The other day my family and I were out and about and we stopped in for lunch at a local fast food restaurant to grab burgers and shakes. It was a pretty busy day and there were a ton of people in the restaurant. It was loud and crowded and everything was running a bit behind, but we had no where to be so we sat down at our table and talked while we waited for our number to be called. A couple of minutes later a man and his young son sat down at the table next to us. The tables were pretty close and we could hear their discussion. The son was about Jackson’s age and was wearing a Minecraft shirt. The son was polite, and quiet, and he smiled at me when I looked over to him. I smiled back, thinking Jackson and him could probably be friends. Until I heard his dad started talking to him.
It wasn’t what he said, at first. At first it was his tone. The dad was a meek guy. He was a little small, sat hunched over a bit, and didn’t really give off a “My dad could beat up your dad” vibe. But his tone was biting. In fact, I started to eavesdrop when he was discussing their order and the dad was sort of berating the kid for what he ordered. The kid just sat there and listened to his dad. This wasn’t the first time he was made to feel bad for a decision he had made. It was rather odd, though. I didn’t know if the dad was putting on a show for us, because our tables were so close together and he was trying to assert himself as, I dunno, a tough guy? Berating your kid makes you tough, maybe? Or maybe he was just in a bad mood and he was taking it out on his kid. We all have bad days, I reminded myself, and maybe this was his. The poor kid just sat, his eyes on the table and listened to his dad bitch about everything he did. Then their number was called. The boy jumped up to go grab the tray and the dad yelled after him to get him a lid for his cup. Though the restaurant was pretty loud still, so I doubted the boy would hear him. I lost track of what was happening at that point, until the boy came back without a lid for his dad’s drink.
“Did you hear me?”
“Hello, I asked you to bring me back a damn lid? Did you not hear me?”
“Should I just go get my own lid?”
The boy, unsure of what to do and obviously upset about his dad’s behavior, was trying to put their trays down on the table, so he wasn’t making eye contact with his dad.
“I still need a damn lid, cause I guess you didn’t hear me.”
The boy put the trays down in a hurry and he ran back to get his dad a lid. By this point my husband and I had made eye contact with each other and wordlessly said, “This guy. What a dick.” I sort of lost track of their conversation then, as our food had arrived, but their body language told me that if the boy was a dog he would have his tail between his legs right now and the dad would be kicking and screaming at him while he was chained to a fence with nowhere to run.
And then it happened. I went to take my first bite of my cheeseburger when I heard:
I looked over at their table and they had their heads bowed in prayer and the father was speaking.
“Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for this food we are about to consume. Thank you for our wonderful lives and all that we have. We are grateful for you love. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I looked at my husband once more who didn’t look shocked at all. And why should he be? As a man who doesn’t want anything to do with organized religion. As a man who knows that he doesn’t need the fear of God to make him do what is right, as a man who would never treat his child in that sort of degrading way, in public or private, he just assumed this other man was a Bible-thumping Christian. Meanwhile, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor.
I didn’t make me happy. It didn’t make me feel better for this child. Or see this man in a different light. It infuriated me. Here is this man, obviously someone who is secure enough in his religious conviction and bold enough to intentionally show everyone what he believes, belittling his child, over and over again, then bowing his head like he did nothing wrong. And who knows. Maybe inside he was asking for forgiveness for being a dickheaded-dirtbag, but my money is on no.
My husband and I just looked at each other. He gave me one of those, “See, they’re hypocrites” kind of looks and I continued to sit dumbfounded. I don’t really have a point with this post, except maybe that parentings is tough, y’all. Like really tough. And we all have our own ways of doing things, but if you are not leading from a love-centered place, what are you actually doing? If you child walks around afraid of you, what are you doing? If you have to constantly pray to your God for forgiveness for the way you treat your child, what are you doing?
I’m not pretending to have all the answers, y’all. But I know that this man, regardless of how religious he is, should be reprimanded for the way he treated his child. And I constantly worry when I see people act like this in public. I worry, because what happens when they are in the privacy of their homes?
The incident did remind me of a book I came across once. I don’t remember where I was, or how I came to be thumbing through it, but it was called “To Train Up a Child”. It was billed a “Christian Parenting Book” and it put a lot of focus on whipping and beating and talking down to your child. People honestly believe that parenting this way is the best way. People honestly believe they are doing God’s will by raising their children like this. This isn’t leading from love, y’all. You simply can’t learn love from a book.
We have to do better as parents if we want things to change in our lives, our children’s lives, our communities, our country. It starts from home. I’m just asking you to be more aware, as a parent, be more aware and more loving. We aren’t raising stubborn mules, we are raising human beings with large hearts who only want to make you happy.