Last weekend I was wandering through Target looking for placemats. I’m still not completely familiar with the layout of “my” new Target here in Charlotte, so ended up doing a full lap of the store before I found where they kept them (for the record, NOT in linens, but in housewares). Wherever I went in the store, I could hear this little boy, probably about two years old, doing what two year olds do best: throwing a tantrum. And I mean a tantrum of monumental proportions. It was something about a ball momma clearly was not going to buy him.
I was heading towards the cash wrap when I got about an aisle or so away from the pair. From the sound of things, momma was about to lose her cool and you could tell she was cutting the trip short because of her mean little kid. And yes, that child was mean. So I’m walking and I mutter a comment under my breath that I've often heard my Dad use in similar situations, “Why don’t you just smack that kid and really give him something to cry about.”
A footfall later a woman walks right up beside me and pleasantly says, “The perfect form of birth control, no?” I had no idea anyone was nearby and she startled me. Flustered, I said “You didn’t just hear what I said, did you?” She laughed and said she hadn’t, but had heard me mutter and was certain it was about the child. We laughed and parted ways.
I went through the busy line, momma and the screaming child a register or two over. I paid for my purchases and stopped to pull the sticky tag off the sunglasses I had just bought so I could wear them. This process took longer than I expected and as I was finishing up, momma and Evil Child finally made it through the cash wrap. Momma was pissed. And I’m sure embarrassed. The kid started to run from her, screaming at her because now it was crystal clear he wasn’t going to get the ball he wanted. I heard momma say, “Why would you even think I’d buy you anything after all this?” Not that the child was in any way capable of grasping the concept of that question, but I had to give her private mental kudos for not placating the brat.
So now I’m standing there and the kid runs and ends up right at my feet. I’m standing there looking at the kid with an expression of what I’m sure would be the same if a miniature albino rhinoceros had presented itself. He gave a screech of what sounded like, “Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall! I can’t go without my baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!'”
I said, in a loud sort of whisper, “HEY KID!” and he whipped his head up and looked at me. I continued, glaring at him “You’re not getting the ball. Give your mom a break.” For about 3 heartbeats he had stopped crying and just stared at me. I raised my eyebrows at him in a way that mocked his little tantrum. And he knew it.
He turned his head and was immediately back in tantrum mode. He screamed and fussed his way all the way out into the parking lot, shooting me sideways glances as I walked to my car. Momma got a hold of his arm and yanked him towards their car, her other arm pushing a cart full o’ Target crap. He broke loose and ran. It was Saturday. There were cars everywhere. Momma screamed, abandoned the cart, grabbed the kid and whacked him several good ones on the bum, now having her own tantrum about safety and looking both ways and cars and all that.
Evil Child was too young to understand any of this beyond the fact that he’d gone too far and really pissed momma off. Scared the shit out of her is what he did. Momma finally followed my earlier advice about really giving the child something to cry about.
In my mind, I see no issues whatsoever with corporal punishment. I was whacked as a kid. In fact, in what I see now as sick twist on the part of my parents, we would always get those plywood paddleballs in our Christmas stockings. Well, guess what became of those paddles when the rubber band broke, as it always did about 5 seconds after you started playing with it? That’s right, they became the weapon of choice for misbehaving children. Skinny plywood sails through the air and it stings.
One time, and it only took one time, I misbehaved at my grandparents house. My grandmother made me go out and pick my own switch. Ever heard of that? It means you go out and choose the very instrument that you are about to be beat with. Pick a branch (generally switches are chosen from sapling trees – bendable green branches) that’s too thick and it might not sting as much, but you’ll get more whacks. Pick a skinny one and it’s going to sting like a motherfucker, but you’ll get fewer. Decisions, decisions.
People today might say that’s cruel. I don’t think so. It puts your stupid-ass child-brain through a series of very clear action/reaction/consequence type scenarios. That thing I did at my grandma’s house? Yeah, never ever did that again. And I didn’t hate her. Or grow up trying to kick asses on the playground. If anything, it made me respect my elders and taught me how to behave. And grandma didn’t tell my parents what I’d done, which was super-cool because I might have had a double-dose of punishment if she had.
I’m not exactly sure of my point here but I’ve come away with two very distinct thoughts:
1. Momma should have whacked that kid WAY earlier than the parking lot.
2. That other lady in the Target was correct. A most excellent form of birth control.