I saw you.  I know you weren’t doing it “to be seen” but I did.  I don’t know who else might have– I love that you didn’t try to hide it.  There you stood in the produce department, pushing a cart with a little boy in it and with two more little boys around your legs.  It was amazing to watch.  Frankly, I don’t see that very often anymore– dads out with their kids, in the produce department no less.  However, that is not what impressed me.
So, what was it?  Your awareness of them while you still enjoyed them and did your errand.  You bagged your lettuce, corrected one son, delivered a single swat and a word of reproof to another one, and without missing a beat.  There was no anger, no ugliness, no haphazard reaction.  You also didn’t do what most dads I see do; you didn’t wait until your son became obnoxious.  You corrected him, he didn’t listen, you gave a swat.  It was automatic, unconscious, and yet deliberate.  In this day of fearfulness in being forthright with our kids, you did it without thinking about it– or at least that’s how it seemed.
It was beautiful.  By the time I chose my bag of Spring Mix veggies and turned around, you were all laughing– the perfect picture of how discipline doesn’t have to be heavy or ugly.  Your son was happy and secure knowing that his father loved him.
I also have to say that it was refreshing not to have to hear the correction.  I have no idea what your son did.  It wasn’t a tantrum, it wasn’t unkind or ugly– not in any way I could see– but it was most definitely something wrong.  It was evident that you weren’t going to scold a child for doing nothing.
Too often, I go into a store and hear (from several aisles over) some parent (often a mother– interesting, isn’t it?) shouting threats at her child.  She berates him, demands he stop his tantrum (and the kid is usually either totally silent or trying to drown out mom with his own verbal battle)  and threatens him with loss of toy, treat, limb, or life.  The language she uses will be hurled back in her face in just a few short years (if it takes that long) and she’ll wonder why he thinks he can talk to her like that.  Why indeed.
With rage barely contained, she’ll weave up and down the aisles, subjecting the entire store to her tirade (proving that she’s “taking care of it maybe”) before she checks out and drags the kid, kicking and screaming, from the store.  We’ll all sigh collectively and then shake our heads.
However, no one will even think of calling the police on that abusive parent.  Her horrible words, her entire demeanor that screams, “I don’t like you or want you– you disgust me” is perfectly acceptable.  However, had she dared to say quietly, “Stop your fussing right now” and–horrors!–delivered one stinging swat to his upper thigh for emphasis, she’d have to wonder if she’d be led from the store in handcuffs.
I understand that at present, people fear repercussions for being “the parent” in public.  Scolding a child (as opposed to screaming their heads off to make a scene and prove “who’s boss”), even the swat– it was exactly what this society needs.  Fearfulness is taking over Americans.  We fear “the village” and its idiots who set themselves up as advocates for poorly behaved children masquerading as tyrants. You were another brick built in the wall that separates family from state.  We are not under state rule but under state protection.  Thank you for standing up for that with your actions.
However, what I loved most was your interaction with your sons.  They truly love you.  I saw it in their eyes, in their laughter, and in the way they were absolutely at ease in your presence.  Being out with Daddy wasn’t just a treat– it was a common occurrence that FEELS like a treat to them.  That is beautiful fathering.  Thank you.
You  know, I wanted to stop and say something– thank you not only for not dragging all of us into your private corrective moment but also for taking the time to make it, but I didn’t want to embarrass you or your son.  You got in line behind me.  I got to see you interacting with your youngest while the other two went on some errand for you.  You know– that son who less than five minutes earlier had a stinging reminder to his backside that you won’t put up with his shenanigans?  Yeah.  Well, guess what.  Obviously, you’ve done your job well if you can trust him away from you so quickly.  You know his strengths, his weaknesses, and how to steer him in line.  I doubt he’ll be the kid that I cringe to see at the movie theater or bagging my groceries fifteen years from now.  He’ll probably be just like the nice kid who bagged them today.  Pleasant, helpful, and respectful.  Thank you for that.  Thank you very much.

4 thoughts on “Observer

  1. My youngest son (of three) turns 18 this week. And you know what? He’s the respectful, thoughtful, pleasant young man you describe, Chautona, and so are his older brothers.

    Stay the course, girls. We reap what we sow, and the father described here is cultivating a relationship with the men his sons will grow up to be. It’s not easy to be this kind of parent — consistent, patiently correcting at the first offense, living out the example the child needs to see. If this dad’s like me, he’s probably tired and secretly longs to take the easy way out sometimes! But nothing of value is easily achieved, is it? Nor is it accomplished in a day. Thanks for sharing this, Chautona.

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