I saw myself this morning. I was having a rare breakfast out at a favorite deli – reading and enjoying the early start. My solitude was interrupted by the squeal of a kid.
I looked up in time to see a young woman move quickly by the register and grab a little boy by the arm and drag him back to where they waited to get a table. She bent down and spoke harshly to him.
Back to my breakfast and my book. No harm done.
Pretty soon, the parental words started from behind me – “No, stop that”, “Not now”, “You need to sit quietly while we talk”, “DON’T DO THAT!”.
The little boy kept talking, questioning, interrupting – very excited and engaged with everything in and around the table. Every time, he was shut down firmly.
Originally seated in a booth next to the mom, I noticed that, at some point, that the parents changed places and the boy ended up between the wall and the dad.
The “battle” continued – “Here are all the colors you have. Use these.” “No, you can’t use orange, it’s in the car and I’m not going to get it now.” The questions continued and the denials got louder and more demonstrative.
It was time for me to go. I got up and looked around at their table – in time to see the dad pushing the little boy's head down with his own face contorted in anger. And, all of a sudden, I was angry.
Did I go over to their table? No. I was close. Was it my business as a human being protecting another human being? Or was it me interfering in a family’s business?
I’ve had several conversations with that dad since this morning. I’ve asked politely if I could have a minute of his time. I’ve asked him about his dad and how he was raised. I’ve asked him if he ever thought about the little kid that lives inside him today. I’ve asked him it their conversation about computers and problems at work yesterday is more important than what their child has to say.
But I really want to tell him that if he keeps that up, one day his son will stop asking questions, he’ll give up trying to get his parents attention and love, he’ll start living in the Land of No and that will be the beginning of the end.
He’ll either start cow towing to others by giving into whatever they want so they will like him. Or his feelings will come out sideways with drug use, alcohol or crime.
He will get the attention you didn’t give him in that booth that Saturday morning. Did you make the right choice?