I’m not a violent guy. Not at all. I’m actually quite peace-loving, but my love for MMA & Muay Thai has something to do with the title of this article. But this isn’t about me... this is about him and his mother.
Actually, it’s about me as a father.
I’m a proud father to the most kind, generous, innocent and just delightful 15-month-old baby girl. I live in no illusion about my child’s goodness, she is genuinely a kind soul. Happy as a clam, uncomplicated and full of compassion. I’m the dad that wants to be more like his child. My wife and I are truly blessed to have her in our lives.
Today was the day we finally braved the public soft play area. It was a nightmare... not just for me, but my wife struggled with it as well. Before I go any further, I will say, after we got home and went online, we were comforted that our experience wasn’t unique... it’s something shared by parents all around the world. But this isn’t about soft play areas.
It’s about him and his mother.
It’s hard when you have such a young toddler braving the free play space with kids four and five times her size. There is pushing, pulling, yanking and a lot of screaming. Through it all, our little one had her signature smile on and was happy to share, even when things were being taken from her. This is why I said she is kind and all things wonderful. But this isn’t about her.
It’s about him and his mother.
We finally made it to the ball pit, I remember enjoying those when I was younger. But today wasn’t our day. It was a small pit, lots of little young ones swishing and swooshing, chucking the odd balls around. My angel was in such a happy place. And then he showed up.
This giant, Indian (we are Indian too), un-empathetic, quite pathetic four-year-old that took a massive deep dive into a pool not much wider than his own length. As his brown skin flailed through the multi-colour and multi-cultural, I swooped in to save my own little brown skinned brown eyed girl. He and I locked eyes and I said, “No! No jumping”.
But a stern word and even harsher look didn’t break his spirit. He was a persistent little fellow. He got bolder and I only more agitated. It’s my little girl we are talking about here. He kept going. Yes, this is about him... and then came his mother.
I told him off once again, but this time a little louder, a little firmer. And that’s when I heard her matronly aggressive voice for the first time... “Hey please... don’t tell my child off, okay? He is enjoying himself and has been doing this for two hours and hasn’t hurt anyone”.
Not yet I thought!
Anyway, my smiley monkey couldn’t care less... she was still in ball pit heaven, but I was done. I picked her up and we went off on our merry, slightly pissed off way.
On our way out, I saw her look at me and then her son. It seemed like she was expressing her displeasure at his behavior. I was pleased, but my proverbial glass shattered as I got closer. She was telling him that he had done nothing wrong and had no reason to feel bad that the strange man yelled at him. He was to go about doing what he wished and enjoy himself.
And that is why this is about her.
I held myself back, but not for long. I had to go over... I did go over. I looked her dead in the eye and said just one thing, hoping to appeal to the parent in her... “if it were my child, I hope you would tell her off as well... it takes a village”.
She wasn’t impressed. She was ready for me and she had something to say. A lot to say in fact. Most of it revolving around how her son didn’t do anything wrong, how it was absolutely not my place to correct him and how I was overreacting as nothing happened to my daughter.
Clearly preventive caution isn’t something she is familiar with. Clearly seeing another person’s perspective and respecting others, their space, and the word of an elder is not something she wants to impart to her son. She will clearly raise a child with no regard for the world around him. A self-centered mongrel not unlike what we see in the news these days.
I wasn’t given permission by the mightiest at Daddy’s Digest, but I wanted to title this rant... “how not to raise a predator”. But alas, no cigar.
I digress... my wife felt otherwise. She thinks this kid will grow up to be a coward that can’t fight his own battles, can’t build his own relationships and will never be able to defend his wife against his self-righteous mother.
I could go on about him and his mother. I probably will for a while, but that isn’t the real issue here. I am a father, I am a son. I was once a young boy, waiting to push my weight around the playground and probably tried... because boys will be boys.
No! ‘Boys will be boys’ is why we have #MeToo and #TimesUp.
What we need is a little more old-school parenting. The one thing I hated growing up, but respect now that I am an adult, is the way my parents embraced the concept of “the village”. We were raised to respect the idea that if an elder took the time to tell us off, they probably had great reason to. We were taught self-confidence, but to think before we act. To remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To look around before diving head first into a pit of balls, because there maybe someone that might get hurt. To not be upset if we were told off, but to reflect on the words of those that took the time to counsel and offer us a guiding hand.
I am sad today. As much as we will endeavor to raise our girl to be an upstanding global citizen, there will be so many mothers and fathers out there raising the next Harvey, Louis and Kevin.
Vickram Agarwal is a digital and technology entrepreneur who founded Stroke Consulting in 2011 and Daddy’s Digest in 2018. He is currently Partner & Managing Director at the Black Rock Marketing Group in Toronto, Canada. In addition to being a business leader, he serves as an Advisor and Board Member to several non-profits.