Four weeks ago yesterday, my mom and Aunt Grace flew in to Texas.
They were with us for a weekend, and then we flew to Puerto Rico for a week, with Elizabeth (more on this later...).
My Aunt Grace flew home the following week, and my mother stayed for three weeks to help me with the children, while Charlie and William were away at Boy Scout camp in Colorado (more on this later...).
We have had a wonderful time together, and I'm so, so hopeful that Mom will consider making a move to Texas to live near us (more on this later, too).
This afternoon, the seven of us drove to Houston to meet up with a good friend. Our friend is a brilliant single mother whose equally brilliant 8-year old son threw an out of control temper tantrum while we were out at lunch. He wanted ice cream and his mother wasn't going to get it for him at that moment, because the line at the ice cream stand was at least 20 people long. So this amazing little child threw a fit and punched his mother, and pushed his mother, and tried to yank her pocketbook out of her hands so he could get to her wallet.
My mother was with us and for the first 60 seconds or so, we tried to ignore the behavior - looking the other way and talking to each other while hoping that the mother had it under control and would stop her son. But she didn't.
Instead, she put her arms out to her sides and leaning back in her chair, said to him, "Stop! You must stop! You're in time out, sit down next to me and stop!"
He sat down. But He Didn't Stop. He kept throwing himself backwards in to her, with tears streaming down his cheeks as he sobbed, "I want it! I want it!"
Our four kids were stunned. Not at any time in recent memory, have they been exposed to a fit like this. And my mother, unable to contain herself, finally leaned across the table and asked our friend, "Good heavens! What are you going to do about this? This is terrible!" And the overwhelmed mother said, "I, I ... I honestly don't know what to do about this!"
Taking that as my cue (rightfully or wrongfully - I haven't yet decided), I leaned in and loudly said to the little boy, who wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, "Did you happen to notice how Henry is missing his front teeth?" He ignored me as he rocked back and forth, slamming in to his mother. I continued with my voice raising slightly, "I'll bet you think its because his teeth fell out on their own. Can you believe that I actually knocked his teeth out?! Me!! His MOTHER!"
That caught his attention.
He stopped thrashing and looked at me uneasily.
"Of course it was a terrible accident," I continued. "But I can tell you right now that I wouldn't put up with your behavior - not for a second! Who do you think you are sitting here throwing a fit like this, in public? You are too smart of a child to be behaving this terribly!" My voice raised even more as I pointed my finger to an empty chair at the next table and said, "You get up and you go sit over there and knock it off right this instant. Don't you say another word."
He sized me up, surely wondering what I'd do next, but quickly retreated to the table next to us, when I squinted my eyes at him and engaged my maternal laser beams.
Meanwhile, my mother was talking to his mother and saying, "You cannot tolerate this kind of behavior! This is abuse! He is abusing you! And you need to get this under control immediately because it's only going to get worse as he gets older!"
I nodded in agreement and added, "Listen. It's up to you. You have to teach him what is acceptable - and what isn't. THIS is not acceptable behavior and can not be tolerated, if it is - you'll be on course to raise a monster." Then I diverted my stare back to the gasping boy who was sitting with his tear-streaked face looking down at his lap and asked, "Who is in charge around here? Are you in charge?!" He shook his head no. So I asked, "Then tell me, who is in charge?" And he quickly pointed his finger at his mother.
"That's right," I said. "Your mother is in charge. She is the boss ... and don't you disrespect your mother like that again. Your mother is a QUEEN and you will treat her as such. Got it?" He quickly nodded yes.
We finished our lunch and as we were walking out, with the little boy was now acting like an angel - my mother and I both said to his mother, "Please, don't ever let him do that again. You've got to nip that in the bud and not let him get away with that behavior. It doesn't matter where you are, you make him mind you!"
His mother seemed extremely grateful for the intercession, but she might have been mortified that we interfered. Who knows? All I know is that at minimum, he won't act like that around us again.
But it got me to thinking ... respect isn't something that just happens, it's something that is taught and those teachings begin at home. "These days" it really seems that there is a fundamental lack of respect in our society, and in our world. Has it always been like this? Or does it just seem worse in recent years with live-stream technology that feeds the media beasts?
I'll need to write more about that later, too. Much like I'm unable to keep my mouth closed with severely misbehaving children, so too am I able to stifle opinions on things like politics, promiscuity on college campuses, and simmering racial tensions in this country.
Our house is very quiet for the next two weeks, so hopefully, I'll have some time to sit, reflect, and write.
Mom flew back to South Carolina tonight with our extremely well-behaved Carolyn and Elizabeth. This is the first time they have ever left home without us, but I know that next to ours - they are in the absolute best possible hands. My mother and Aunt Grace will love them - and make sure that they stay in line.
(Just about everything I know about parenting ... I've learned from those two.)