I saw a child in a supermarket throw a packet of crisps at his mother, in the thick of a tantrum. He was this chubby, nasty boy who might have been three years old but looked about 12. Half his shorts were swallowed by his buttocks. He looked like he worked part-time at City Hall’s water department. I didn’t like him. I generally don’t like spoilt, ill-mannered brats. I didn’t like the ruckus he was making in the supermarket over a goddamn packet of crisps which he didn’t even need in the first place, given that he looked just about a kilogramme away from hypertension and diabetes. He was entitled and churlish and he treated his mother like a servant.
I liked the mother even less because she allowed it. She was raising an ogre, most likely sacrificing heavily for it; feeding it, clothing it, taking it to school to get an education, paying for its medical cover and giving it love. When that little rascal threw that packet of crisps at his mother, she chuckled and shook her head and lightly admonished him with caressing words: “Baba, don’t do that, please be nice.”
Be nice? Gulp. The little Hitler stomped his foot defiantly and demanded the crisps that his mum didn’t want to buy. I lingered around the toilet paper section to watch this scene play out.
When the mother tried to push the trolley, he stood in her way like the famous Tank Man who blocked a column of tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. While some men fought for human rights before armed and repressive men, this boy was fighting for his right to eat junk, and disrespecting his mother while at it. Welcome to 2017.
The mother ceded and put the crisps in the trolley. Now I don’t know anything about motherhood and the challenges that come with it. Maybe she was tired and she didn’t want the drama. Maybe the father of this boy had come home at 5am from drinking and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with his offspring. Maybe she had a spa treatment scheduled later that afternoon and she didn’t want anything ruining her mood before then. Maybe she was a single parent and she felt that giving in was one way of showing the boy that she cared. Maybe she had been away on safari for a week and had just got back that morning and this was her way of making up for her absence. Hell, maybe this was her definition of love; to cede in the face of juvenile flareup. Maybe the child wasn’t even hers, maybe it was her sister’s. Whatever it was, it was heartbreaking. I thought to myself in horror, “Does my son behave like that in my absence?”
Of course we can’t beat our children now – I mean, we are not savages like our parents… although it would be nice to raise the rod at them once in a while. Rather, it would be nice for mothers to spank their small bums with a ruler once in a while and send them off to bed without food. We – fathers are supposed to instill fear with our looks and maybe occasionally, a very hard voice, “Hey! I won’t say it twice. Get in the car now or I will leave you here in the restaurant to work in the kitchen.” Fathers shouldn’t spank their children because mothers seem to be forgiven easily by children when they do. We were beaten by our mothers but I don’t recall ever growing up resenting her because she always said she was beating me because she loved me. (Roll eyes).
Of course times have changed and we want to be modern and progressive and raise these kids through dialogue and a consensus around a table. Plus there is a very good chance that the government might intervene if we raise the rod at them. That boy in the supermarket disturbed me, though. His father should set him straight because clearly he’s breached the mother’s defences. Part of the fear we had towards our fathers was that when you disrespected your mother, they dealt with you like you offended their wife, not your mother, which meant they dealt with you like a man, not as a child. Fear has its place in raising children and that little brat at the supermarket was fearless, on top of being mannerless.
In another 15 years he will be the guy who runs his car into ours while stone drunk. Or steal from us. Or engage in socially unacceptable activities because he grew up entitled and felt that the world owns him crisps. For heaven’s sake, spank him because the naughty corner has become too tame for the beast in him. Spank him because taking away his toys and denying him TV hasn’t worked. Spank him and save all of us his menace in future. And while at it, no crisps for him for seven months – or until he loses some of that weight on his bum.