Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chicago Way

Earlier, when I got home from work, one of the first things I saw was S punch C. Nothing new, it happens all the time. And every time it happens we tell her not to, we get angry, we send her to her room, we raise our voices, we talk to her, we implore her. So tonight, it seems, he’d had enough and he hit her back. Right there in front of me, and I let it happen. It wasn’t overly mean or physical, but it was a wake-up call for S. I know how C felt, he’s been pummeled by his little sister and has never retaliated, until tonight. I was as angry as he. S was shocked and upset and she looked to me. She looked to me to get C in trouble. She pointed at him, letting me know he’d hit her. I told her I knew. I’d seen the whole thing and that if she hadn’t hit him then he wouldn’t have hit her back. Then she turned on the works and it only made me angrier. So what did I do? I got down in her face and, with my finger pointed and my upper lip curled under, just like my Mom taught me, I said through clenched jaw, “That’s the Chicago way!” The Chicago way? What the hell does that mean? She had no idea and neither did I. I don't even know where it came from. But it sounded right. We live in Memphis, not Chicago. I have aunts in Naperville, just outside Chicago, but the Naperville way doesn’t have the same impact. I’ve been to Chicago many times, but no one ever hit me. I’ve seen The Untouchables and have heard the speech Sean Connery delivers to Kevin Costner, but if I took that to heart then C would have had to stab S with that shank he carries in his back pocket.

So this is what my parenting technique has come down to - quoting the odd line from movies. What’s next? Am I going to make the kids an offer they can’t refuse to clean their rooms? Am I going to ask them over and over again if they’re talking to me when they ask for chocolate milk? Will I wake them in the morning by screaming at the top of my lungs, “I love the smell of baby poop in the morning!”? Will I expound on our failure to communicate? One thing I should probably do is sit C down and explain to him that it’s not okay to hit his sister, or his brother, or anyone else just because he’s frustrated. I need to tell him to walk away from that situation, to tell me or his mother if one of his siblings has resorted to violence. Maybe I’ll tell him later, over a plate of ribs from Central BBQ, because that’s the Memphis way.