A couple of weeks ago, I was headed into Petco or Petsmart. I can’t remember which one. As I entered the store, a dad (presumably) and his son (presumably again) were leaving the store. The kid was about 4 or 5 years old, and he wasn’t leaving voluntarily. On the contrary, he was leaving kicking and screaming. His dad was carrying him out like a sack of potatoes. The kid was screaming something but it was pretty hard to figure out. My best interpretation is “waahhhhhh….aaaaaaahhh…waahhhh…noooowwwwahhhhrrrrgggg!!!” Dad, who seemed pretty calm, said something like “I’ve had just about enough of that!”. And out the door they went. I’m assuming the in-store drama was averted
Had I witnessed that scene a few months ago, I probably would have said rather smugly to myself, “My kids aren’t going to act like that.” Well, it’s funny how perspectives can quickly change.
The looming days of parenthood have certainly raised some doubts about my ability to so wisely and easily handle all child-rearing situations. It’s not that I don’t think I’ll be a good a parent. I’m still pretty certain I won’t drop the kid on his head or do something to totally scar him for life (except maybe burp loudly in public…constantly). But what about the in-store showdowns? Or the on-the-plane drama? I’m sure you’ve been there. You get on the plane and there is that one screaming, wailing child sitting right behind you and the flight is a non-stop from NY to LA? Don’t you want to just at least turn around and give the parents The Evil Eye? What about when your child wacks the next door neighbor’s little girl on the head with a dismembered Barbie, all the while screaming “Mine! Mine!! Miiiiiinnne!” What do you do? What will I do?
My new job requires lots of people skills – empathy, active listening, reframing, redirecting, etc. Will these skills help me to respond correctly when the little one is acting up in public? Will I forget all I’ve been learning over the past three years? I remember taking karate when I was a kid. Self-defense and discipline were pretty important for a black, geeky, “sissy”, bookworm kid in my neighborhood. I took karate under the assumption that one day I would have to put that karate chop and high kick to use. Well, when I was about 9, a long-time bully came up to me and started threatening me. I quickly and confidently got into fighting stance…and proceeded to get my butt kicked. I ran before it got too bad. The butt-kicking was probably my first lesson on the difference between learning and doing. They are definitely different concepts.
This year, the possibility of being a parent became the probability of being a parent. And as the final fire/safety inspection approaches this week, I’m now in the “Oh @#%&!!, I’m going to be a Dad!” state of mind. It’s an exciting but scary realization. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those scolding, you-are-a-bad-parent looks as our kid does his Best Tantrum in a Public Setting performance.
I’m sure it will happen though. I’ll be caught hoisting our child over my shoulder while making a quick, conspicuous and frustrated exit from Home Depot or (worse yet) Pottery Barn and someone will give me that scolding “bad parent! bad baaaad parent” look. That will be payback for me doing the same to others.
The shoe will soon be on the other foot.