Then he came back and did it again.
'Can you stop your child from hitting my son?' we asked, loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Charlie wasn't hurt, or even that bothered. But the boy's mother dragged him over to our table and told him to apologise.
Then it began.
Charlie sat there and waited. All four adults at our table sat there and waited. The boy's mother crouched next to him and told him, goaded him, asked him, pressed him and nagged him to say sorry. But the boy did nothing. He didn't move his lips, he stared anywhere but at Charlie, at the wall, into the middle distance. He leant back into his mother, snaking his little arms up around for a cuddle, a hug, a chance to bury his face, and each time he was gently unhooked and told to say sorry. He was immediately ready to move onto the part where he was assured that everything he did was okay. This went on for minute after minute. No one spoke but his mother. There were no tears, no raised voices, just firm whispering and denied affection. The closest the kid got to verbalising anything was trying to kiss Mummy's ear.
Waiters squeezed by, Charlie became bored and still the snuggling and whispering went on. And on. Still the whispering and urging went on. The tone never changed, neither did the boy's facial expression - if vacant denial can be called an expression.
Finally, I think he managed to mutter 'sorry' to Charlie audibly enough that the ordeal ended. Hugs all round. Hand-holding, playing with cars, kissing goodbyes and the other table left.
Here are your questions for discussion:
- Why did it take five minutes of snuggling and explaining to get a kid to say sorry?
- How does a kid with no other obvious social impairments arrive at the idea to repeatedly hit another kid his own age?
- Why was saying sorry to someone's face the worst thing that could happen to that kid, as opposed to say, anything else?
- Are there any moral downsides to teaching your offspring to, when physically abused, retaliate with a single jab to the nose and a threatening catch-phrase, ie. "Don't mess with the Moose, motherfucker"?