Saturday, July 6, 2013

Here's how everyone else should parent

The little boy, Charlie's size, but younger came over a few times to check out Charlie's Matchbox car. Then he came over and gave Charlie a series of little punches, right on the side of the arm. I didn't see it, but I saw the little boy scamper back after his name was called at his own table.
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:
  1. Why did it take five minutes of snuggling and explaining to get a kid to say sorry?
  2. How does a kid with no other obvious social impairments arrive at the idea to repeatedly hit another kid his own age?
  3. Why was saying sorry to someone's face the worst thing that could happen to that kid, as opposed to say, anything else?
  4. 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"?


  1. 1. because the kid is a 5hit
    2. because the kid is a 5hit
    3. because the kid is a 5hit
    4. not when the kid is a 5hit

  2. No moral downsides, but perhaps the jab should be on the arm or shoulder, not the nose which is likely to spurt blood and cause the mother to freak out and start yelling about assault.
    Maybe begin with a "don't hit me, let's just play with the car", instead. Keep the jab as a last resort.

  3. I've had a think about this.
    Many years ago, in the schoolyard, if a little boy liked a little girl, he'd punch her on the arm.
    Maybe this little boy was using this method of getting Charlie's attention, saying hello in his own way. Maybe when is dad arrived home every day he'd fist bump (gently) his wife on the arm and say "I'm home". Maybe that's all the kid knows so he didn't want to say sorry when he didn't think he'd done anything wrong.
    On the other hand, if he was just hitting Charlie, my above statement stands.

    1. I've had a think about this too and it wasn't a clumsy behaviour, or a condoned one. That kid meant to hit. Kids do this and experiment all the time with power and how much they can get away with. Charlie even went through a (very very very short-lived) hitting phase. All the kids at his child-care do. He'll probably grow out of it. Probably.
      But the fact that he tried cuddle his way out of it, says (I think) way more about the parent than the kid. Plus the fact that he was allowed to try to ignore his way out of it for so long.
      To paraphrase the visiting Chinese principals on The Simpsons after a botched fireworks display:
      "Bad student."
      "No no. Bad principal."

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32