It all started with a slap on my thigh. I was sitting on an over-crowded, amusement park, parking lot tram – so I figured it was just an accident, one that could be attributed to the extremely close quarters. But then it happened again. I looked over (and down) at the little person sitting next to me. It was a small child about Beth’s age – maybe a little younger. He was looking at me with a devious grin on his face. In a calm, measured tone, I asked him not to do that again. I was very conscious of the fact that I don’t like strangers disciplining my child, so I was careful not to be angry or aggressive with this child. I turn around and start talking with my father again, when I immediately feel another slap to my thigh. I turn around to face the child again… and he smacks me in the face with his amusement park map.
I feel it is necessary at this point to clear up a few things. One, I had nothing to do with this child prior to the slapping. Two, none of my activities prior to the slapping had any effect on this child. Three, I don’t believe I’ve ever met this child or any of his family. I was spending my time talking to my father, who was sitting on the other side of me. I don’t recall what we were talking about, but it had nothing to do with the child or anything that might offend him. My point is that this was a completely anonymous, unprovoked slapping. I am the only victim in this story.
So what would you do after a public slapping by an anonymous child? I turned around, again in a measured tone and whispered an ultimatum to him. I turned back around towards my father and resumed our conversation.
So how do you suppose this child’s behavior affected me? Would you believe that it left me in a pretty good mood? One of the early thoughts that crossed my mind (after the little urchin slapped me in the face) was that I was sitting in the presence of a child that was behaving much worse than my own. YES!!! Gone were all of the memories of other children Beth’s age obediently sitting next to their parents like their cool aid was spiked with Phenobarbital. Suddenly my child was the beacon of light in the room; the example for all to aspire to. It was a really good moment for me.
Later that night Cheryl asked me about the incident. Specifically, she asked me what I said to the little Cretan after he slapped me in the face with his park map. I told her that I advised him that I would take that map from him if he did that again. As I alluded to before, my gaze did not linger on the child after our brief exchange – I was busy talking to my father. Apparently, the child’s look said something akin to “you can’t do that to me!” Since he didn’t hit me again, I assume the message he got was one of two things: “this isn’t much fun, he’s not nearly angry enough to make this interesting”; or, “he might actually do it”. Cheryl told me that it wasn’t right to discipline someone else’s child. I told her that I agreed, but that I stand by my right to defend myself. Once out of harms way, I’m more than happy to leave the discipline to the parent. Was I so wrong?