Posted on December 7, 2018
by Steve Janowick

When I was a small kid, I distinctly remember going to a family party and my big, cop father telling my brother, sister and I that we were to be seen and not heard when the adults were around.  In other words, we better act well behaved-or else. And you can bet your ass we obeyed. Say that to a kid today and you may be greeted with a knock on your door from social services.

A couple of years ago, on a thick, wet, August afternoon, I was driving home from work.

At that time in my career, I was schlepping in an office, grinding it out from 9 to 5 every day and, on this particular day, I was particularly aggravated.  The traffic was unpredictable like my mood and the air-conditioning was failing at keeping me cool and conditioned.

After three cycles of red-light changes, I was finally able to make my left turn.  But out of nowhere, a kid came barreling around the opposite corner like a bat out of hell on two wheels, cutting me off and forcing me to swerve from clipping him.  No more than 10-years old, but with the disposition of a hardened Longshoreman on a bender, he actually flipped me off and accented it, after I honked my horn, with a few, choice, four-letter words.

Now, normally I’d probably let that go.  Just brush it off as a bad karma,a bi-product of my crappy life at the time.  But this little hellion on a Huffy really pissed me off, man! It was the way he scowled at me. No normal, kid-like fear.  No apprehension. He came at me hard with attitude. And now he was about to get a tongue lashing because of it.

I whipped my car in front of him, blocked his way and jumped out of the driver’s seat.  I thought I’d put the fear of God in him a little. Make him piss his pants and regret disrespecting an elder in such a way. Teach him a lesson or two about etiquette and, who knows, maybe bond with him and be the lynchpin that sets him on the straight and narrow path.

The optimist in me is always so…well…gullible.

This little shit came up to my torso and weighed all of 80 lbs., but he might as well have been 6’3 and pushing 230 with the cockiness and bravado he was putting out.  I forcefully pointed my finger and told him how rude and disrespectful he was. I asked him if his parents would approve of such behavior. I told him that he could get seriously hurt if he did that to the wrong person.

Nothing!  No apology.  No sign of any panic or trepidation.  No backing down. What he did do, however, was throw his bike to the ground, cuss me out some more than actually square up with me.  How this must have looked to passerby’s! A grown-ass man in a shirt and tie about to throw down with Butch from The Little Rascals.

I figured I was either being covertly filmed for an episode of Punk’d or I was literally in the Twilight Zone. Needless to say, before I lost my cool and did something I’d regret-and probably against the law, I conceded defeat and got back in my car and started back home-but not before Little Timmy threw me one more parting term of endearment.

It’s certainly no secret that my ordeal would have played out very differently had it happened 30 years ago.  At the sight of a large man confronting him for a wrongdoing, 99% of kids back then would have, in the very least, been a little afraid and shown some level of respect.  But this is 2018. A time when youth is king. When every television show and advertiser portray children as snarky, all-knowing and wise while their parent counterparts (especially Dads) are weak buffoons.

I have a theory that it all started going downhill in the mid-’90s when Disney and Nickelodeon became omnipresent and started hammering kids with shows that featured these new stereotype caricatures. From the teacher and principal to the father and businessman, suddenly every older male on television was the butt of the joke.  No longer was he feared, revered and looked up to now he was ridiculed. He’s someone not to be trusted. A foil in the kid’s plan. Barely around enough to parent much less be an enforcer.

With this overt brainwashing coming from every show on every two-dimensional screen a kid owns (and he owns many) it’s no wonder he has a problem with manners and respect.  And, sadly, it’s only getting worse as more of the companies that pay the bills for these shows continue to fervently go after that almighty juvenile dollar. But, thanks to my upbringing, none of that is, or ever will be, a problem in my house.  

And I’m betting not in yours’ either.

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