The story you are about to read is true and—sad to say—probably happens more often than we realize or would even like to believe. The episode took place in Target and had a profound effect upon me. I was shopping for a birthday present to give a little girl. Quite naturally, I was in the toy section browsing through isle-after-isle of stuffed animals, action figures, dolls, and games trying to make the perfect selection for a near perfect little girl. Right near the “boy’s toys” two women, with a little boy in their shopping cart, were carrying on a conversation. They were loud and unpleasant and as I paused at the end of their isle I saw the boy’s mother backhand him across the face—hard. She cursed at him (the likes of which are too embarrassing to record in this writing) and told him never to pull on her jacket again. He couldn’t have been more than three-years-old and burst into uncontrollable tears. She continued to publicly berate him as I stood there with my jaw dropped and my eyes wide open. I was astonished. What on earth could I do? I wanted to rescue the little guy. I wanted to comfort him and tell him everything would be okay, that his Mommy must’ve had a really bad day and she really didn’t mean to hurt him like she did. But he wasn’t mine; he was hers. Hers to make and to mold into the man he was bound to become—angry, resentful, and a hater of women. I escaped to the next isle over and wondered what that little fella’s days were like. If his mother behaved this way in public, I could only imagine her behavior at home. My ear caught the conversation between the two offenders: “She was watching you—“I don’t care who was watching me, that ain’t child abuse—that’s discipline! Let her say one word, and I’ll be cursin’ her out.” This, of course, was all said in reference to me. I find it remarkable that I never said one word to these women and yet a reference was made to “child abuse.” That little boy’s mother KNEW full well that she had abused her son. Physically and emotionally. And he would remember it—for a very long time. Poor little guy.
In the front of the store, a whole different situation caught my ear. Another little boy was crying—uncontrollably. His words came out between dramatized sobs, “I want it! I want it! I WANT IT!” As I write this, I am more than sure my readers have witnessed parents who do what I am about to describe: Nothing—they did absolutely nothing. In fact, they ignored him. They acted as though he wasn’t even there! They didn’t instruct him, they didn’t look at him—they just dragged their screaming son down the aisles, placing items in their cart and staring blankly ahead as if the child was a figment of their imaginations. Once again, I was astonished. What on earth could I do? I wanted to rescue the little guy. I wanted to instruct him and let him know that if he didn’t behave properly we would leave the store and take care of his selfish behavior outside, in the car. But I couldn’t. He wasn’t mine; he was theirs. Theirs to make and to mold into the man he was bound to become—angry, selfish, discontent, and unable to maintain normal relationships. Poor little guy. Was he being bratty? Yes. Do I think that the other people in the store were annoyed by his behavior? Yes. Was it his fault that he continued? No. The fault lies at the feet of the parents who would rather not own up to the fact that it is their responsibility to take the time and effort to properly confront and deal with their child’s unacceptable behavior.
Thanks for letting me vent. As an addition to this post, I'd like to recommend this book for anyone with children: