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Raising Baby Bubba

by : David Glenn Cox
Saturday August 8, 2009 - 16:36

By David Glenn Cox

JPEG - 46.6 kb

There is a video making the rounds on the Internet of a woman dragging her child on a leash through a Verizon store. There was scads of outrage and the mother was charged with a felony. Well, Dr. Obvious says that child abuse emanates from poor parenting skills.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, another couple dropped by to congratulate us. As we chatted the husband said, “Enjoy those house plants while you can!”

“Why is that?" I asked.

“Oh, the baby will tear those things to pieces. You won’t have one left,” he answered.

Later my wife and I discussed his statement. We were confused and perplexed by it because neither one of us had been allowed to tear things up in our homes. This was just our introduction to the new parenting.

Recently, I went to a Buffet restaurant and upon entering my ears were greeted by a small child, let us call him Eggbert. Eggbert was sprawled out on the floor throwing a tantrum while his mother and another woman and child continued undisturbed with their meal. Eggbert then got up and began climbing in and out of the booth where they sat, still screaming, shrieking while the mother did nothing more than cover up to protect her plate. Then, aww, it was so cute, you should have been there. Little Eggbert ran from the booth and grabbed a chair and began to drag it through the crowded restaurant which was full of people walking with plates of food.

The mother, quick to spot the danger, got up and grabbed Eggbert, for apparently she feared one of those careless adults would stumble over the chair and drop hot meatloaf on little Eggbert’s head. That had to be her reasoning because she was immune to the eyes that were burning into her. Eggbert did what you would expect Eggbert to do; he screamed at the top of his lungs. Eggbert didn’t get his way and Eggbert didn’t like that.

I knew of a single mother with a little boy named Shay. The mother’s schedule required her to work odd hours and she was fortunate to have two sets of grandparents volunteering to baby sit. The problem was that, for Shay, at age five he had three sets of rules to live by. He very quickly learned to use it against his elderly keepers. “Momma said I could. Nanna lets me do that. Granny says that’s wrong!” It was a mess. The mother, grateful for free daycare, was afraid to ask for more favors in the way of uniform rules. The grandparents were in a competition with each other as to who could spoil the child more.

Shay was the loser as the mother would get home after a long shift and try to raise a child fed on chocolate milk and pop tarts all day. A child whose answer to every request was, “Nana says I don’t have to!”

In my entire childhood I was never spanked more than four or five times, and I remember them. In some cases I even remember why I was spanked at age five or six, but even if I don’t remember the exact charges against me, I remember the fundamental law. Rule number one: we are your parents, we are in charge and you will do as you are told or else. Because of rule one and its enforcement my mother was able to direct us by remote control. As we would reach for the biggest piece of cake at Aunt Dorothy’s, suddenly our eyes would meet and through some form of ESP she would send me a message, “Don’t you dare go for the biggest piece of cake!”

She would have these informative little chats with us before we went into the store. “Don’t touch anything. Do you understand? Keep your hands to yourself and do not touch anything. Do you understand?” Because these ground rules were set ahead of time, all my mother needed to say to me in the store if I became unruly was, “Do you remember what I told you in the car? Do I need to take you into the bathroom?”

These little minds are a fertile playground. Children run wild with imagination, but whether they are raised by me or by wolves like Romulus and Remus, there is still rule one. We are your parents, we are in charge and you will do as you are told or else.

Once, in California, my wife and I were staying at a hotel with a Marie Callender’s Restaurant across the street. We had seen the frozen products in the grocery store and decided to give the genuine article a try. We were seated and given menus. Across the restaurant was another family with a seven- or eight-year-old boy that we will call Little Adolf. Little Adolf started by telling the waiter, “I sure hope this food is good ’cause my mom’s cooking sucks!” They all laughed at Little Adolf’s humor, but after their order was taken Little Adolf was bored and began to get up and prowl around the room.

His adventure began by going to the waitress station and pouring out the glasses of ice water. Then he began punching the touch screen the waitress uses to figure your check on. A waitress gently cajoled Little Adolf with a "No, no." But Adolf was bored and tired of waiting for his food.

So he went over to the salad bar, which he didn’t order, and began to make himself a salad. Unfortunately Adolf wasn’t tall enough to reach most of the toppings and he grabbed a chair and pulled it over to the bar. Like the climax scene in a Buster Keaton silent comedy, Little Adolf juggled his over-topped salad while balancing on top of the overstuffed chair with the expected calamity.

He went over the back of the chair the salad went up in the air and came down on everything. The salad plate shattered into a million pieces. The parents ran to Adolf asking, “Are you all right? That’s why you should stay with us, so you don’t get hurt.”

The manager apologized and Adolf was not charged for his over-tossed salad. The waitress and the busboys cleaned the floor and the chair and restocked the salad bar. I asked my wife, “I wonder how many long talks they’ve had with public school teachers who just don’t understand their Little Adolf? Teachers intent on stifling his little creative spirit.”

Of course napkins were play things and forks and knives were to be used as he pleased. Adolf had no more a sense of table manners than he had knowledge of an inside voice. I felt genuinely sorry for Adolf because the world is going to grind him down to a nub. "No" is the most common word that we hear in life, so it is best to get used to hearing it early on. My heart went out to Adolf’s family because of all the suffering and embarrassment they would endure at the hands of this little tyrant. Instead of teaching him to operate in the world, they were trying to protect him from it and dooming him to failure in it. In fact, they would have been better parents if they had chained him up under the porch, because as it was they were doing him no good. For years after I could hold up a Marie Callender frozen entree in the grocery store and my wife would knowingly smile.

I am not a mathematician but I do so wonder what the formula would be. How many “Johnny, don’ts” are equal to one swat on the butt? Not to beat your child, but to explain to your child in the language that they will understand, we are your parents, we are in charge and you will do as you are told or else. Children are smart, they can spot an idle threat a mile off, and so you get, “Johnny, don’t. Don’t, Johnny. Don’t make me have to tell you again. If you do that one more time I’ll…” Little Johnny is smarter than you; he knows you won’t do squat. If you do he’ll throw a tantrum and storm off to his room; that’ll teach you! “Oh, I hope we didn’t hurt his feelings.”

Baby Bubba came into my life when he was about thirteen. He was quiet and relatively well-mannered, except that you could never say no to Baby Bubba. A group of us went to Six Flags and after about three hours Baby Bubba decided that he had a tummy ache and wanted to go home. So we cancelled our entertainment, not to mention our money, to take Baby Bubba home. Bubba quickly felt better once in the car, so much better in fact that he wanted to stop for ice cream on the way home. I refused. I explained to Baby Bubba that ice cream is hard on your stomach, and since he had been ill we’d better not.

The car became as frosty as soft serve with his mother saying, “All he wanted was some ice cream.” Later, when we were alone, I explained, “No, he wanted more than ice cream. He made three adults blow sixty dollars each because of his tummy ache that developed because he was bored, and then he wants to be rewarded with ice cream. When you’re good you get ice cream; if you’re sick you go to bed." But Baby Bubba did not adjust well to being told no.

A few years later we were finishing my brother-in-law’s basement. I’ve worked around construction most of my life and built garages and added on to houses. My father-in-law had fifty years of experience in the building trades. Baby Bubba had two semesters in masonry trade school. He disappeared early in the project and his mother asked me later, “What did they say to Baby Bubba? He said he was being picked on when he was only trying to help.” You see, grown men not making a high school sophomore the general foreman on the job was picking on him.

Baby Bubba was very intelligent and could have done well in school. When you asked if his homework was done the answer was always, “Yes.” But at school conferences there were zeroes for homework assignments missed. Baby Bubba would explain that away as the teacher lost it or forgot to change it when he turned it in late. Anything and everything was the answer, except that Bubba didn’t do it.

Finally a senior in high school, Baby Bubba needed to pass English or he would not graduate with his class. And do you what that low down teacher did? He failed him by two lousy points. His mother was irate after already purchasing his cap and gown, so she went to the school to straighten them out. There had to be a mistake, to keep a kid from graduating for two lousy points.

But when his mother met with the teacher he showed her the list of incomplete assignments. Also the missed tests that the teacher had offered to allow Baby Bubba to make up. There were offers of extra credit assignments that went by the wayside. So on the day of the final exam Baby Bubba failed by two points and the teacher felt no further obligation to try and assist him any further.

I tried until my strength gave out; I was seen as hard and unfair on Baby Bubba. So what if he forgets to flush the toilet or wash his hands? So what if he doesn’t use a napkin or eats with his hands? Through it all the message was never received. I wasn’t picking on Bubba; I was trying to help him. Someday he is going to be invited to some girl’s house for supper and her parents are going to be shocked and appalled, not so much at Baby Bubba’s performance but by the performance of Baby Bubba’s parents.



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