Raising Baby Bubba

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by David Glenn Cox

There is a video making the rounds on the Internet of a woman dragging
her child on a leash through a Verizon store. There was scads of
outrage and the mother was charged with a felony. Well, Dr. Obvious
says that child abuse emanates from poor parenting skills.

When
my wife was pregnant with our first child, another couple dropped by to
congratulate us. As we chatted the husband said, “Enjoy those house
plants while you can!”

“Why is that?" I asked.

“Oh, the baby will tear those things to pieces. You won’t have one left,” he answered.


Later
my wife and I discussed his statement. We were confused and perplexed
by it because neither one of us had been allowed to tear things up in
our homes. This was just our introduction to the new parenting.

Recently,
I went to a Buffet restaurant and upon entering my ears were greeted by
a small child, let us call him Eggbert. Eggbert was sprawled out on the
floor throwing a tantrum while his mother and another woman and child
continued undisturbed with their meal. Eggbert then got up and began
climbing in and out of the booth where they sat, still screaming,
shrieking while the mother did nothing more than cover up to protect
her plate. Then, aww, it was so cute, you should have been there.
Little Eggbert ran from the booth and grabbed a chair and began to drag
it through the crowded restaurant which was full of people walking with
plates of food.

The mother, quick to spot the danger, got up and
grabbed Eggbert, for apparently she feared one of those careless adults
would stumble over the chair and drop hot meatloaf on little Eggbert’s
head. That had to be her reasoning because she was immune to the eyes
that were burning into her. Eggbert did what you would expect Eggbert
to do; he screamed at the top of his lungs. Eggbert didn’t get his way
and Eggbert didn’t like that.

I knew of a single mother with a
little boy named Shay. The mother's schedule required her to work odd
hours and she was fortunate to have two sets of grandparents
volunteering to baby sit. The problem was that, for Shay, at age five
he had three sets of rules to live by. He very quickly learned to use
it against his elderly keepers. “Momma said I could. Nanna lets me do
that. Granny says that’s wrong!” It was a mess. The mother, grateful
for free daycare, was afraid to ask for more favors in the way of
uniform rules. The grandparents were in a competition with each other
as to who could spoil the child more.

Shay was the loser as
the mother would get home after a long shift and try to raise a child
fed on chocolate milk and pop tarts all day. A child whose answer to
every request was, “Nana says I don’t have to!”

In my entire
childhood I was never spanked more than four or five times, and I
remember them. In some cases I even remember why I was spanked at age
five or six, but even if I don’t remember the exact charges against me,
I remember the fundamental law. Rule number one: we are your parents,
we are in charge and you will do as you are told or else. Because of
rule one and its enforcement my mother was able to direct us by remote
control. As we would reach for the biggest piece of cake at Aunt
Dorothy’s, suddenly our eyes would meet and through some form of ESP
she would send me a message, “Don’t you dare go for the biggest piece
of cake!”

She would have these informative little chats with us
before we went into the store. “Don’t touch anything. Do you
understand? Keep your hands to yourself and do not touch anything. Do
you understand?” Because these ground rules were set ahead of time, all
my mother needed to say to me in the store if I became unruly was, “Do
you remember what I told you in the car? Do I need to take you into the
bathroom?”

These little minds are a fertile playground. Children
run wild with imagination, but whether they are raised by me or by
wolves like Romulus and Remus, there is still rule one. We are your
parents, we are in charge and you will do as you are told or else.

Once,
in California, my wife and I were staying at a hotel with a Marie
Callender’s Restaurant across the street. We had seen the frozen
products in the grocery store and decided to give the genuine article a
try. We were seated and given menus. Across the restaurant was another
family with a seven- or eight-year-old boy that we will call Little
Adolf. Little Adolf started by telling the waiter, “I sure hope this
food is good 'cause my mom's cooking sucks!” They all laughed at Little
Adolf’s humor, but after their order was taken Little Adolf was bored
and began to get up and prowl around the room.

His adventure
began by going to the waitress station and pouring out the glasses of
ice water. Then he began punching the touch screen the waitress uses to
figure your check on. A waitress gently cajoled Little Adolf with a
"No, no." But Adolf was bored and tired of waiting for his food.

So
he went over to the salad bar, which he didn’t order, and began to make
himself a salad. Unfortunately Adolf wasn’t tall enough to reach most
of the toppings and he grabbed a chair and pulled it over to the bar.
Like the climax scene in a Buster Keaton silent comedy, Little Adolf
juggled his over-topped salad while balancing on top of the overstuffed
chair with the expected calamity.

He went over the back of the
chair the salad went up in the air and came down on everything. The
salad plate shattered into a million pieces. The parents ran to Adolf
asking, “Are you all right? That’s why you should stay with us, so you
don’t get hurt.”

The manager apologized and Adolf was not
charged for his over-tossed salad. The waitress and the busboys cleaned
the floor and the chair and restocked the salad bar. I asked my wife,
“I wonder how many long talks they’ve had with public school teachers
who just don’t understand their Little Adolf? Teachers intent on
stifling his little creative spirit.”

Of course napkins were
play things and forks and knives were to be used as he pleased. Adolf
had no more a sense of table manners than he had knowledge of an inside
voice. I felt genuinely sorry for Adolf because the world is going to
grind him down to a nub. "No" is the most common word that we hear in
life, so it is best to get used to hearing it early on. My heart went
out to Adolf’s family because of all the suffering and embarrassment
they would endure at the hands of this little tyrant. Instead of
teaching him to operate in the world, they were trying to protect him
from it and dooming him to failure in it. In fact, they would have been
better parents if they had chained him up under the porch, because as
it was they were doing him no good. For years after I could hold up a
Marie Callender frozen entree in the grocery store and my wife would
knowingly smile.

I am not a mathematician but I do so wonder
what the formula would be. How many “Johnny, don’ts” are equal to one
swat on the butt? Not to beat your child, but to explain to your child
in the language that they will understand, we are your parents, we are
in charge and you will do as you are told or else. Children are smart,
they can spot an idle threat a mile off, and so you get, “Johnny,
don’t. Don’t, Johnny. Don’t make me have to tell you again. If you do
that one more time I’ll…” Little Johnny is smarter than you; he knows
you won’t do squat. If you do he’ll throw a tantrum and storm off to
his room; that’ll teach you! “Oh, I hope we didn’t hurt his feelings.”

Baby
Bubba came into my life when he was about thirteen. He was quiet and
relatively well-mannered, except that you could never say no to Baby
Bubba. A group of us went to Six Flags and after about three hours Baby
Bubba decided that he had a tummy ache and wanted to go home. So we
canceled our entertainment, not to mention our money, to take Baby
Bubba home. Bubba quickly felt better once in the car, so much better
in fact that he wanted to stop for ice cream on the way home. I
refused. I explained to Baby Bubba that ice cream is hard on your
stomach, and since he had been ill we'd better not.

The car
became as frosty as soft serve with his mother saying, “All he wanted
was some ice cream.” Later, when we were alone, I explained, “No, he
wanted more than ice cream. He made three adults blow sixty dollars
each because of his tummy ache that developed because he was bored, and
then he wants to be rewarded with ice cream. When you’re good you get
ice cream; if you’re sick you go to bed." But Baby Bubba did not adjust
well to being told no.

A few years later we were finishing my
brother-in-law's basement. I’ve worked around construction most of my
life and built garages and added on to houses. My father-in-law had
fifty years of experience in the building trades. Baby Bubba had two
semesters in masonry trade school. He disappeared early in the project
and his mother asked me later, “What did they say to Baby Bubba? He
said he was being picked on when he was only trying to help.” You see,
grown men not making a high school sophomore the general foreman on the
job was picking on him.

Baby Bubba was very intelligent and
could have done well in school. When you asked if his homework was done
the answer was always, “Yes.” But at school conferences there were
zeroes for homework assignments missed. Baby Bubba would explain that
away as the teacher lost it or forgot to change it when he turned it in
late. Anything and everything was the answer, except that Bubba didn't
do it.

Finally a senior in high school, Baby Bubba needed to
pass English or he would not graduate with his class. And do you what
that low down teacher did? He failed him by two lousy points. His
mother was irate after already purchasing his cap and gown, so she went
to the school to straighten them out. There had to be a mistake, to
keep a kid from graduating for two lousy points.

But when his
mother met with the teacher he showed her the list of incomplete
assignments. Also the missed tests that the teacher had offered to
allow Baby Bubba to make up. There were offers of extra credit
assignments that went by the wayside. So on the day of the final exam
Baby Bubba failed by two points and the teacher felt no further
obligation to try and assist him any further.

I tried until my
strength gave out; I was seen as hard and unfair on Baby Bubba. So what
if he forgets to flush the toilet or wash his hands? So what if he
doesn’t use a napkin or eats with his hands? Through it all the message
was never received. I wasn’t picking on Bubba; I was trying to help
him. Someday he is going to be invited to some girl's house for supper
and her parents are going to be shocked and appalled, not so much at
Baby Bubba’s performance but by the performance of Baby Bubba’s parents.