...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Teach your children well

I spent most of today at a Kindercare in Gresham, becoming CPR and first-aid certified and taking a class on how to recognize and report child abuse and neglect; both classes are required by the state of Oregon to work with kids. On the MAX on my way home, I noticed a tall, thirtyish Caucasian man with a shaved head get on with a young preschool-age boy. They sat down one seat behind me and across the aisle. The boy bounced happily in the seat and smiled at the man, then made a sound of discontent with something.

"Stop whining; you sound like a girl," the man told him.

I turned back to my music and gritted my teeth. "Not my issue," I told myself. Across the aisle, a high school-age guy laughed.

"I tell him that when he whines like that, he starts growing boobs!" the man turned and told the guy. "I say that one day he's going to wake up in the morning and have a full rack!" The man threw his head back and laughed. The boy looked at him in confusion, with the hesitant smile of kids who aren't sure exactly what their parents are doing or what's expected of them but want to please the big people.

I turned up my music and thought about blogging about the incident as an example of the social construction of gender, and the way that hatred of women is taught to children in a patriarchal society, and how that short-changes everyone. The MAX sped towards the Lloyd Center. Some people got off, and more people got on.

After a few minutes I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and turned back to look at the man and the boy. The man was "play"-punching the boy in the shoulder, hard enough that his clenched fist pushed the little boy's body against the window on impact. The boy seemed to have shrunk and had his hands up in front of his face, huddled in the corner of his seat, still with the hesitant smile on his face. "Say something!" the man demanded. "You're just going to sit there and take a beating?" The boy squealed, "Stop touching me!" As the boy spoke the man moved his punches from the boy's shoulder to his cheekbone, right under the eye. "Pow!" the man said. My heart pounded. I had just completed the class on recognizing and reporting child abuse.

"HE SAID TO STOP TOUCHING HIM," I said loudly. The man turned to me with a surprised, slack-jawed grin. He laughed in a way that made me wonder if he was drunk. "You telling me how to touch my kid?" he said uncertainly. "Just look at the smile on his face. We're just messing around!"

I held the man's gaze for a second and then turned back to my music. The stoned-sounding teenage girl sitting behind me started telling her boyfriend how disrespectful she would have found it for someone to tell her how to raise her own child. "If his mother was here there would have been an explosion if she'd'a done that!" the man said to no one in particular. My heart was still pounding. The MAX arrived at the Lloyd Center, where I needed to get something, so I got off. I thought about the incident throughout the rest of the day.