Ain't Misbehavin'

Ain't Misbehavin'

You’ve seen it; I’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. You’re in a grocery store, or a library, or on a bus, or at the movies—anywhere, really—and there is a bad kid there. Not just a sort of squirmy, ADD kid-being-a-kid kid, but a public menace kid. The kind with a glint of determination in his eye. The kid who you can picture growing up to be a serial killer, or at the very least, a cutthroat lawyer. A kid who, at the supermarket, willfully opens and pours a jar of mustard on the ground while staring you in the eye and laughing maniacally (this happened to me). Or a kid who screeches and shouts about how mean his parents are. Or a kid who pees on the floor (also happened to me, at a Chapters bookstore). Kids who are doomed from the age of seven. Or ten. Or four.

And in those situations, all you can think is, “Not my kid.” As in, a) I’m so grateful that’s not my kid, and/or b) My kid will never be that bad.

But for at least a few of us who think that, our kid will be that kid. Or at least, given the right set of circumstances, will seem like that kid once or twice in public. And what control do we have of it, if any? (I am thus far childless, but all the people I know who have kids describe a moment when the usually calm/kind/fair child they’ve raised unleashes a bit of hell. Not to mention the perfectly “normal” upbringings of many people who end up being psycho.)

The same goes for furbabies, or so I’ve observed. Recently, I watched two people and their pooches having a conversation in the dog park near my house. One of the dogs kept trying to aggressively mount the other, and the owner of the humper simply laughed this off. “What a scamp,” he seemed to be saying. “Aren’t dogs the funniest?”

This is curious to me. I know there are parents out there who act the same way—the mom of the mustard kid simply grabbed his hand, smiled and said “Guess we’ll need a cleanup here” before walking away scot free—but pet parents have no excuse. The standard excuse for human parents is that this kid is growing up, that they will learn, and that “This is a being that sprung from my loins! They are perfect in their own imperfect way! It’s you who doesn’t understand him/her!!! “

In other words, this is a phase. He’ll grow out of it. Or, it’s you, not him/her!

I know that some people feel this way about their dog (except for the sprung from my loins part) but we need to let go of this on both accounts. I’m as terrified as anyone else of having a bad kid or dog, but responsibility comes into play. If you have a bad kid, you can talk to them about it, get them to talk to others about it and through communication and education, generally make things better (unless they’re the mustard kid). As kids grow up, they will meet many people who can make them better adults. Our dogs need us, first, foremost, and sometimes exclusively, to keep them in line. Don’t laugh it off. Change it.

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