Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Broken Smiles

Closing the clamshell mobile phone with a quick snap of my fingers, I leaned my head back against the seat, feeling the need for a brief respite, needing a moment to gather my wits before exiting the vehicle. The conversation had left me feeling ambivalent, and confused, adding to my weariness. My emotions had been fluctuating between mild highs and lows for days, as was my energy level.

Closing my eyes, and inhaling deeply, I consciously slowed my breathing, silently counting 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 as I breathed in. Counting through the numbers again, as I allowed each breath to be exhaled slowly, evenly. Repeating the process three more times, before easing my eyelids open. Relishing the release of some of the inner tension.

When I was suddenly startled by the sound of a loud angry voice, glancing toward the voice, I saw the blond head of a man in his mid-30's berating someone. Bracketing his voice were the choking sounds of a small child hiccuping back sobs, gagging, crying.

"Don't you dare throw up!"
"Here take a drink!"
"No more crying!'

The man was standing inside the open door of a large pickup truck, looming over the small blond curls of a child, from the size of the child, I surmised her to be about three years old. As I watched the blond crew cut head bend over the smaller blonder one, although I could not see the man's face I imagined glaring blue eyes staring down at the child. All I could see was a cigar clenched between the teeth of the growling man. Expanding my attention from the focus of only the two, I saw a woman of indeterminate age sitting in the passenger seat of the pickup truck, staring straight ahead, drawing deeply on a cigarette, then exhaling the smoke in a forced stream.

"I'm fixing to put you over my knee! Do not throw up!"
"Look at me!"
"I said, don't you dare throw up!"
"Control your temper, don't let your temper control you!"
"I can't believe she threw a fit like that in the store!"
"You will NEVER...EVER...BEHAVE like that in public again! If you do, I will turn you over and spank you in front of EVERYONE!"

I could hear the child attempt to speak, attempting to choke out words between her sobbing and choking.

"I told you, do NOT throw up! Here take another drink of Sprite."

The man's voice became quieter, I could no longer hear the words he spoke, the cries of the child too, became quieter, muffled. Every few seconds though, I heard another gulping sob from the child. After a few moments, the man spoke again.

"Do you want to ride with Christy, or Daddy?"

This question seemed to disturb the child, as her sobs renewed.


I watched from the corner of my eye, watched the man speak between gritted teeth, "OK then, you're riding with Christy."

At this point the woman who had been sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, opened the door, slid to the ground, and walked over to a tan car parked beside the truck. The woman slid behind the wheel, started the engine, and again sat there, staring out the windshield.

The cigar still clenched between his teeth, Daddy picked the quietly crying small girl up from the truck seat, and placed her in the back seat of the car, wrapping a seatbelt around her, before shutting the door. Without a word, the woman drove off. Daddy climbed into the truck, turned his head once to glance into the backseat, before starting the truck and pulling forward from the parking space. In the backseat, curled up against the far corner, sat another blond child, he appeared to be around 5 years of age. I watched the boy. The boy continued to stare at the back of the head of the man, as the truck pulled away.

I had not realized I was holding my breath, until I felt the need to breath.

A jumble of thought, "That much anger, over a small child's public outburst? Why so much anger? Was it just because he felt judged? Not in control? Did she behave, did he treat her so in private too? Or only when it embarrassed him in public? Why do so many make such small things, so important? So much rage emanating from him, so much fear emanating from the children. Is it really that important? And the woman, not a word or emotion from her?"

Sighing, I exited my car to do my own shopping.


Fiona said... sad....reminded me of my tantrums as a child, and the way they were dealt with...with a sense of hatred and disgust.

SoCal Sal said...

I came close to being that man. A word of advice and a new way to handle such a situation changed my whole outlook. The anger was not worth it to anyone. How liberated I felt and was still able to teach the kids it was ok to act silly in public but there were limits.

Phil said...

The adults tantrum is always more about the adult than the child.

X. Dell said...

If he couldn't control his temper in public, he couldn't control it in private. I'd guess it's worse at home.

I see years of therapy ahead for both kids...and for Christy.

S'mee said...

Another thought provoking post Sunny.

Sunny Delight said...

It was very sad to me, and frightening.

Thank goodness you listened to your friend, and no, anger is not worth it.

I think you are correct, his outburst only seemed to make it so much worse. I wanted to hug her so badly.

Yep, me too.

Thank you.