Always Real

The Machine Kicker

Not too long ago, Sean was invited to a roller skating birthday party.  It was at a big roller skating rink where several birthday parties were held at the same time making it unclear which kid belonged to which party. It was one big crazy mass of rolling kids all jacked up on icing which makes for good times indeed.

Much to my dismay, my son does not have the skating mojo.  Skating to me is the equivalent of say, walking or breathing.  It is unthinkable to me that anyone could not automatically know how to skate.  Or swim for that matter.  I understand that mathematicians feel the same way — how can one not know how to do math?  I don’t know but I don’t. My brain don’t bend that-a-way.  So in theory I understand that some people can’t skate.  In practice, I do not.

Be that as it may.

Unfortunately, Sean does not understand that he does not have the skating mojo. He imagines that he does.  I think this imagining comes with the Y chromosome package, the delusional tendencies towards overestimation about ones looks and abilities. But I have no scientific research to back that up.  Along with sweeping over-generalizations and invented facts and other bad habits, I digress as well.

Anyway, Sean wants me to go along side of him and “help” him skate.  What helping means is that he slips and slides and flails and twists and clomps along as he claws at my clothing while I wrench my back trying to “help” him stay upright. This is not fun. For me. It is exhausting is what it is. And after about 5-minutes of this I am somewhat not having fun.

So at about the 6-minute mark, I go sit down and send his father in as my replacement so that he might partake of the fun as well.

As I’m sitting there watching the swarm of seven-year-olds circling the rink like a pack of drunken and disorderly bees, I notice that none of them seem to have the skating mojo and I wonder if this because kids today (anytime you use the phrase “kids today” you are automatically OLD) don’t get out and roller skate on the sidewalk like I used to when I was seven.  Probably because of all the newly discovered dangers of CONCRETE and the need of helmets and pads and whatnot.

But then my attention is turned away from the swarm and towards what sounds like a wrecking ball.  I see a boy about Sean’s age wearing in-line skates standing in front of a video machine of some sort.  The machine has apparently trespassed against this boy and he is kicking the skunk out of it with his skates. Not just a little tap-tap, nudge-nudge, but an all out repeated whacking with the toe of his skate. (Yeah, I know. He might have issues. I shouldn’t judge.  I should give him a hug and help him explore his feelings. Gotcha.)

Had it been one of Sean’s classmates, I might have hollered, “Hey Dude! KNOCK it off!” But I didn’t know this thug child and I was kind of shocked to see such a fearless display, such a blatant abuse of public property.  I was stunned quite frankly and so I just sort of stared at him and I tried to make sense out of what I was seeing.

I looked around to see which gal was is his mother, which gal was going to swoop in on her broom and open up a can of Crazy Lady on him.  Because that’s what I woulda done had it been Sean.  That is what any mother I knew would do, so I assumed that Machine Kicker was with one of the other skating parties, not ours.

But no mother swooped in and he continued his rage against the machine, giving it a proper beating.  I did notice a gal nearby watching him in a disinterested manner as she chatted away on her cell phone.   Perhaps she was calling the authorities.  Perhaps like me, she was stunned and had no idea who this kid was.  Perhaps his mother had dropped him off and he was here by himself, free to express his feelings.  Perhaps.

Later, as the party is wrapping up, I see my friend who is hosting the party chatting up the woman on the cell phone and standing next to her is Machine Kicker himself, thanking the hostess for a lovely time.  For the second time that day, I was stunned.  I could not believe that Machine Kicker was one of us!

And that’s just the problem.  All the machine kickers are one us, on some level, and we don’t quite know what to do about it.


19 thoughts on “The Machine Kicker

  1. I will duck to miss the stuff coming at me for saying this, but it seems to me a lot of people don’t discipline their kids these days. As a mom of a son who was diagnosed as a toddler with autism, I believe even children with issues can be taught to behave. That’s all. Let the throwing begin . . .

  2. Momof8 you have hit the nail on the head. I hate to say it but if it would have been me I would have opened up a can of whoop-ass on that kid if I knew him or not and then I probably would have done the same to his mother once I discovered her identity.

    I have so had it with the disrespect that we are letting a whole generation of children get away with which is exaclty why I would have taken on the mother as well.

    Don’t feel bad at all for speaking the truth!

  3. I guess I’m nosy because I would have either gotten one of the people who worked there to make him stop or asked him nicely to stop. I guess I’m nosy. you are a lot nicer than I am. haha But we already knew that. 😉

    Hope you are doing well!


  4. When I was a kid, I was much more interested in skating than playing a video game. Oh wait that was until the skating rink purchased a little video game called CENTIPEDE! I may have gotten mad at the little multi-legged creature raining down on my skillz but I never kicked the game. Instead I would go on to seek revenge on the machine and then promptly score the high score. That’ll show that video game who was boss!

  5. Well-written, as always. You know what my beef is with our local rink is? The rap and pop music that is totally inapprpriate for my small children to be listening to! It really bugs me. And I don’t have skating mojo–please don’t hate me. But my daughter, thankfully inherited her father’s.

  6. So here’s my dilemma (of sorts). I’m married to the man who would’ve gone up to Machine Kicker and told him very sternly to knock it off. I’ve had to gently suggest to my husband that there are times for disciplining other peoples’ children and there are times to refrain from disciplining (that’s in Ecclesiastes, right…?!) My husband doesn’t have the filter gene that gives him a polite tone when confronted with other children who do things his kids would be spoken sternly to for doing themselves. It’s a bit embarrassing sometimes when the rambunctious 4 year old boy, who truly is just being a 4 year old boy at a birthday party hopped up on icing, nothing more than that, gets a stern word from my husband, who a) raises daughters and doesn’t regularly deal with rambunctious 4 year old boys (he’s much better attuned to 4 year old girl crazy) and b) apparently, he has no memory for what it was like to be a 4 year old boy hopped up on icing.

    It’s not an anger issue. It’s an issue with having absolutely no patience for parents who won’t take a kid like that in hand and who actually does something about it, often when I would rather he not. Am I being a wuss? At what point are by-stander parents crossing the line when they call kids like Machine Kicker on stuff like that? (Short of yanking said delinquent outside by his hair, of course…hubs would never do that unless Machine Kicker was directing his ire at another kid, heaven forbid one of our own!) I’m not trying to be cheeky, I’m just genuinely curious…and I guess I’d rather ask anonymous internet parents that question instead of the people we do the birthday party circuit with! In general terms, at what point do I need to suck it up and be glad my husband will stand up to that kind of bad behavior and not decide it’s time to go hunt under the seat of my car for a bobby pin? Nobody’s ever said anything to me or him about it and we always seem to get invited places. But I swear it’s like the time in jr hi when my mother called out a classmate of mine for bad language on a field trip and I just wanted to crawl in a hole!

    * * *
    I have no idea what to do. Obviously. Nothing seems right. My question is this: If you ask/tell a kid to stop abusing public property, is that “discipline” really? Or just citizenship?

    I do know that there is a big difference between a rambunctious 4YO learning to navigate socially and a 7YO venting frustration on a machine which belongs to a business owner. However both need correction in some form or fashion from somebody — preferably his parents.

    When I was growing up -long long LONG ago – other parents, in my neighborhood at least, would walk over to machine kicker and strongly suggest he stop it. But this is now and things are different.

    I’m not familiar with the Ecclesiastes passage. I would love it if you could direct me to it.

  7. Hi AM! To start with, I was just being cheeky about the Ecclesiastes reference…it’s the passage from Eccl. 3 – as in (roughly) “to everything there is a season and a purpose to everything under Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time for war and a time for peace” and so on. Think The Byrds and “Turn Turn Turn”. Or Kevin Bacon making his case for the prom in “Footloose”. 😉

    But I hear exactly what you’re saying. I guess the next thing I would wonder is how much daylight is there, really, between discipline and citizenship? Between correcting bad behavior and encouraging common courtesy. Is it all just points on the same spectrum…? Can we go down that road to some degree?

    I grew up with parents in my neighborhood much like you did, who never let that kind of poor-citizenship-bordering-on-bad-behavior go unchallenged. All of us are grown up and parents ourselves now, but still respectful and maybe even still a bit intimidated by those parents! But as you say, this is now and things are different. And I don’t like it! Does it have to stay different? I don’t get squidgy when my husband calls the kid out because I’m afraid he’s hurting the poor dear’s feelings. I’m as appalled by the little twerp as he is! But my distress comes from worrying about what other people will think, that we’re too straight-laced and judgemental and unkind. And since when did I start caring that intolerance for poor behavior gets twisted around into some kind of moral failing on my part!

    Sigghhh….how did it all get so complicated!?

  8. I was in Kroger the other day with my kids. We were in the frozen food aisle. I don’t know what this 5 year old was doing, but her mother told her that if she did it again, she was going to break her arm. !!

    I was this close to telling her I didn’t want MY kids hearing anyone say that to ANY kid and to STFU.

    But I kept my mouth shut….

  9. I am SO going to have to purchase a muzzle for myself when my daughter gets older (she is 3). I seem to be unable to witness such things and not say something. Unreal that parents allow their children to act like that. Seriously, where do these people come from? Why do they have NO cooth, ethics, morals? Why do the rules NOT apply to them? Sadly, seems there are more and more of these in our world.

  10. My mom had me taking roller skating lessons at an early age (and this from a farm family who did very little ‘in town’), and I have such fond memories of blisters on my feet, the limbo stick, and skating to 70s music. I pretty much hear any pop song from the 70s and want to shout, “ALL SKATE!”

  11. I loved roller skating when I was a kid, and a trip to Skate Castle was such a specially treat. Just thinking about it brings back fond memories of gliding around the rink while Journey or Cool & the Gang played.

    I occasionally take my son on trips to both the roller skating and ice skating rinks. Like you, I have come to realize that my boy don’t have the skating mojo that you speak of. It’s very sad.

    I am one of those parents that would have no problem nicely asking the crazy kicker to stop. I am also one of those moms who would hope that someone would correct my son if they saw him acting like a fool in my absence. There is a definite lack of discipline and good citizenship that is running rampant among kids these daysand I find it to be rather distressing.

  12. Again–haven’t read the comments, just tossing in my (mother, teacher, citizen of the world) two cents here. I have, while in a vehicle behind a bus at a stop light, wordlessly gestured with mouth and hand to children who were leaping over seats in the back of said bus to “Sit. Down. Now.” And they did–at least until they realized that I was in a different vehicle. I have, in actuality, tattled on unruly children in department stores–to managers. I have–again true–told kids to STOP running or throwing things or chasing each other in department stores–children I do not know or teach or have any DNA in common. And I’d have said it just as you posed, “Dude?!? Chill on the machine murder. Seriously. You break it, you buy it. Go skate.” Had mom said anything, I’d have returned, “Well, I assume you don’t want to pay for a damaged machine that’s way too big to fit in your car.” Then I’d have said, “Where did you get that precious purse/pair of shoes/top?” to diffuse any hard feelings. I would have ALSO thanked my children for their good behavior once in the privacy of our own car.

    I know about machine kickers. I teach them every day. And you are correct, they are “one of us”–but I also know that you and I are ENDEAVORING to raise kids who look at the machine kickers as though they have lost their ever loving minds.

  13. Just prior to visiting your blog, I posted an entry on mine about respect, barely touching one aspect. It’s certainly something we need to take a good look at and I’m heartened that you (and many of your commenters) are doing just that! Yay!

  14. antique, i love your post:) i laughed out loud many times:) enjoyed the comments as well.
    it occurs to me that the fear of speaking up when we see or hear things that don’t seem right can be exaggerated at time. honestly, we often have time constraints that keep us from getting into something we don’t have time to work our way out of. But a strong word from a man to a misbehaving boy…who may not have an involved one in his life…or a comment in the grocery store to someone threatening such violence…or even speaking up in social settings where we aren’t prone to “ruffle the water” says something not only to the people involved, it speaks volumes to our children!
    we say we don’t believe in extreme physical violence, but allow a mother’s comment to pass that sounds like a threat to break an arm? what does it say to our children…or this child? a simple, calm, non-accusatory statement like, “I know this must be a bad day for you, but I hope you didn’t mean what you just said to your daughter. I take comments like that very seriously.” it shows the mother that you understand her life may be very difficult right now, that she may not have really meant what she said, etc. It also tells her child that someone notices. she is not alone (if she is truly abused.)
    We all have to find the line for ourselves. i certainly don’t recommend speaking up or even getting involved over every incident. But when we watch the decline in our culture in certain areas, we must realize that one reason for it is our refusal to speak up or “get involved”. there is a great quote about that that I can’t pull up right now. oh well.

  15. What is going on in the world today? What is wrong with all of these parents?

    I am strict and have high standards for my kids. I always discipline them when they misbehave in public or in private. After all, I am a “no nonsense” parent.

    Yep, that’s what we all think. Bad parenting? It’s like bad breath. We all notice the other person’s problem, but never our own.

    * * *
    I am not a perfect parent, but I am a no-nonsense parent when it comes to public behavior. If someone is destroying public property – shouldn’t we notice? It seems to me that there has been a steep decline in civility in the last half-century and I’m plenty tired of it. Pass the Scope.

  16. People who know me would probably agree that I expect good behavior out of my own children and will usually hold my tongue if someone else’s child is “having a bad day.” Having said that though, I have many times shared my parenting with unknown children. An experience I have had on a few occasions involves children who are left alone in the toy area of TJMAXX (Marshalls, etc…) while the parent shops. Sometimes even the parent is standing right there while their youngster opens packages and in many fashions makes the products un-saleable. Besides destroying merchandise, the parents don’t seem to realize that their child is making a mess for someone else to clean up. Right or wrong, I admit that I have told such children that they should not open items until they buy them. I remember getting some nasty looks and a kid or two running to find their parent.

  17. I am quite sure that I would have gone up to young Machine Kicker and stood quite close to him till he noticed me and then quietly asked him if he was trying to destroy the machine. If he answered in the affirmative, I would have then told him that I would let the owner of the place know of his plans to pay for it and take it home since he was wrecking it. If he didn’t like that, I would say, “Then stop it.” very firmly and walk away.

  18. For what it’s worth … I’d have opened up a can of whoopass on my kid if he’d pulled a move like that. Issues and all.

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