8.01.2008

2nd Oldest Profession

Growing up, I’d often hear my mom joke with friends and relatives as I was bouncing off the walls, “...at least he wasn’t twins.” As I got older, another thing I’d hear a lot when I’d complain about something I thought was unfair was that I’d understand when I had kids of my own. Nothing makes me appreciate my parents more and simultaneously rethink my desire to have kids someday than seeing kids acting up in public.

Growing up, I didn’t have a choice when it came to food. If my parents wanted me to drink milk and I wanted a soda, you can bet I was getting milk. I marvel when I’m out at delis and mothers are asking their kids what they want. Some kids get really specific, and it strikes me as spoiled. I bet these are the same kids that will grow up to cut in line and drive around pedestrians. I actually saw one woman do a rolling stop at a red light into a right on red, and not notice a kid on a bike actually roll into her as she rounded the curb. His back tire went up in the air, and he looked really worried as it hung for a second before dropping back down. The car continued on without stopping.

So I’m in my favorite deli on Thursday, and it must be the day for every exhausted mother to bring her brood and their friends in. “Maaaaa! Nicholas put peanut butter on Jimmy’s baaaaack!” called one little snitch as the mother had to leave the line to check on the quartet of mischievous boys left to their own devices. “Oh...well peanut butter comes right out..” she assured the sniffling toddler. She apologized to a woman sitting at the next table with two kids and a baby in the stroller. “I hope they didn’t wake the baby,” she said, but the baby was probably the least of the other mother’s problems. “Janie, stop opening your mouth when you chew; it’s gross.” I pulled my iced tea bottle closer and caressed my wrap, for fear of stray food particles flying through the air.

Back on line, the first mother called back to ask her oldest boy what he wanted. “Whatever YOU had last time!” he snarled with an air of annoyance. After a few seconds he thought about it and called to her. “No, no ma, wait. Turkey and swiss!” “I had a feeling,” she said, glad she asked before ordering the wrong thing and risking his wrath. The boys meanwhile where standing on chairs, and one hung on a beam near the windowsill. I thought I heard the finicky eater tease peanut butter shirt for having a “fat p*nis”, but I must have heard wrong.

“Hey Ma!” he called across the deli. “Hey Ma WHORE! Hurry up! HURRY UP, Ma WHORE!” he cried, giggling. Had I heard a boy of six or seven call his mother a whore? Was he maybe saying “mohawk”, and would that make any more sense if he was? “Hey Jimmy,” he said to his friend giggling, “Guess what I just called my mom? Did you hear? I called her ‘ ma whore’!” If the kid was the dominant party in the relationship, it seemed like he was well aware of who called the shots.

Being a parent or teacher is hard; I respect that. And if you’re stuck with little darlings screaming and laughing for hours on end, you’ll likely want peace and quiet. Maybe the boy would throw a tantrum if he got the wrong kind of cheese. Maybe he’d hurl the sandwich to the ground and make a scene, and you’d have to buy him a new one. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like; I’ve always been the screaming child set off by the least little thing, and not the authority figure. And yet, to me it was always clear who was the authority. I could scream and yell all I wanted, but at the end of the day I was a child. I could crawl on the floor under the pews during mass; I was still going to church. I can’t say this is true of all children, but it strikes me that a lot of kids are like terrorists. You have to handle them delicately to avoid an explosion, but at the same time you can’t cave to all their demands.

I hope I misheard, hope that kid wasn’t calling his mother a name while she spoke sweetly to him and took his orders. I know I never would have gotten away with that kind of crap with my mom. I know a guy who literally disowned his 10-year-old illegitimate son when the kid said the “F” word to his grandmother. First he literally washed the kid’s mouth out with soap, then called his ex-girlfriend to take the boy back, not considering that 10 years without a father might not have been good for the boy, or that a single weekend was enough to establish that relationship. If I ever had a son, and he disrespected my mother, I wouldn’t send him away. I’d lock him in a room with her and a wooden spoon, and he’d learn not to underestimate a five foot little old Sicilian lady.

Children aren’t going to understand tough love. They’re not going to realize their parents are doing what’s best for them. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to be your child’s friend, but you have to be their parent first. Otherwise, they’ll just take you for granted, take advantage, and call you what they perceive you to be.

2 Comments:

Blogger b13 said...

You should have chatted it up with her. You might have gotten lucky with the "ma WHORE" ;) or at least a babysitting gig.

Maybe the kid saw the UPS guy leaving a package with mom while dad was at work... who knows? I bet he does ;)

8/01/2008 12:15 AM  
Anonymous thewritejerry said...

If one of my kids said what that kid said, the next time he or she saw the light of day they'd be eligible for Medicaid.

8/01/2008 1:49 AM  

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