This morning, with a warm day forecasted, I decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood early before starting in on my work. I have a usual route that takes me nearby an elementary school. About two blocks after I'd passed the school, I came to an intersection where a man and his son, maybe five or six years old, were stopped with their bikes.
The father, decked out in bicyclist's spandex, was scolding his son. Apparently the son was late for school, and this was a recurring problem that the father was fed up with. Fair enough. But the dad was taking a hostile attitude that immediately got my attention. I only heard bits and pieces of actual conversation, but the tone was unmistakable as the dad shook his finger at the son.
Obviously I know virtually nothing about the context the incident came from, but I found myself getting really upset at that father. I wished I could summon the gall to butt in and tell man to stop intimidating his poor little boy. I also confess to fantasizing about punching him in the nose. For all I know, the dad had plenty of right to be frustrated with the kid's behavior. But clearly the kid was upset and traumatized, not just by failing to get to school on time but especially having an adult verbally abusing him. I always come back to the old cliche that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That kid was completely frozen. Was scolding going to warm up his traumatized little psyche?
Certainly I'm no expert on parenting. I have no children. But if I did, I hate the idea of ever getting to a point where I have to yell at and act hostile with someone who barely comes up to my waist.
In a way, though, the father will get his comeuppance in one way or another. Someday when he wishes his son didn't live thousands of miles away, or that he'd get a father's day card in the mail for a change, he'll be inextricably linked to incidents like today's on the sidewalk, when petty frustrations took precendence over nurturing.