of shock: What? Are you flipping telling me how to parent here? You go pick up the screaming baby! And change his diaper while your at it!
But I don't know what the mom said, except "no." I wish I could have stood beside her at that moment and given her a high five.
The older woman went to get security. Yes, she did.
Then Security came and told the woman that she did indeed need to pick up the crying baby.

If parents are disciplining/teaching their children in public, good for them! I, personally, didn't often have the guts to do this, too embarrassed by the scene it would likely cause. I chose to pick up my messy and loud brats and soothe them (or threaten them). But if I wanted to teach them something, letting them have their tantrum instead of giving in to them would have been the better and quicker route.

Why has our country made it so hard for parents to discipline children? Do non-parents believe that children are not flawed creatures? I doubt it. Even all of my non-Calvinist friends believe in original sin, they just call it something different, like, evil. Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes around most 2 year olds knows the equation: screaming = getting what you want.

Now, as a teacher, I see the long-term consequences of this conundrum at the high school level. It becomes very clear which parents have towed the line and been brave enough to discipline their children. They produce children who don't argue with me when I ask them to do something hard, like say, take out a pencil. Then there are other parents who give a gentle, "you shouldn't do that again" to a child who has ditched two of my classes.

Consequences can be ugly. And painful. Like a screaming child. I think that our society should step up and allow parents to do this in public. I believe that all people should support parents who are doing the tough, front-line work of discipline. The older woman (likely not a parent herself, or if she is, I would bet money that her children are ugly people. Either that or she never took them in public) should have quietly ignored the situation. Or, she could have walked away if she hated the sound of a screaming child (often considered one of the most painful sounds in the world). Or, she could have tried to distract the child herself--sat down on the floor and tried to make her laugh by telling the child a silly story or showing her some archaic item out of her purse. Or at least asked the poor mother if she needed any help! Worst case scenario is that the child might have been so terrified of her that she would have become aware of the public setting and gone running back to her mother.

Instead, the message this older woman sent to the younger mom in the trenches is this: Do not interrupt my quietude (in the airport of all places) with your work of raising a child. Do the tough work of child-rearing (indeed the toughest job of all, why hasn't there been a parenting episode on "Dirty Jobs") somewhere else. We only want the benefits of a well-behaved child in our society; we don't want to witness the loudness and difficulty of the effort it takes to get there. And we certainly aren't going to help you.

I doubt that this woman cooks for herself, works out, or even admits that she farts.

Our Cloroxed and combed images that many seem to be so concerned about have hidden the difficult realities of life. We don't like to watch a meat butcher or how animals are treated before slaughter, but we love our steak... We cringe at the thought of a sweatshop with overworked and underpaid women and children, but we love our clothes, the cheaper the better (Walmart?) ... We hide our old people in deluxe nursing homes, close the doors while we poop, well, maybe some things should happen behind closed doors.

My point: We don't like the hard stuff. But we like to enjoy the benefits of other people's hard stuff.

And yes, I'm pointing my finger at this terrible woman in the airport, but (like always) three fingers are pointing back at me... what have I done lately to help women in distress? Single moms at their wits end? Homeless women? My students' moms... ah, yes. Reality check.

I think all humans should take responsibility for raising little ones well. We will all be grateful in the long run.

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