Thursday, November 08, 2007

Caring too little...or too much?

I took the wee man to the local indoor play centre today, and we were confronted there by a vicious little thug in the body of a small boy. Seriously, this little guy was mean.

He looked sweet, avoiding the cliche of beetle brow and piggy eyes, but he obviously delighted in provoking in reaction and he didn't care from whom. I first noticed him when he pelted one of those (luckily) soft plastic balls from the ball pit full-pelt at virtually point-blank range at the wee man, aiming for his face but fortunately only striking his shoulder. I called out, but he just grinned at me and ran off. When I went into the ball pit to comfort the wee man, he came up behind me and pelted me on the hip, meeting my glare and smirking as I turned around before running off. I mean, come on, he was all of four years old, and the wish to hit and hurt and agitate that rose from him was palpable. It troubled me how much I wanted to retaliate - I felt like shaking him, or dragging him out by the ear to find his mother (neither of which I would do in a million years).

He swiftly turned his focus elsewhere, and the wee man was happily occupied, so I sat back at my table with a cup of tea. It wasn't long before he was at it again, he and his accomplice pelting another small boy to tears with a kind of manic glee before barrelling past several smaller children, sending them flying.

Later, I saw him at his mother's table. Unlike most parents there, she hadn't moved from her seat to watch or participate in the play, and was absorbed in her conversation with her friend. I started to think about how his behaviour was obviously a giant cry for attention, but then began to wonder if her behaviour was a response to his behaviour ie. not giving bad behaviour any attention at all, especially if it was an on-going thing. Nope, cop-out, I decided - his behaviour is shocking towards other people and children and she knows it and is doing nothing about it and there is no excuse for that. What is wrong with modelling respect and consideration for other people, an awareness of how your behaviour affects the feelings of others? And there was my answer, right there - he was modelling her behaviour, her disregard for others - she had taken him to a public setting and didn't care to watch or intervene in his actions.

What do you do, when you come across people like that? We left soon after and I've been pondering those two, mother and son, all day since. They seem to represent much of what is worst in the world at the moment - the "I don't give a shit what you think of what I do, just get out of my face", narcissistic, me-me-me, f--k the rest of you attitude that can be seen from the highest levels of the most powerful nations on the planet right down to a small boy and his mother in a play centre. Where do we begin? Is it too much to think that everyone might learn to care? Or am I just too damn naive?


Megan over at Imaginif said...

Great reflections.

I make a point of engaging with people like your highlighted mother. I will sit beside them, try to engage them in conversation, display respect to them and very nicely ask how they manage such a spirited child. I may use a fictitious example, child used to fight and poke tongues and this is what I had to do.....what do you think of that sort of intervention? Do you reckon it will work?

My hope is that by engaging with mother and providing her a level of respect and parenting authority that a reflective process will begin in her and increase her basic parenting styles.

Or....I go to the toilet and fake scream.

There's a beautiful short video (it's a TV Commercial) from NAPCAN that you may want to have a look at. It echoes your assessment of this mother and child: Children See, Children Do

Lovely blog.

mountainmama said...

Thanks, Megan, for your thoughtful comment and kind words about the blog.

Yes, I pondered approaching this woman, but I couldn't imagine a way that didn't come across as intrusive or know-it-all. If our children were interacting (which they were thankfully not!), I would have had some conversational leverage.

As it is, my decision to watch but not act contributed to my musing afterward. As the saying goes "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing", and there is too much of that kind of apathy at the moment.

It's a tough one.

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