The Unusual Suspect

This is as close to abuse as Luke gets from his father. Tickle abuse.

On Monday nights, Joe has math tutoring. During that time, my darling hubby takes Luke to Starbucks where he buys him a rice krispy treat and they read together. This is their ritual. Luke loves it because he gets his favorite dessert, and Steve loves it because he has a legitimate excuse to hang out at Starbucks for the third time in a day without censure.

Tonight when Joe walked in the door, he was highly animated.

“Dad and Luke were at Starbucks and the police came over to talk to Dad because some lady with bad eyesight thought Dad was attacking Luke.”

“What?” I gasped, as Joe walked upstairs leaving me puzzled. Next, Luke came through the door.

“Luke…what happened? Did a policeman come talk to you?”

“Yeah…when we were in the car.”

Now I was even more confused. They were in the car? Huh? Nothing about what they were saying was making any sense. My husband is an extremely kind and gentle man. I’m not sure that he has ever laid a hand on either of our boys for anything other than a hug or a tickle war. I couldn’t imagine what he might have done that would prompt someone to call the cops on him for abuse. Steve’s a Boy Scout. The worst thing I can legitimately accuse him of is acquiring a few speeding tickets. I mean, the man doesn’t even swear. He walked through the door and into the family room where I was sitting.

“Someone called the cops on you for abusing Luke?”

“No. The cop was already at Starbucks. Apparently this woman who was sitting in another car must have thought I was being abusive.”

“Why would she think that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. All I can figure is that she saw me yell at him to sit up because he was slouching when he was reading. She must have left her car and gone into the store. That officer is often there when we are, so she must have asked him to go check it out. He walked out of Starbucks, came over to the car, and asked if I was having a bad day with my son. I told him we were just reading. He looked in the car and saw Luke and his book. He laughed and told us to have a good night. That was it.”

We sat around replaying the incident and having a good laugh about it because it’s ludicrous. If anyone in this house should have been approached by a police officer about any form of child abuse, it certainly should have been me. I do not have half of Steve’s patience, and I’m the one who gives our boys the greatest amount of verbal grief. Anyone who knows Steve could attest to his innocence. The man has not one edge. He’s as soft and squishy as the Stay Puft marshmallow man.

Although we joked about the whole event, it honestly frightened me. How creepy is it that someone sitting in another car was watching, evaluating, and judging what was going on in our car? Beyond that, how scary is it that someone would automatically contact the authorities without actually witnessing something abusive? I do believe that there’s a time to intervene to protect a child if you’ve seen or have reason to suspect abuse. But, why is it suddenly a criminal act to raise your voice to your child in the privacy of your car simply to tell them to sit up straight and pay attention to the book they are supposed to be reading? When I was growing up, if we misbehaved in a restaurant my parents could lock us in the car outside the restaurant while they finished their meal inside and no one would have blinked an eye, much less called the authorities. When my mom was a child, parents would make disobedient children kneel on rice for misbehaving or eat soap for backtalking or cursing. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that in eliminating extreme punishments to protect our children we might have gone too far in the other direction if chastising our slouching child is enough to warrant police intervention. Just to be safe, I guess Steve and I will have to start yelling at our kids in the privacy of own home so no one has to bother the police.

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