I Made A Boy Cry Today

I was at the Superstore, trying to find corn chowder in the soup aisle.  In the middle of the aisle was a mother, a probably 11 year old boy, and two younger sisters.  The mother was exasperated.  When I came upon the scene, the boy was holding a cellphone out, baiting the mother.  She was obviously fed up, and asking the boy to give her the phone.
“What are you gonna do?  Gonna phone Dad?  No you’re not!”, the boy taunted, not giving up the phone.  He kept saying this whole bit over and over again, each time more and more petulant.  The mother tried her best to keep her patience, but was on the verge of a blowup.
This cellphone fish-and-bait went on for about a minute.  I remember thinking how this kid is just 10 years old or so and already pretty much in control of his mother.  That made me mad at him.  Also mad at her, as I really wanted her to declare her parental power over him.  Then I started daydreaming about how this woman likely has very little power in her household and suffers her lot in life.
I’m not sure how the cellphone incident was resolved because I turned my attention to corn chowder.  Before I could choose any, though, the boy started running around their cart, punching the back of one of the girls, knocking groceries in the cart all over the place.  The girl starts crying, the mother yells at him ineffectually, and he swears at her and calls her demeaning words.  The mother is thisclose to freaking out and crying, but focuses all those emotions into reorganizing the grocery cart and stating the usual “wait ’til your father gets here” and “this is the last time I take you grocery shopping” desperate lies.
There’s the family:  Mom fuming into her groceries, older daughter crying, younger daughter helpless, and little tough-guy kid strutting around like the king of the world.
There’s nobody else in the aisle but us.  They’re still in the middle of the aisle and I’m near the end of the aisle, as he begins to expand his domain of power.  He walks up towards where I am.
“Hey, kid,” I say, using my stern adult father voice. “Don’t be an asshole.  Treat your mother with some respect.  She doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.”
At this moment this thought ran through my head:  “how do I know what kind of a mom she is, maybe she does deserve this heap of abuse” but I was pretty sure she was the victim here.
The kid looks at me and I can tell he’s a bit shaken by being talked to by a stranger.  He retreats to the safety of his domain, around his family.  As he’s walking back though, in reply to my “she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way” he says “Yes she does.  She’s an {expletive I couldn’t quite make out}.
Back in his power-zone, he looks back at me.  The mother, I can tell, has heard our little exchange, but I can’t tell if she’s appreciative of my effort or not.  She’s pretty tight-faced at this point.  He’s looking at me, and I give him a ridiculous evil-eye stare.  A really long, intense evil-eye stare.  A threatening, really long, intense evil-eye stare.  I imagine I looked like I was ready to rumble with him.
It’s affecting him, I can tell.  I can practically see the tough-guy fizzle out of his demeanor.
To reclaim his power over his family, he tries to sit in the cart, but his mother tells him not to.  He then tries to pull the cart past me, even though his mother is still trying to sort the groceries he knocked over earlier.  As he passes me, he lets go of the cart.
I quietly yell (yes, it’s possible) “HEY! Smarten the fuck up, kid.  Asshole kids grow up to be asshole men.  And nobody likes asshole men.”
By the time I finish my sentence, he’s walked past me, out of the aisle.  After vacantly looking at the chowders, I walk my cart out a moment later and see him leaning against the end of the aisle.  He’s silently crying.

I made a boy cry. I didn’t know how to feel.  Even though he was a total hellian asshole kid, I didn’t know how to feel.

And, I didn’t get any corn chowder.


  1. Cyn says:

    I don’t know why I automatically clicked on your post in my RSS reader, but something has compelled me to do so.
    My gut says, “good on ya Rob for being part of the human race”.
    My mind asks, “what would I have done?”
    There are times I wished I had have said something in similar situations. And not having said anything, I have felt even worse. Like I failed my fellow man/woman.
    I commend you, even though you made a boy cry. I am hoping that his tears were not in vain, and perhaps someday he will remember the guy who warned him.
    Did you say the “F” though? Holy crap…nevermind Nickleback…


  2. graham says:



  3. Rob MacD says:

    Yeah, I did say the “F”. I think it might have been that word that was the metaphorical slap in his face.
    Powerful word, that.
    And while I did feel okay for sort of being a community parent at that moment, I also felt like I was invading that family’s personal space, which I didn’t feel so great about.


  4. graham says:

    That slight discomfort is the reason people ignore problems they see around them like:
    Screams from their neighbours
    Confrontations on the street
    Drunk children
    Movie theatre talkers
    And worse:
    and more
    I think it’s worth it to break some little social code for the better of a few people.
    There’s a chance that you lit a light in the back of that little savage’s head, Perchance he won’t grow up to be an asshole.
    Ignore the guilt
    All will be well


  5. Jean says:

    Sounds like Junior isn’t used to being told to smarten up. I think you only did what many of us would like to do in the same situation. It really does take a village to raise a child. Now, which one of the village people could you be? 😉


  6. Steverino says:

    As much as you may feel funny about it afterwards, I think you did what any civil-minded person would always wish to do (but probably not). While your language was harsh, maybe to the point of stooping to the kid’s level, it probably (obviously?) worked well as a shock tactic. Maybe your surprise scolding is something the kid will always look back on as a turning point; a reference point in time where he was shown how others see him. To be sure, he’ll probably never smoke, after seeing any of your commercials… “Fuck that cigarette man! To hell with smokes! I hate them!” (runs away crying)
    While I think you did a good thing, the kid didn’t come up with that behaviour on his own. It’s probably a mix of rebelling against wrong things/things he disapproves of that his parents do, the fact that his parents are too permissive/submissive, and that his folks are quite possibly pretty bad. It’s hard to tell from one scene, but he’s definitely a product of his environment and care, whatever that may entail.
    You did the non-standard thing. Maybe you could’ve done it a different way, but it’s good that you did something. Besides… there’s nothing that says you were 100% responsible for those tears. You were probably just the thing that tipped the scales.


  7. Steverino says:

    By the way, that should probably be “cigarette, man” up there, but the way it is kind of works, too.


  8. dave s says:

    hey rob.
    i understand why you felt funny after your exchange, but i think you were 100% appropriate. sometimes an overwhelmed parent needs a bit of support from somewhere. good on you.


  9. Graminem says:

    I think you violated that childs RIGHT to be an asshole.
    When Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Charter of Human Rights, she stressed the need for the basic rights: Food Shelter clothing freedom to be a spoiled shit in a culture that is more concerned about sentiments and comfort then what is truly right.
    We’ve gotten to the point where we believe if a child isn’t happy every moment, we’re doing something wrong. Part of growng up is facing the shitty reality outside our homes.
    I don’t know what I’m saying anymore… Nice Balls, Rob.
    I’m often too much of a pussy to speak up. Unless one of those little shits is yabbering on during a public movie screening.


  10. Tracy says:

    Maybe the kid was crying because as soon as they were out of sight, his poor mama pinched the shit out of his ear because he embarrassed her in front of a grown-up.
    Like Steverino said, this kid didn’t learn to act like that on his own…and maybe a stranger with evil, evil eyes made him realize for a second that he *is* acting like an asshole…and maybe his dad’s an asshole…and his mom too.
    Rob, you brought that asshole in training’s whole world crashing down around his swollen little ears. And maybe that’s just what he needed.
    I definitely wouldn’t have had the ‘nads to do that, though. If I *did* have a pair, I certainly wouldn’t have dropped an f-bomb at the grocery store…even if I quiet-yelled it.


  11. spragger says:

    Good on ya…period. I couldn’t have done it, and I would have hated myself for it. But maybe now I can. Thanks for the inspiration!


  12. Chunks says:

    (Here via Steverino)
    You did the right thing. If more people said something when kids are running amok, they wouldn’t be running amok now, would they?
    Sounds like the tail wagging the dog in that household. I have two kids and I have never, ever said “Wait till your dad comes home.” I do the ball-breaking myself thankyouverymuch. Too many people are indulgent of their children when they are small, then when they are teens, they are screwed.
    Good on ya for speaking up!


  13. coda says:

    I really wanted some corn chowder, Rob. Blast the little hellion. I hope that he realizes that his mother is a person too.


  14. Allie says:

    Applause from over here.


  15. Nils says:

    Next time, sucker-punch the lil fucker. Lay him right out. Just drift ‘im one. I bet you could take him, given the element of surprise.
    Seriously, though? You probably did the right thing, and even if the mother didn’t appreciate it (no evidence one way or the other) the rest of us do, because we’re gonna have to deal with the little peckerhead in a few years.


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