Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The working life: Having to scold other peoples' children

You don't have to be a parent to recognize bad parenting when you see it and you really don't have to be a parent to know when a kid is being completely rude and obnoxious.

The question with the elevator kid in Elbonia is was his rudeness because he's a jerk or because he was raised  to be a jerk in a culture where women are second-class citizens? That is, is he to blame for his behavior or is he like a fish who doesn't realize he is in water? A fish who sees nothing but other fish treating women with disdain and so that's how it's done?

I don't know.

What I do know is I wanted to slap this kid to kingdom come.

I didn't, of course, but I did scold him, which I have done to children in my presence even if their parents are around. Because really? Your kid is opening and closing every cabinet door in my kitchen and messing with the blinds and you are saying nothing? Yes, I know that by saying, "Ripper, in this house, we do not open and close all the cabinets like that" I am implicitly criticizing the mother, who is sitting right across from me, but you know what? I am OK with that because she is the one who should be telling her kid to stop it, not me. She is a bad parent! Good parents teach their children to behave when they are at other peoples' houses.

Go ahead. Let the ripping begin. But I think a seven year old is capable of behaving.

With a toddler, you just move the stuff you don't want touched and you don't let him out of the kitchen unless his hands are empty. He's a toddler. He doesn't know better. But a second grader knows better and so should his parents.

Back to Elbonia. I was at the hotel, waiting for the elevator. There was a kid in front of me. He was maybe ten or 11. He was wearing traditional Elbonian clothing, i.e., the long white robe and the white scarf on his head. He was talking on a cellphone. I didn't hear him, so I don't know if he was speaking Elbonian or English.

We stood by the elevator. There was a sign: "Unaccompanied children not allowed on the elevator."

Good, I thought. This kid won't be able to go on.

But when the elevator arrived, he ignored the sign and got on the elevator anyhow.

I wanted to say, "Hey! You're not allowed!" but realized I was not the Elevator Police and it was not my job to tell him he couldn't get on the elevator.

He got on and immediately pushed the "close doors" button.

As I was trying to get on.

Which meant the doors were halfway closed before I even stepped across the elevator threshold.

Yes, that is the one bit of technology that Elbonia has mastered that seems to have eluded the West: a "close door" function that actually works in less than two minutes. I think those buttons are merely decorative on Western elevators.

I had to wave my arm through the door to stop it from closing. Which, in retrospect, was not such a smart thing to do because how could I be sure there was actually that laser that senses a human body part in the door and stops the doors from closing anyhow, pinching the arm or the leg off the body?

Fortunately, the doors opened again. I stepped in and they started to close. I pushed the "open door" button quickly because there was another woman waiting to get in.

She stepped in and we both stared in disbelief at the Elbonian kid. This lady looked Ethiopian. I don't think she was Elbonian.

The kid looked nonchalantly past us.

My jaw dropped in disbelief. No expression of penitence. No apology. Just impatience that his ride was delayed.

I snapped at him. "That is rude!" I said. "It is impolite and rude to close the doors before everyone is in!"

I got no response from the kid. Not even a shamed look. Not a hanging head.

It could be that he didn't speak English, but the tone of my voice was clear. My cats are Siamese, so they don't speak English, but they know when they are in trouble.

Maybe this kid is not as smart as my cats.

He should have known he was being scolded. I just shook my head and wondered how Elbonian society really expected to advance if this was the culture.


webb said...

You were probably wasting your time and energy on your young friend, because of the different cultural expectations. In his mind, the two of you WOMEN should have waited for the next car.

Otherwise, I totally agree with what you say - altho I acknowledge that those of us who have not raised children are often considered not eligible to object to bad behavior.

We once supported ourselves on the crafts circuit. There was a weaver who always brought her three children - ages stroller to about 7 to weekend shows, where she would turn them loose to take care of themselves. Outside, that was fine, but for inside venues they would run up and down the isles knocking into buyers - MY buyers. The second time that I grabbed the largest one around the waist as she ran past and physically carried her around and deposited her in her mother's booth ... it stopped. At least in the part of the room where our display was located. It should never have happened the first time.

If we hope to continue are a civilized society, we need to get back to some basic manners and civility. Boy! did you hit a hot issue tonight! thanks.

Tam said...

If I'd been scolded by an unknown person as a teenager (tween, whatever) when I was alone, I don't think I'd have looked regretful either. More likely, I would have been challenging, like 'whatever, lady, my mom's not here'.

MomQueenBee said...

Good for you! I don't care if you were wasting your time and energy, they were yours to waste. Also, some day when that privileged kid is traveling the world and some gorgeous woman gives him his richly-deserved comeuppance for his now-ingrained rudeness, he'll know he heard it from you first and will weep that he did not learn his lesson and therefore struck out with that hot chick. Or at least we can hope.

Kristin Buchholz-MacKillop said...

I knew I loved you! Something has happened to us culturally, (not just in Elbonia but it is likely amplified there) where there is this air pf permissive parenting that permeates everything. People do EVERYTHING revolving around their kids Never take a holiday without them, every weekend is kid-ventered, and the rest of us are all just supposed to tune-in. My parents gave us everything in the universe, but they also left us at home once in a while and made sure that we knew that we weren't the center of the known universe. I hate this new parenting ethos. Of course, if you voice this out loud, you're just that evil botch of a woman who hates kids, or just "doesn't understand". And the whole women as second class citizens thing...yeah, there is a cultural element there. Luckily I can just walk away from most men like that. In my 6-inch infidel heels and a smirk on my face.

John0 Juanderlust said...

Cuidado! Is that one of those places where women get stoned to death for dubious crimes? Questioning a male, even a young brat might land you in the middle of an international incident. One thing for sure, you boldly go where most men fear to tread.

Suzanne Lucas said...

I, also, discipline other people's children. I've finally reached the point in my German abilities that I can chew out Swiss kids. I've been happy about that.