Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Trust Begins At Home

It was the last day of Christmas vacation, so my granddaughters and I decided to go to a nearby fast food restaurant for a a treat. It was midafternoon, not too many folk about. I needed to use the bathroom, and given their current ages, didn't think I needed to take them. When I exited, I heard a small girl crying loudly, the "I hurt" cry, not the "my feelings are hurt" cry. I saw an older woman comforting her. The girl appeared about 3 or 4.

My oldest granddaughter told me, "something bad happened while you were gone." I asked her to tell me and she said she would tell me in the car. I told her if it was bad, and I needed to do something to fix it, I needed to know before we left. Her eyes slid to an older, heavyset man waiting for his order about 10-12 feet away. He wore a pleasant expression and a navy blue shirt. I turned around to look at him, so he probably was aware we were discussing him.

She said the little girl, whose sobs were subsiding, had just been sitting in a chair. "She was just sitting there!" my granddaughter said. "She was sort of singing to herself but she wasn't really making any noise. She wasn't doing anything!"

And the man came up and walloped her, she said. He hit her so hard her head snapped foreward and hit the edge of the table. And then he walked off when she began to cry.

The man continued to wait with a pleasant expression for his order. His wife came up and offered him a sip of her soft drink, which he refused at first but then accepted. The little girl calmed down, but it seemed to me the woman was rather stern with her. Hmm.

My nine-year-old granddaughter looked at me wide-eyed. "He must be the worst daddy in the world!" she told me. "She wasn't doing anything, and he hit her!"

Just then, the man's order was delivered and they all left. The little girl was with the woman. The two were on their way out the door when the man called to the girl. Oh, yeah. She heard him. and whisked out the door ahead of the woman. She was sucking her thumb.

No, it wasn't something I would interfere with. It was borderline. My granddaughters and I finished our snacks and left a short while later. But I thought about what the older girl had said. It reasonates. At nine, she is beginning to find out some people aren't so nice. But at home, she is safe and can trust the people she loves.

"He must be the worst daddy in the world."

Yes, it reasonates.


Matt G said...

How did I miss hearing that story?

Three days ago, I whipped that daughter for telling me a fib. Well, "whipped" is the wrong word for me, because it connotes (to me, anyway) that a utensil was used. No, I just spanked her with my hand, but I did so repeatedly. She had lied to me, and knew it, to get out of trouble. She's such a good girl, that I need her to know that no lie that she can tell me is less than the worst trouble that she could be covering up. I rendered that spanking at bedtime.

The next day, I slept in because A: It was my weekend, and B: I work evenings, so I wanted to keep my sleep schedule right. My (recently chastized) good big girl forgot her school binder. She missed assignments. She did poorly in school, and her teacher had to tell me about it. I have no doubt that this was directly caused by her going to bed with a sore bottom and the knowledge that her daddy was furious with her, and disappointed.

I felt like crap. I talked to my wife about it, and she told me that was silly-- the girl needed a strong punishment. If we don't get on top of this right now, we'll have a little liar on our hands rather than the Good Girl that we now expect and enjoy. I took an early lunch break to go see her after school, and hugged her. She seemed fine. I gently chided her to keep up with her school work. She smiled and rolled her eyes and said "yes sir."

She's such a good girl.

I should have gotten up early the next morning and hugged her before she went to school. I shouldn't have let her go to sleep believing I was furious, and then go the whole next day without seeing me. She should have had a reset.

But she doesn't think I'm the Worst Daddy In The World.

Jen said...

Your granddaughters are lucky that they can feel safe at home- hopefully some day all children will be able to.