The buses are back and they’re free* this week too, so I’ve been riding them. I even rode the O-Train on Sunday.
(*Free in a sense, anyway. Apparently the strike might lead to a tax hike. Injury, meet insult.)
I’d forgotten about all the good people-watching opportunities on the buses. This morning, for example, there were two small families sitting right next to each other on the Number 14, and they were a study in contrasts.
The first family consisted of two stylish young Asian parents and their son, about two years old. The second family consisted of a very large young woman and her son who looked to be about five.
The young couple were both so nurturing towards their son, touching him frequently, adjusting his clothing, speaking softly, smiling at him. He leaned peacefully against his father, patting his father’s leg and smiling at his mom.
The other young woman and her son were both being kind of awful. They spoke harshly, barking at each other, looking for fault, even being physically violent towards each other. He put his hand in her coat pocket. She ordered him, between clenched teeth, to remove it. He didn’t. She punched her pocket hard, and he yanked his hand out, rubbing it and crying. Then he told her she was a bad mother. Just like that. “You’re a bad mother!” A few minutes later he head-butted her in the chest and she punched his arm and snarled at him.
Even when they weren’t interacting, I think he was fantasizing about getting even with her. I watched as he drifted into a daydream. The expression on his face contorted into anger and then, a minute later, it relaxed into satisfaction. It was a bit scary actually.
It was interesting watching these two families interact in such different ways, and to think about how such differences will affect those two little boys in the long run. One child is growing up feeling genuinely loved and liked, while the other probably isn’t. One child has parents taking care of him because they want to; the other has a parent putting up with him because she has to. (I’m not saying she doesn’t love him. I have no way of knowing. But I don’t think she likes him and I don’t think she likes being his mother.)
We have absolutely no control over the kind of parents we get. It’s just the luck of the draw. But it has a lasting influence on us throughout childhood and beyond. Most of us – as children and as parents – fall somewhere in the middle of the parenting continuum. Do you ever wonder how your life would have been different if your parents had been at one extreme or the other? Either phenomenally good or phenomenally bad?