Yesterday we returned home from our trip and witnessed a little family drama. We boarded our plane from Freeport to Charlotte and sat in the last row, next to the toilets. (What great seats those are!) As we were sitting in our seats, we watched a family that included a mother, father, and two kids come up the aisle. One of the kids was a classic disaffected teenage boy — all full of slouchy insolence and world-weary fatigue from having been separated from his friends for a few days, pimply and unkempt, wearing a Megadeth or Metallica t-shirt. He had a large suitcase-type carry-on and when he put it in the overhead it didn’t fit. Rather than trying to move it so it did fit, the kid shrugged. His mother said, “turn it sideways” and moved to do so, and his father said, “let him do it.” The kid responded, with some asperity: “Shut up, Dad.” His mother then fit the suitcase into the overhead, and they all sat down.
Shut up, Dad! I can’t imagine saying anything like that to my father, and if I had the consequences would have been extreme. In the situation we witnessed, there were no good immediate choices open to the father. Telling the kid to get off the plane and buy his own ticket wasn’t a realistic option, nor was getting into a full-fledged family row prior to take-off. I’m not sure what I would have done, but it was infuriating to watch the bratty kid sit down with a smug attitude, having manipulated and insulted his parents yet again.
No doubt there was a significant back story to this little family drama, but it isn’t too much to expect that children teach their parents with respect and deference in public places. I hope that when that family got home the father sat down with the kid and began the process of getting him straightened out, and not just by sharing the Dad’s “feelings” about it.