The kid was freaking out.
I was in Coffeed (the local coffee place here in Port Washington), and a mom came into the place with her kid. The kid was, I don’t know, maybe four or five. He walked over to the table where I was writing, and started moving his toy car back and forth on the table.
It did not bug me. Still, his mom wanted him to stop.
He did not want to stop.
His mom, who’d gotten her iced coffee by then, took him by the hand, and gently pulled the kid toward her.
The kid did not like this.
He really, really didn’t like this.
It was one of those tantrums that makes me think of the chain reaction that leads to a nuclear explosion. One particle smashes into that bit of Uranium 235, and then the pieces of that smashed up atom careen into more Uranium 235. On it goes, and in an instant, there is enough heat to vaporize a city.
I mean…wow. It was epic. It was one of those things where the kid starts screaming “no,” and it gets all distorted, so that it kind of becomes the word “now,” as uttered by Satan if he were about four.
Because let’s face it: children are wonderful, adorable, and innocent. But when they tantrum, they become little Satans. They just do.
Who knows why, at that moment, the kid lost it. Maybe there was something about that moment that made him see that there would other moments like that, moments where he wouldn’t always be able to do exactly what he wanted. Maybe at the moment, the kid saw his whole life, all those moments where it’s necessary to compromise, necessary to find our way between the things that we long for, and the things that we just have to do. Maybe it was that awful realization that every so often, the world just says “no, you can’t do that.”
Maybe it was just too much to deal with all at once. Maybe that kid saw his entire future, something that’s such an epic thing for a child so small to see. Maybe the kid’s name was John Connor, and he was realizing, right at that moment, as he looked at my computer, that a storm was coming, and that a computer like mine would eventually become self aware, and that Skynet would bring about the end of the world. Maybe he realized, right at that moment, that it was going to be up to him, and him alone, to save the world, and that his mother would be played by Linda Hamilton when it became a film, which would eventually prompt Harlan Ellison to sue James Cameron for writing something way too similar to his Outer Limits episode “Soldier.”
What I’m saying is, I’m sure this wasn’t a bad kid. It’s just that the kid was realizing a whole lot in such a short time, and it was just too much for him. So naturally, he just wanted to stay there, and move the car back and forth on the table.
But it was time to go.
And mom didn’t miss beat. With no anger, and no sudden, jerking motions, she expertly took the kid by the arm, and walked/dragged/carried him out.
It was just…heroic. I can’t quite describe how smoothly this mother handled this kid. It was like watching a mother cat pick up a kitten by the scruff of the neck, and return the kitten to the basket.
Midway to the car, the kid calmed down. It slowly morphed from the mom carrying/dragging him to a drag with a footstep or two. Then the kid was walking.
And I tell you, but for the fact that I’m sure it would have weirded out the mother, I wanted to follow her, and tell her that this one of the most heroic acts of parenting I’d seen in a long, long time.
I often tell parents during Back to School Night at the middle school that parenting is the most difficult job imaginable. When I get a great student, I marvel at the parenting that went into producing a kid like that.
The kid I saw today is going to turn out great. I’m sure of it.
And this mom is, for me, today’s hero.