Scene: The bike shop today. I’m waiting on a minor bit of service. The only other customer is a 40ish man with three lovely children. He’s got the whippet-like build of a dedicated amateur athlete. He’s buying the kids an assortment of sports equipment. His youngest two, a girl and a boy about 4 and 5, are riding display bikes around the perimeter of the store.
The girl clips a line of expensive — there don’t seem to be any other kind here — road bikes, sending the whole line down like dominos. “Margo,” her father says. “Look what you did.” Margo doesn’t. Margo continues to ride.
The ranking senior employee comes out from the back, sees thousands of dollars of inventory, all with sharp edges capable of scratching the bikes lying below and above, and blanches. “What happened?” he asks the closest person, who happens to be the boy. Also still riding.
“My sister knocked them down,” he says, and giggles, then rides off. Margo makes another lap. “You have to get off that bike,” the employee says, rather weakly, to her back.
“Margo, get off the bike,” her dad says. Margo ignores them both.
Around and around ride Margo and her brother, while the employee resets the lineup and dad continues to shop. “Margo, get off the bike,” he says again, absently. Margo ignores him. Eventually he concludes his business, pays up and summons Margo and her brother. She gets off the bike and leaves with dad.
Often I feel like I’m too hard on Kate. I wish I had ten times the patience, ten percent of the temper, a tongue less sharp and a voice less aggressive. I wonder, when she still asks for permission to make a phone call or wear flip-flops, whether I’m one of those horrible domineering mothers who will end up trading slaps with Joan Crawford in hell. Then I see kids like Margo, and I think: Consider one alternative.
Kate broke a glass at Pier One when she was about Margo’s age. You’d have thought, from her reaction, that she personally pushed the button on Nagasaki. I tried to calm her down — it was one crummy glass, in a store full of them — while the employees rushed with a basket of penny candy: Here, kid, have a handful, and really, it’s no big deal at all.
At least she didn’t giggle.
Bloggage: The NYT ran a story on the Styles page Sunday that, even for Sunday Styles, seemed to plumb new depths of silliness: Gay or straight? Hard to tell. Evidently Brad Pitt’s fashion sense and hair color has just thrown everyone’s gaydar off, and oh, but it’s tne end of the republic. No one can tell anymore! It’s awful!
Anyway, the web version didn’t include the sidebar, which divided various signifiers — preferred brand of jeans, TV show, dog — into straight, gay and “gay vague” classifications. I learned Boston terriers are straight, French bulldogs are gay-vague and Jack Russell terriers are gay. My own Jack Russell was outraged, particularly because we have a French bulldog across the street and he just seems so much gayer. Says Sprig: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Share a bad-kid story in the comments. You know you’re dying to.
jcburns said on June 20, 2005 at 12:29 am
Spriggy has issues that transcend his sexual orientation.
alex said on June 20, 2005 at 12:46 am
Oh, what’s all this hogwash? I can thank Brad Pitt for throwing the fascists off the scent so I don’t get lynched in the night, me the guy who cuts his own hair and wears (eegads) Levi’s from the outlet mall. (And what’s more can’t stand Madonna, Cher or Liza Minelli.) Really, the revulsion straight people feel for fags isn’t about sex but about taste.
james said on June 20, 2005 at 8:20 am
Children should be told “no” frequently. That’s the role of a parent; to tell their child what’s right or wrong. Anyone who fails to do so is shirking their duties.
I always worried that we were too strict with Brigid, but she’s grown up to be a wonderful kid (13 this week…). Who knows, maybe she’ll murder us in out sleep one day… but at least she won’t be rude and ill-mannered…
kirk said on June 20, 2005 at 8:39 am
we went out to dinner with a visiting out-of-town friend and her 11-year-old son the other night. the kid belched loudly; mom laughed at his cleverness. that’s not how i was brought up to act in public. maybe he’ll cut a big fart at an important job interview someday.
John said on June 20, 2005 at 9:19 am
We tried the walk the fine line between permissiveness and Mommie, Dearest. It always helped to see examples of both to confirm that we hadn’t gone too far one way or the other. We knew a kid (13 years old) up the street who wasn’t allow to shower when he was alone in the house and we knew plenty of the brattiest kids you would ever want to meet. But in the end, the kids grew behaving from watching how we behave which wasn’t far from what we told them to do.
MichaelG said on June 20, 2005 at 9:19 am
You sure you’ve got the date right Nance? I saw the same people Saturday at Albertson’s. The daughter was busy running the shopping cart into things and knocking stuff onto the floor and ignoring Mom who was picking up the mess. OK, I guess it was different folks since this one was with Mom rather than Dad. The rest was the same, though. Mom repeatedly telling the kid to slow down, to be careful, to stop running into things etc. Somehow, it’s the kid’s ignoring the ineffectual blatherings of the parent rather than the annoying behavior itself that really gets to me. You get the feeling that the kid is really looking for limits and the parent is afraid to set them. Must have read too many helpful articles in magazines.
Loulou said on June 20, 2005 at 11:42 am
I was walking along at a strip mall and heard a kid behind me say to his friend “Gee, I wish I had a hundred dollars so I could buy something nice”. Mow the lawn for about 10 weeks, kid.
Joe said on June 20, 2005 at 11:56 am
I was in O’hare waiting on a customer when I started talking to a fellow pilot that flew for Net Jet, That is one of the deals where you buy time in a airplane, any way we got to talking about hard to please customers, and he had a family one time who’s 17 year old daughter was having a hissy fit like teenagers do. The mother finnaly told the kid that if She did not shape up that Mom would take away her Gulfstream privlage, and she would have to ride in the Citation
ashley said on June 20, 2005 at 12:12 pm
Hey, I like showtunes as much as the next guy, but…
I swear, I want to use a cattle prod on some of these kids. And I cannot believe that the kid knocked down a whole row of bikes. Minimum paint damage is at least $100 a bike. Of course, she probably knocked the derailleurs out of line and jeez…the manager should have booted them all right then and there.
colleen said on June 20, 2005 at 12:17 pm
Frozen foods section of a grocery in Lafayette IN. Mom is in frozen confection negotiations with cart bound toddler. Well, being a kid faced with overwhelming choices, he was having a little trouble deciding. So mom decided to move on. At that point, kid shrieked and yelled “F*** YOU” at his mom.
And what did mom do? REOPENED the popsicle negotiations. Whaaa? There were so many troubling things about that exchange. That a kid that age knew the appropriate (if it’s ever appropriate) use of the mother of all swear words. What did THAT say about home life? And that the mom just gave in…good lord, I would have been whacked on my diaper clad behind so hard that I would just now be catching up with myself….
Jeff said on June 20, 2005 at 12:36 pm
Even worse are the parents who enable this type of stuff and/or get insulted at your temerity to intervene.
I have a good friend who is captain of an excursion boat in Cape May, NJ, and he has a ton of snotty kid stories. They’re always followed by the part where the parent says “Hey – I paid my $20 and you can’t tell my kid to stop hanging over the railing in 3 ft seas while we go 22 knots….”
Unfortunately, that was the case recently with a bunch of kids on another boat in the Cape May fleet and one of them went over the side after being asked five times to please stop fooling around and sit down. They found his shirt wrapped around the prop but nothing else so far…
juan said on June 20, 2005 at 1:03 pm
Elapsed time between the redefining of spanking as “child abuse” and the collective consciousness of kids figuring out the ceiling on mom and dad’s discipline level:
Responsible parenting means that you ALWAYS have to be prepared to escallate the consequences one step above unacceptable behavior.
When kids-of-the-world figured out that the worst that was going to happen to them was harsh language… Ding! “Whatever, Bitch! Eff-you, Dad.”
Dorothy said on June 20, 2005 at 1:35 pm
I have nephews (ages 10 and 8) who can’t behave come hell or high water. Their dad ignores them, and my sister has the patience of Job, constantly reiterating what she already told them to do. My 22 yr. old daughter is living with them for 12 weeks this summer and is doing her part to discipline them when possible. (Most recent infraction: she caught them peeing on the toilet seat on purpose and then giggling about it. She gave them Clorox wipes and made them clean it up themselves, floor AND seat. And they cried the whole time) They are driving her nuts. She’s praying the paper offers her a job so she can get an apartment SOON and get away from the hellions.
mary said on June 20, 2005 at 2:28 pm
Horrible kid stories? I have a doozy. Do you remember the “Nobel Sperm Bank?” It was here in California, and the first child born to a mom who used their services lived up the street from me. His mom did not believe in stifling all that innate genius he had. Not only did he leave trails of destruction through the local supermarket, he completely terrorized the playground. He mother would correct him with terms like, “Doron, is that the best choice in this situation?”
Recently we saw a less intellectually “special” kid climbing on glass shelves in a fancy shoe store. When the clerk asked the mother to please stop the kid from doing that, the mother complained that the shop should be “child proof” and that if her kid got hurt, she would sue.
Nance said on June 20, 2005 at 3:28 pm
OMG, Mary, that must be this kid! A great, great read. Recommended. A taste:
(His mother) indulged him. She breastfed him till he was 6. She never restricted him in the matter of manners. For years, he would not sit down and eat dinner with her, she says, a bit regretfully. They were the closest of friends till he hit adolescence. She encouraged any interest he had, never judged him, never criticized him. There were no rules�not that he ever would have heeded them anyway: “I was pigheaded,” Doron says.
Sounds like time has told.
Lance Mannion said on June 20, 2005 at 3:29 pm
No, horrible kid stories today. I have lots of bad parent stories. Unfortunately, they all star me.
mary said on June 20, 2005 at 3:41 pm
That’s the kid, Nance. He’s bummed him mother out big time by going to some undistinguished college.
We live next to the playground/recreation center, and Doron was boy scout age when my older son was about three. My son and one of his little playmates were digging in the sand and such, when Doron decided to abandon the boy scout meeting, and come out to the playground. He scared off all the younger kids, and sat at the top of the slide being intimidating. At the time, my son was prone to mixing up the syllables in words, and he referred to Doron that day by the name we still use. He called him Rodan. Remember the Japanese flying monster?
deb said on June 20, 2005 at 5:24 pm
har. i thought you were gonna say he called him “moron.”
brian stouder said on June 20, 2005 at 10:09 pm
“She breastfed him till he was 6.”
Sounds slightly incestuous!
Once when my 6 year old daughter began throwing an over-tired, over-hot fit while we were at the zoo, we found a shady bench and broke out the bottled water, and I told her that she had a minute to get herself under control, or else we were leaving. Of course, this had no effect at all, and then I had to “make good”.
As we exited the zoo my 9 year old son was keeping just enough distance so that he might not be associated with his screeching sister and his stern-faced dad.
And of course, the shady bench from whence we began our egress was way, way back in the zoo, so that our big exit seemed interminably long.
the funny part was all the little smiles (‘glad it’s not me!’) and remarks that other parents made as we progressed toward the gate. It was crowded that day, but folks cleared us a path.
The one nice thing is that I only had to use that threat once subsequent to that, and it had the desired effect
well_suited said on June 21, 2005 at 4:44 am
David Colman uses the term “gay-vague” many times in
his article, and it appears to be his own invention.
“Gay-vague” is a term that was coined by a business
journalist, Michael Wilke. The phrase appeared in his
reporting for Advertising Age from 1994-98.
Shouldn’t David Colman at least acknowledge this
source in his article? Without crediting the source,
is this plagiarism? “Gay-vague” is not a commonly used
phrase in the New York Times. It appears that only one
article from the New York Times archive used this
phrase, back in 1996.
Information about journalist Michael Wilke’s use of
the phrase “gay-vague” appears at the URL below:
Pam said on June 21, 2005 at 10:13 am
OK, you asked. Was in the antique store a couple of weeks ago and a woman walked in with 2 young girls. They touched everything in the store. Not because they were interested in the stuff, but specifically because she had told them not to. Carol and I were working our space when they came in. Thanks to mom, I knew excactly what to do. I mean-mugged ’em! I can do that eye brow thing that she used to do, only for me, it’s the opposite eyebrow. These girls were the contraries, they did exactly what their mother told them not to do. The mom was insulted when the shop owner told one of the girls not to stick her fingers in a fan! So they got rewarded for their behavior with a trip to Graeters ice cream and we got a “that woman was rude!!” as the mom walked out the door. Wait til their teen years, she’ll pay for that! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass lady!!
Lex said on June 23, 2005 at 2:50 pm
I’ve never been much of a believer in the proportionate response where kids are concerned. I don’t want to respond proportionately; I want to respond in a way that permanently alters their behavior for the better.
Sometimes there’s no good way to do that that doesn’t involve Social Services, but that’s what I *want*.
My personal favorite awful-kid story comes from my own wedding reception, where a co-worker’s then-4-year-old daughter started rocking the table upon which sat the five-layer wedding cake a relative had meticulously slaved over for days.
“Sweetie, don’t do that,” another relative said. “You’ll tip over the cake.”
Replied the child, “*I* don’t care.”
I personally escorted her out of the building. No cake for you, punk.
anriley said on June 23, 2005 at 9:50 pm
What’s with parents who talk to their kids in the third person (in that whiny voice)? Mommy doesn’t want you to do that, Shannon. Mommy wants you to come sit down now, Shannon, Okayyyyy ???
Hey, I grew up with first-person and commands. I want you to stop that right now and sit down now, young lady. Worked for me and my sisters.