Monday, March 14, 2005

Robots And 12-Year-Old Boys.

My family went to see the animated movie Robots over the weekend. I recommend it highly as a family treat. Other than the apparently obligatory sounds of flatulence in movies geared to kids these days, the story was charming, the animation and graphics astounding. But enough already, with the farting. Even twelve year old boys tire of that eventually.

We had our own twelve year old son with us. He brought along another boy his age for company. Boys that age are increasingly preoccupied with asserting their independence and with being 'cool.' That sometimes means failing to engage their brains as required. The boys wanted candy to munch on during the movie. My wife and I didn't, so we went ahead into the theatre to reserve seats for all of us. The boys queued up at the concession area.

When the previews started and the boys still hadn't arrived to fill the seats we had reserved for them, I became concerned and went looking for them. They were nowhere to be seen in the halls of the multiplex. The ticket attendant suggested that they might have entered one of the other theatres in the complex by mistake, so I tried there, but to no avail. I returned to my seat and waited. Several minutes later, I tried again. No boys, anywhere.

Finally, my wife tried. Again, she combed the multiplex and the boys were nowhere to be found. In exasperation, she solicited the help of a theatre employee and they searched the seats of our own theatre, already dark with the main feature playing. The boys were found at the rear of the theatre, blissfully ignorant that they were being sought and that anyone might be panicked about their whereabouts.

I'm not sure which of the two geniuses concluded that it was OK to seat themselves out of our sight, without our knowledge and permission. My son is as capable of stupid behaviour as anyone else and I held him responsible for his actions. He was, after all, in charge. The other boy was his guest. Our son was responsible to us, to let us know that he was safe.

There are really two issues at play here. First, good manners would dictate that the boys ask permission to sit off by themselves somewhere. Permission would then be granted (or not) and all would be well. We, as parents, would know where our child and his guest, for whom we also bear responsibility, were seated.

The scarier issue for us was that, unlike when we were children, it is now often dangerous for children to be off on their own. Even in goody-goody Ontario, where we live, children are abducted, molested and murdered with alarming regularity. That sort of thing rarely happened when I was growing up in the fifties. Nowadays, the prospect is enough to fill any responsible parent with paranoia.

I don't think my son will repeat that same mistake. Next time, he will ask permission and we will know exactly where he is.

What puzzles and frustrates me is why we have this epidemic of child molestation in the first place. Why should we even have to worry about such things? What is wrong with these people? There are thousands of registered sex offenders in Ontario, living among the general population. Not all will offend again, but some will. Whose child(ren) will be victimized? Which parents will forever have an aching void in their hearts and cry themselves to sleep every night? And why?

I have a suggestion on how to treat convicted child-abusers. Hand them over to the parents for disposition. If the parents have any charity in their hearts, the abusers will merely be incarcerated, as they usually are. If the parents feel that incarceration is not enough, they could take whatever action, either personally or by delegated proxy, up to and including what was done to their child. Yep, an eye for an eye. That might help.

I saw a sign once, somewhere, obviously not a real warning but the expression of someone's frustration with the current state of affairs. What did it say?

"Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be prosecuted."

Try to imagine that sentiment in the context of child abuse of any kind.

I can.


  1. Boys will be Boys! taking a seat in the same movie theatre and getting parents all steamed up is quite a feat. I know only too well that nasty sinking feeling that grabs your gut when an offspring strays from the den. It is likely to manifest some of the most horrible physical symptoms ever encountered by parents. Yet all kids seem to manage to create this phenomenon at least several times over the pre-teen and adolescent years. Happily, most times, the results are similar to yours. A case of simple misunderstanding and bad judgement on the part of the boys.
    Lesson well learned for both of them.

    Your take on punishment for child sex offenders is a brilliant one. None of us can imagine the nightmare this crime can create. We can only lobby, petition and advocate for more attention to be paid to those risky offenders and do our best to educate our kids about the predators lurking at bus stations and in playgrounds.

    I must admit your story about the boys did give me a bit of a giggle.
    As adults we often jump to conclude the worst, when in fact the boys may have chosen better seats than yours.

    Happy parenting and thanks for sharing.

  2. You know what goes through my head at times like this? How in the world did my own parents cope with me when I was a kid? Parents sure do 'earn their stripes,' don't they?