It’s funny how different things are today than when I was a kid. I was eating lunch a one of our local diners a couple of days ago, when this little boy, I’m going to guess he was about 4-years-old, started throwing a fit, you know, squirming around, not eating, that sort of thing. The mother was doing her best to get him to behave. She tried reasoning with him. He told her to shut-up. She tried the time out thing. He started screaming, and even tried to bite her. Needless to say, her methods weren’t all that successful, and her lunch was shot. I thought about asking her if I could have the kid’s coke, but she didn’t appear to be in a particularly generous mood.
Kids have it made today. A long time ago I could’ve been this same little kid. The only difference is my dad wasn’t all that good at reasoning, and he wasn’t particularly interested in my feelings. And his methods were a little different. He’d say something like, sit there, eat your food, and shut-up. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t. He’d probably go through it the second time, only it would end with a promise of yanking me out of my chair and beating my butt right where I stood. If this second and last threat didn’t get the immediate results he was looking for, he’d follow through with his promised beating of the butt right where I stood. It hurt like hell, embarrassed me, and probably damaged my self-esteem. But usually produced the results he was looking for. And if anyone’s lunch was ruined, it was mine.
You’d think other customers would have been outraged at such brutality. You’d think someone would call the police. And surely there’d be at least one lawyer who’d just recorded the whole thing on his cell phone slip the kid one of his business cards.
This is another example of how different things are today. Instead of the other customers being outraged by his actions. It was somewhat expected. While there were no standing ovations, there were looks of approval on their faces. In those days it was a dad’s job to make his kids behave, he wasn’t necessarily your friend. He was the dad. And being the dad, meant he was the boss. Period.
I still remember the day he taught me not to steal. The lesson involved a shoe store and a really cool, chrome plated, shoe horn. You see, school was about to start, I was going into the fourth grade. So my parents took us kids to town for new shoes.
That’s when I spotted them. Stacks of the coolest, chrome plated, shoe horns I’d ever seen. I asked my dad if I could have one. He said no, which is what I expected him to say. While the shoe salesman was busy with my brothers, I decided to stick that really cool, chrome plated, shoe horn in my pocket. Once the shoes were selected and paid for we went to the car for the trip home. I was in the clear.
Tucked safely in the back seat, I decided to show my brothers my cool shoe horn. That’s when it fell apart. I really wished someone had explained the concept of rear-view mirrors to me. I had no idea he could pull a car over to the side of the highway so fast. He yanked me out of the back seat, beat my butt good this time, threw me back in, turned the car around and headed back to town. Back to the shoe store. I had to tell the man I had stolen from him. There it was. That look again. The look of approval on his face. My dad had done his job.
Yeah, kids have it made today. But what do I know? I’m just an old guy.
Kevin McGinty can be reached by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.