Friday, July 25, 2014

'The Man' and why he should apologise to children more often

Parents everywhere, I'm sure you too have used The Man as leverage. Don't play on the escalators, or 'the man' will give you a row.  Say, 'Thank you,' to The Man. Sometimes The Lady but mostly, The Man.
Today, The Man got himself involved; dove right in, you could say, and managed to set off a classic parent-child Stress-Fest. Only later at home, when I got a minute's head space,  did I think, wait a minute....where is my true loyalty?
I was  returning, with Hugh and Tess, from a heat-soaked day at Troon beach. We were all stuffed on to a mobbed (Commonwealth-Games) platform at Central Station. The Man, a Games spectator from England, started making small talk with me, which was fine, until, he noticed, before I did, that wee Hugh had found a half empty can of some souped-up energy drink and was bringing his nose to the ring pull.
OI, OI, OI !  shouted The Man, in a tone, useful only for thugs snatching a pensioner's handbag. Poor Hugh nearly cacked himself, stunned to be yelled at, by a stranger.
'The man was only trying to stop you getting germs', I started in  soothing tones, hoping that the man would rush in with similar apology, but the man showed manly restraint. I even think Hugh muttered something, near tears,  about, 'only trying to sniff it.' (Forgive a 5 year old for showing our oldest evolutionary instinct in the relentless 'temptation' marketing from fizzy soft drinks).
Anyway, The Man just kept on with the small talk - something about driving his wife to Milngavie and getting lost - and I could see poor Hugh was not going to recover his composure and started to act out and pinch me. The man tried to make amends by carrying my awkward beach bags (wet towels, toy monkey, crusts of warm egg sandwich) on to the train, and by this stage, Hugh could hardly bear it.
His mother was running away with the berk who'd wronged him and shamed him. He started to really misbehave - arching his back like a toddler, hissing, scowling, with the odd suppressed punch to my arm. And still, I didn't get it. I was more concerned with politeness to The Man. Trying to make The Man feel better. Duh, he was just The  FRIGGIN Man, not my wee boy who needed someone, ideally me, to defend him.
So, here's what I will do differently, if I'm braver next time. I'm paraphrasing, but the proper version is something like this:
Man, oh Man.., I know you're trying to help, but my child didn't mean any harm, and he's hungry and spent after a happy day, and you scared the bejesus out of him, so if you could possibly find a wee apology for him, it would go a long way.
 Don't try and continue the chat with him regardless. When adults feel wrongly accused, they can't bear small talk from the perpetrator, as if nothing has happened!? Kids have an even keener and more desperate sense of justice. Throw him a bone. Say, 'Sorry I frightened you. I didn't mean to'. And, thanks, but there's no need to give them sweets. A toothy smile will do.
Now that harmony has been restored, and my journey home made less of an all-round discomfort, I'll tolerate your boring saga about losing your way and your wife on the way to Milngavie. Or was it Bearsden?