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The Daddy Switch

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This was the first time in Luke's life that someone had had physically threatened him.

angry old geyser
Paul Starke: The story about that horrible jackass who slapped a kid in Wal-Mart was oddly timed to something that, unfortunately, happened to me the same week.

We often eat dinner at a charming, family-style restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, usually at around 6 PM before the big dinner rush. Luke never really acts up there, but if and when he does, one of us will quickly take him out of the restaurant to avoid a disturbance, or, just have our food packed to go. This restaurant often has several kids under 5 eating there with their families, and an abundance of highchairs.

OK. So last Thursday, I'm at this restaurant with my wife Melissa, Luke, his visiting grandmother and her friends. Everything was going along fine; Luke wasn't raising his voice or knocking stuff around (although the same can't be said about my Mom-- just kidding mom, but the setup was there). The extent of his rambunctiousness was throwing a tiny roll on the floor, so that I'd pick it up. Not loud, not anything. After about the fourth time, this crotchety old turd sitting about six feet away from us snaps "If he throws that thing again, I'm going to throw it at his head!" We thought he was kidding. When it was apparent that he wasn't, something inside me snapped, like it never has before. This was the first time in Luke's life that someone had had physically threatened him.

Now before I continue, let me add that had this guy just said to me "Your son is interrupting my dinner," I'd have gladly taken Luke outside until he calmed down. But when he threatened to throw a roll at Luke's head (and not a soft one either; this was like the nub of a french baguette-- they can be dense) -- I lost it.

I walked over to the guy and said in a measured tone, "Excuse me? Did you just threaten my 16-month-old son?" His wife, whom I thought would be sensible, blurted out "Your brat keeps throwing rolls on the floor!" At this point I had to be physically restrained. In my head I wanted to pop the guy, but he was about 60 and I didn't feel like going to jail for assault, so I thought I'd use my clever, trademark wit:

"You're just jealous because you're not the only one in here wearing diapers," was what I wanted to say, and that witty rejoinder sadly came to me about an hour after the incident. Instead, for some reason, I just blurted out the rather artless, yet true and effective "Your wife is ugly." I know it was mean, but whatever -- he threatened to throw bread products at my kid. The daddy switch was turned, and I was in full combat mode. You harm my boy, I will insult your looks. It's that simple. Anyway, he shut up after that -- and I think they were both shocked into silence. We finished our meal without a disturbance.

Did I overreact? Is there something that happens when someone threatens your kid? How do you handle it? I want to know before we get banned from every restaurant in Brooklyn heights.

next: Momblogic Roundup: Duggar Baby Bonanza!
53 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jacqueline September 6, 2009, 11:51 AM

i feel for you I raised four children and taking them out was a chore. Yet I felt it important for their growth and it taught me tolerance of others. I think restaurants Could help parents here by seating people with small children together, like they used to have a smoking section they should have a child friendly section So cranky old folk who forget what it is like don’t have to sit there or parents who are on there night out can have that. Maybe sometime in the future or you could suggest that to the owner. If that cranky old man said that to me I hope that is all I would have said Congrads for keeping cool!!

Anonymous September 6, 2009, 11:58 AM

Once, we were standing in line to board a plane, after a long delay. My 2-year-old was not standing in line motionless, as the older couple in front of us expected, I guess. He was inching forward into their space but never bumped them and he wasn’t loud or crying, just antsy. After a few minutes of this and us repeating to him to stay nearer to us, the older man turned to us and said, waving a rolled up magazine at us, “I know how to take care of him.”

Well, 6 months pregnant and very very frustrated with the airport delays and entertaining a 2 year old for many many hours, I started to cry. My husband and he got into it, and after airline personnel talked to everyone around us, he ended up getting thrown off the plane!

Not our finest moment but, really, threatening a child - never a good idea.

erin September 6, 2009, 2:25 PM

The only thing I got from reading this article is this is typical of a parent who thinks their kid does nothing wrong. I agree that the older guy should of not said what he said, but when is it going to be realized that young children in public places are very upsetting to other customers. I was a single mother of a rowdy young boy who I knew would be very annoying to other people in public places, so I limited my time in these places. I did not feel angry towards other people for my childs behaviors in public (which many people do- according to them they have a right to go where they want)or did I feel angry towards my child either. I took my son to places that he can enjoy and not have to be spoken too over and over again just so I can go out. It really does not matter to a 16 month old where you eat, does it. But it does matter to other people paying for a quite meal and converstation. Maybe the writer should just stay home and enjoy his child and family in a familiar place where no one will be upset and the Daddy switch does not need to be turned on!

maybe it is your child September 6, 2009, 3:59 PM

Aren’t you the same guy who had a problem with a woman at Starbucks about 2 months ago who thought your child was acting up and being too loud???

mercaties September 6, 2009, 11:13 PM

This is way more than weather or not the child was acting up. You can not yell at or threaten a strangers child. Get over it and go hang out at a retirement center if your so annoyed by everyone’s kids. The writer said his son kept dropping a roll on the floor he wasn’t throwing it at the old mans table. If it bothered the old fuddy duddy so mutch he should have asked for another table. Most of us parent’s don’t take our children to places that aren’t child friendly but yet I always see child-haters at family friendly places.

Barb September 8, 2009, 11:44 AM

Telling someone that they—or their family—is ugly is a terrible response to the situation. Way to set a good example for your kids! How did your wife react? If my husband acted like you, I would be embarrassed by him.

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