Saturday, July 21, 2012

What would you do?

(No, this isn't about the theater shooting. All I have to say about that is how sad it is, how awful for the families of the dead and injured, and how fed up I always get at the Monday-morning quarterbacking about gun control/stopping showing violent movies/"introverts and loners are ticking time bombs"/etc.)

I had to run over to the next largest town last night: I have to use a special kind of antiperspirant (because my underarms are delicate flowers that get upset if I use a scented, non hypoallergenic kind). Of course, my small town doesn't sell the brand I have to use. And yes, I can order it online - but I'm going on a trip in about a week and wasn't at all sure that it would arrive in time, and I was close enough to being out that I could see running out just before I left.

So I figured, heck, I'll run over there, go get my antiperspirant, go to the big bookstore, do some grocery shopping, grab dinner out. I went to one of those "casual dining places" - a sort of sandwich shop. Places that are fairly family-friendly, and I'd seen families in there before when I ate there. Generally happy families, happy kids, the place has a "play zone" where the kids can hang out.

Well. Last night, as I had just been served my food, a mother and three kids came in. Two were tween/early teen girls and were perfectly well behaved, they seemed happy about the treat of dinner out. The third was a boy of somewhere between seven and nine. Who was throwing a fit:


Screaming and sobbing as his mom dragged him up to the counter where you order (his sisters looked mortified and told their mom what they wanted and went to find a table).

The kid continued to scream and cry and throw a tantrum. EVERYONE in the restaurant could hear him. He didn't shut up. His mom spoke quietly to him but I could not hear what she said.

He continued to fuss through part of their meal, finally he curled up on the floor and grumbled.

Okay: dismissing any kind of issue-beyond-his-control (he did not SEEM like someone on the Autism spectrum, and yes, I've known a few kids who were), what's a mom to do?

I know what I'd do if it were me and it was just me and him. I'd look at him the moment he started screaming (even before getting to the counter) and say, "Okay, we are going home. But you are obviously not feeling well so as soon as we go home you are going to BED and you will not be watching any television or playing any video games or reading any comic books (...or whatever), and I do not expect you to get out of bed before 6 am tomorrow." (It was a little bit after 6 pm at that point). And I'd do it. I would enforce the "you're going to bed because you obviously don't feel well" because (a) I don't want the kid to learn that he can get just what he wants (I assumed part of his upset was that maybe there was something on tv he wanted to see that he was missing) by screaming, and also (b) reinforce the idea that throwing a fit in public is not normal behavior.

But I don't know what I'd do if I had two other children with me, kids who were well-behaved and enjoying themselves. The girls were not old enough to be left for any length of time (or at least, I thought so), so the mom couldn't take the boy and say, "Okay, we are going OUTSIDE until you settle down." And it was 105 degrees out so she couldn't make him go sit in the car. If it were me? I'd hate to tell my daughters, "Sorry, your brother's being a pill, we're going to go home and eat peanut butter sandwiches" because that seems like caving to the little kid's behavior - teaching him that he can get what he wants by making a scene, and he can make his sisters' lives miserable by doing so.

Perhaps I would have said to him, gotten really in his face, "You will be quiet RIGHT NOW. Any further outburst from you, each outburst earns you a day of being banned from television/videogames/internet/whatever else you like to do" and I would enforce that. Maybe even do like my mom used to do and make the punished kid do housework and gardening alongside of me.

But, gah, what an awful situation. I started out being annoyed by the mom ("Why doesn't she take that brat outdoors?") and then feeling bad for her ("She can't just leave, what about her two daughters? It would be unjust to deprive them of a treat just because their brother is being a baby"). I shot the mom a sympathetic look but I have to admit the kid's screaming kind of ruined my dinner.

And people ask me if I'm "sad" because I never had kids...

1 comment:

Kate P said...

The idea of personal, specific consequences sounds good (in theory) to me. I never eat in a certain section of Philadelphia anymore because I don't need to have my meal accompanied by scenes made by spoiled kids yelling, "You didn't ASK me if it was O.K.!" Seriously, that happened once. And that was enough for me.