“You don’t talk to me that way,” the woman said loudly to the little boy.
Maybe three or four years old, he sat huddled on the floor, his arms around his legs, quiet. The woman with him – mother? nanny? – sat on a chair casting a shadow over him, beside a table at the dance studio. They were waiting for an older sibling to finish her dance class.
The boy spoke so softly no one could hear except for the woman with the loud voice towering above him.
“If you don’t need me anymore, then I guess I’ll just see you tomorrow,” she said.
The boy protested, clearly not wanting to be abandoned.
“You don’t talk to me that way.”
He uttered something else. I couldn’t hear what he said that was so horrible. I couldn’t hear his voice at all.
“I don’t deserve to be spoken to this way,” the woman barked. “Are you going to apologize to me?”
“So I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she said, threatening to stalk off. She said it three or four more times for good measure and the boy panicked, protested, all quiet. She was the ominous voice everyone could hear, not his. So typical.
“I deserve to hear full sentences and words – why are you speaking that way?” she said. “If you need help tying your shoes, why don’t you ask me?”
It was 5:15 on a Wednesday at the end of a cold gray day. Most people are tired by that time but especially little ones with little stamina to make it past the witching hour. Surely this adult must have understood.
She said so many times “you don’t talk to me that way” that I wanted to go over and say, “Clearly he does.” I wanted to tell her that was no way to speak to an innocent child, no matter the size of his tantrum, no matter what. He is little, precious, and we must understand and work within one’s nature. At the end of a long day, a little boy should be nurtured and spoken to lovingly, not barked at.
Well, he shouldn’t be barked at ever. He didn’t ask to be born.
I wanted to tell her to model the behavior she wanted to see. I wanted to point out how patronizing and condescending she was, that towering over him in that all-powerful way was demeaning and probably frightening – imagine how she must’ve looked to him. And he had no choice but to sit in her shadow because children are powerless before us.
I wanted to tell her to scoop him up and brush his hair back from his face and love him through his own frustration and say in a very sweet, soft voice, “Say please.” Or “this is how we ask for help” or “please use these words with me.”
She kept saying, “Kind words, kind spirit,” to him and I swear, the kid had no clue what the hell she was talking about. What does kind words, kind spirit mean to a 3-year-old?
On the same day, I went to the grocery and stocked up so the children, just returned from Israel, had good foods to eat. A new deli meat was packaged in brown paper reminiscent of a time gone by. Called Nature’s Deli, it had no preservatives, no hormones, no antibiotics, no chemicals. The meat was paper thin and pure and if you eat meat, you want the assurance of where it came from and how it was treated and what was, or wasn’t, pumped into it that will be pumped into you.
I bought it as much for the brown paper packaging as for the information that it was without additives or harmful treatment. It was marked humane with a sticker swearing its certification.
It may be no different than any of the other meats, but I bought it – the package as well as the story.
Seems to me that we should all consider the “packaging” in every interaction. Sure wish that barking woman at the dance studio would.