Sometimes parents can be amazing, in a bad way.
Several years ago, I went to visit some friends, "Steve and Kate," and their four-year-old son. On the first morning of my stay, I sat on the couch reminiscing about highschool antics with Steve. Then Kate walked into the room with their child and placed him down on the floor.
The four-year-old promptly ran into the kitchen where a loud bang came from the stove. A second later, the child rushed back into the livingroom and ran headlong into the sliding glass door.
"Ouch," I said in sympathy while expecting both parents to hurry over and check on their disoriented child. Instead, they weren’t the least bit concerned about the accident.
Grinning, Steve shook his head. "He does that all the time."
What? Confused, I watched as the boy got back up to his feet by himself. With small legs pumping, he ran into the kitchen. Bang! It was the stove being hit again. Then I felt the breeze as he passed by the couch and again slammed his body into the glass door. Boom!
"You should have seen him the other day," Kate gossiped. "He didn’t realize that the door was open and went right into the screen as he pushed it off its track. He gave us such a fright when he tumbled onto the cement." She laughed at her little anecdote.
"Why is he doing that?" I asked, bewildered. The real question I wanted to ask was, "Why are you letting him do that?"
"It’s just something that happens," Steve said as he dismissed the whole affair. It seemed like a strange excuse to give to someone. Unfortunately, I would hear a lot more of these during my stay in the townhouse.
The next morning during breakfast, Kate’s son crawled up into his mother’s lap. He slapped her across the cheek as her eyeglasses fell to the floor.
Kate picked up her glasses and fixed the bent frames. Another story was already spilling from her lips. "He has done worse. Once, he punched me right in the face and gave me a black eye at a company picnic. I felt so embarrassed."
Kate felt embarrassed? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, or seeing. If I had done that to my mother when I was a kid, she would have given me a red backside while the spectators held up scorecards. I would have been the embarrassed one.
Before I could ask her what punishment she would give to her son, Kate excused herself from the room. I went looking for her half and hour later to find the woman curled up on her bed. Concerned, I shook her shoulder.
She rolled over and opened her eyes. "I have a headache."
No surprise there as I nodded my head in sympathy. Pouting, Kate asked if I would watch over her son so she could take a short nap. She assured me that Steve would be home soon.
"Um, okay. " I quickly regretted ever saying that to her. For the remainder of my stay there, Kate complained about a whole series of ailments: from stomachaches to an ingrown toenail. The need for bed rest soon turned into an annoying habit.
Here’s a brief breakdown of an average day in the townhouse:
After working a twelve-hour shift, Steve would come home to cook dinner, wash clothes, and put away the groceries. Then he would watch after his son while bemoaning the hardships of his life.
Kate would sleep, sleep, and nap during her soap operas. I saw her closed bedroom door more than I did her. Whenever she did make an appearance, Kate usually clutched some hurt body part as she would seek a sympathetic ear to bemoan the hardships of her life.
It was a drama of tragedies, but who was the real victim in all of this?
I wanted to feel sorry for Steve. However, he allowed his wife and son to do whatever they wanted without a word of protest. He pretended that the problems didn’t exist.
I refused to feel sorry for Kate. She played the helpless victim too easily. The woman was missing a wonderful life outside her bed. All she needed to do was to become a caring parent for her son and a helpful spouse for her husband.
Steve and Kate’s son lived in an undisciplined world. The child slammed into objects for fun and smacked his parents for sport. He had no complaints about the situation. All my sympathy vanished when he turned me into his newest punching bag and busted open my lip. When I told his parents about the incident, they shrugged their shoulders as if I had no reason to be bothering them about it.
After a week of madness in the townhouse, I happily packed my bags to leave. I said my goodbyes from a distance as they told me to come visit again soon.
I never did.