04 October 2009

Parents, What Say You?

I was on the Amtrak (again), this time on the West Coast, with all the races mixed up (thankfully).

The train got so crowded that it was standing room only.

Across from me, there was a girl of about age 10 or 11 who seemed oblivious to the conductor's repeated requests to remove personal items from the seat next to you so that everyone could sit down.

She had a purple backpack piled on the seat with a pillow, and both tray tables down filled with stuff, including a route map with a big hunk of yellow gum stuck to it.

The train loaded up and people were wandering back and forth, seeking a seat, any seat. Yet she still did not move her stuff. She fiddled with her MP3 player and tossed her hair around.

Finally a guy, exasperated, asked her "Is this seat taken?"

She answered in what seemed to me a super entitled and bratty tone.

"Oh, I'm not allowed to sit next to anyone," she said.

Me and the lady from Philly next to me looked at each other with bugged-out eyes.

"Oh, now I've heard everything," said Mrs. Philly.

I was wondering if someone should tell the conductor about the nerve of this brat. Just then, he came along.

"You just leave your stuff right there, honey," he said.

Then I started thinking that I might be the lunatic here. I realized that the girl's parents had probably made her swear that she would not sit next to anyone, fearing that the Dreaded Train Molester would harm their young'un.

So what say you, parents? Should the kid have stuck to her guns as she did, or should have she shown some flexibility and let someone sit next to her?


marlaerwin said...

As a passenger, I totally understand where you're coming from, and I would have been cursing that kid too. But as a parent, I'm impressed that she chose not to parse or bend her parents' rules. (If only my daughter listened to me like that!!)

In the end, the fault lies with the parents, who should have added, "unless the train is full and someone needs a seat."

Dave2 said...

I'm not a parent... but I think this is categorically unfair to the passengers. If her parents don't want the girl sitting next to strangers, then they shouldn't put her on public transportation alone.

Deb Rox said...

I don't know Amtrak enough to know if the conductor has responsibility for her in the way that a flight attendant would be "in charge" of a minor traveling. Seems like the conductor is the one who should have asked her to let someone sit next to her?

gwendomama said...

Not MY kid. EVER. Is all I have to say about that.

Mir said...

There was a recent case about a girl who was molested by the passenger next to her on an airplane. I guess I (sort of) get where the parents were coming from.

On the other hand, I'm going to have to go with Dave; you take public transport, you assume you need to share the space. If the parents are uncomfortable with that for their kid, one of them should be riding with her.

Andrea said...

I can see the parents' point of view, but agree with Dave. I sincerely hope that girl doesn't grow up learning to be afraid of everyone she sees that she doesn't know. Not all strangers are intent on harming her. So a little instruction regarding the 'don't sit next to anyone directive' would be helpful. If the train is full, if there are plenty of people around, talk to the conductor to say she's traveling alone and could he pop in on her now and then, that kind of thing.

But I am disturbed to learn that someone was molested on a plane seat. I would think that such a crowded place would be safe from that. God.

~ap said...

i say the damn parents are teaching her entitlement, and don't even get me started on that. grrr. i traveled all the time as a preteen from o'side to santa ana on the amtrak. the rule was to find a nice lady to sit next to -- gramma or mom type. (of course, this guarantees nothing, but worked well, so...i'm sticking with it!) of course, you totally are afraid for your kid traveling alone, but also want to give them independence in a safe environ. i agree with dave with the parental units should be traveling with her if she's not to sit next to the masses. and, frankly, the attitude you describe is another thing i'd make sure was checked at the door. she could have delivered the same message, respectfully. *sigh* what is wrong with these people?

mayberry said...

I think the parents put the child in an unfair position. She was just following their rule, but their rule was not reasonable.

Mignon said...

I was curious what the comments would say, and am again reminded that you have such intelligent and thoughtful readers.

And, for the record, Dave for President (of Should Kids Ride Alone Committee).

Anonymous said...

Kids traveling alone need protection. They do that on planes big time (at least with all the cases I know of, including the time I sent Molly alone on a plane trip to DC, 2 weeks before 9/11). Trains and buses should not be different. Also, if you think that protecting children is an issue of "entitlement", then I've got a bunch of women who can tell you disturbing stories about stuff that happened in their girlhoods that will blow your heads off.

As far as kids taking public transportation alone, there are many circumstances where that is necessary. The backstory often involves a single parent with very little support around him/her, like another adult who could escort the kid.

And, lest any Red Stapler readers think I'm a self-absorbed mommyblogger, think again. I took down my mommyblogger mantle not long ago because of the preciousness of many of the bloggers in that niche.

Respect kids. They are among the most vulnerable members of society. They require and deserve protection.

Jessica said...

Step-parent of an occasionally obnoxious 12 yr-old here. I agree with Dave, and I also agree with the "find a woman" to sit next to idea (and, yes, that doesn't guarantee anything, but what does?). I think it is the tone that too many kids have adopted that drives me nuts. My step-daughter rolls her eyes (normal, but oh so freaking annoying) and takes tone - and I don't let it stand in my house. Unfortunately, this behavior is not only displayed by her mother, it is fostered (so naturally, I'm just a "bitch"). The sense of entitlement that is so prevalent is direct result of not enough, "That is disrespectful and don't you DARE take that tone with me!" from parents.

I think this child needs a lesson in respect, and also some practical instruction on what to do if she feels threatened.

Ericka said...

i too concur with dave. she's very lucky that her brat attitude didn't lead someone to do something to her.

Suzanne said...

Unless that girl bought two seats, she's got to scoot over. I have no idea what the conductor was smoking.

And yes, kids traveling alone need protection, but leaving a seat empty next to a kid really doesn't guarantee that nothing will happen. It is a false sense of security.

jonniker said...

Oh God, I really don't think it's entitlement. I'm sure her parents instructed her to avoid sitting next to anyone, and gave her some line about not sitting next to anyone who asked, and here's this poor kid thinking, BUT I AM NOT ALLOWED TO SIT NEXT TO ANYONE.

I mean, seriously, you guys, reel it in. ENTITLEMENT. She's a KID.

I would say this if I weren't a parent, I swear (my kid is years and years away from going alone ANYWHERE, much less a TRAIN), but the idea that every kid who doesn't do exactly the right thing under circumstances they've yet to experience is an entitled brat is ... a bit much.

And maybe she did buy two seats. Maybe it was the conductor's idea. But dude, expecting a kid to fully understand how to change plans in circumstances she's never experienced before is pushing it. She's TEN. Ten year olds aren't exactly well-schooled in train etiquette.

Gracie said...

I 100% agree with Dave2. If you do not want your children to sit next to anyone then do not send them on alone. If you cannot be bothered to be enough of a parent to accompany your child on public transportation then why on earth should I be subjected to your parenting rules???

mystic_eye_cda said...

She should have been instructed to stand if the train was crowded.

Or if the parents were concerned they should have made arrangements for her to sit in or near the employee area.

Assuming that this 10 or 11 year old is emotionally mature enough to travel alone (and they are apparently interviewed by staff) then they are definitely old enough to scream if someone is touching them inappropriately on a train. Particularly as I'm assuming the train doors don't open unless staff opens them, so its not like the molester is going to get away.

My cousin was flashed on a subway when she was a kid. She hit the passenger assist, train got locked down and the guy got arrested. End of story.

jonniker said...

I don't know about standing, Brenda. She bought a seat. She's really supposed to give up the seat she paid for? I wouldn't make a 10-year-old stand.

Grace Davis said...

I'm imagining Jonniker and myself swooping down to protect the kid with our light sabers. Fierce!

Jenny Grace said...

What Grace said, exactly. It our job as a society to protect our children.

Jenny Grace said...

Also, just thinking about this more, we don't know that she didn't buy two seats so she wouldn't have to sit next to someone.

Chickenliver said...

Everything that should have been said,has been.

It's our job to protect children, childless does not mean you're excluded from that job either.

Kerri Anne said...

Honestly, calling a ten-year-old girl who is riding a train alone (and as was already stated probably doesn't know train etiquette, let alone crowded train etiquette, and also SHE'S TEN) an entitled brat seems a bit harsh.

If she really did have an "entitled" tone I doubt it was intentional, and if the parents made an arrangement with Amtrak about no one sitting next to their daughter on the train, and the conductor agreed, I don't see why that should bother any of the other passengers.

Also, the fact that, as Brenda put it, the girl is "definitely old enough to scream if someone is touching [her] inappropriately on a train" is completely irrelevant, and actually sort of disturbing. Just because someone is old enough to scream when someone is inappropriately touching them doesn't mean we should be cavalier about putting any child, no matter their age, in that possible scenario.

CharmingDriver said...

''she's very lucky that her brat attitude didn't lead someone to do something to her.''

Are you even kidding me? I have 15 and 7 year old girls (and 6 and 3 yr old boys) who are known, due to being developmentally right on track, to cop an attitude now and again. And because of that I and they should feel fortunate someone hasn't ''done something'' to them? That you can say that in the same breath you judge her parents for wanting her sit alone speaks volumes. About you. Not the parents or the daughter.

I hope I am never in the position to send any of my kids traveling alone but as Dave said, sometimes life is categorically unfair. Which means sometimes things happen, the pie is not divided evenly and you may have to give a little for someone else in the world.

As for the advise that the child, ''could just scream'' etc. Yeah. Grown women, grown people are groped & assaulted every day and are at a loss to react in the moment or even report it immediately. Too bad those people didn't get that great suggestion ''to just....fill in the blank here'' to save themselves being victimized. Really, it's all so simple, right?

jonniker said...

I'm glad I'm not alone here, because seriously, you guys, some of these comments about a TEN YEAR OLD are so fracking out of line.

I get that our society has fostered some entitled, bratty children. I get that. But what I don't get, nor appreciate, is that it's the ASSUMPTION that that is the case here, and that somehow it's everyone else's job to sit back and judge.

That the prevailing attitude here from people - parents, even - is that the kid should be judged harshly, rather than given the benefit of the doubt (at, again, TEN YEARS OLD) is really disheartening to me. Kids, dude. They're not adults. They're KIDS. Who have plenty of time to learn and grow into good, functioning adults. I get that not all kids are raised perfectly, or even well, but they should at least be given the benefit of the doubt. You know, at TEN.

SUEB0B said...

I love the passion and interest this weird topic has created.

Maybe her parents DID buy her two seats. That is indeed something I had not thought of.

Here's what I think - the kid was certainly self-possessed enough to tell a grown adult man to shove off and not sit with her. I think she should have been self-defense trained by her parents - basic yelling, reporting and physical skills. I think a girl like this would have taken to it like a duck to water, and would have then been much safer than just being told not to sit next to anyone.

~annie said...

Yes - we do need to protect our children. But there are other ways to help your child be safe than simply "Don't let anyone sit next to you." Wouldn't take much for someone who really meant harm to ignore that. Without other strategies (pulling the emergency stop, yelling for help, etc.) that girl is toast.

Parents are also responsible for teaching consideration toward those around them, and in my book that includes letting people older than oneself have a seat. Or did all those people who ended up having to stand get on that train for free?

Last but not least, too often it's "everyone for themselves" in our society.
Any responsible adult seeing that a child is traveling alone could keep an eye on her and step in if a situation arose.

Anonymous said...

Suebob, thanks for giving us this forum.

As to your remarks:

"...the kid was certainly self-possessed enough to tell a grown adult man to shove off and not sit with her."

Kids are not consistent. They may not apply such bravado in every situation. They may be tough in one case or weak in others. Kids simply do not have enough life experience to maintain a course of action.

"I think she should have been self-defense trained by her parents - basic yelling, reporting and physical skills."

Not all parents are that forward-thinking. I wish there was a national campaign (like for littering and Just Say No to Drugs) to encourage self-defense skills to kids. There's no time in the No Child Left Behind curriculum to introduce such strategies.

I taught my kid to protect herself using various techniques like running, finding a mother to help her, going straight to the store clerks if she's lost, traveling with a group while she's cruising around the relatively safe neighborhoods of Santa Cruz. I told her to use her Spidey-sense, the voice within that says "Dude, don't go there." I also emphasized that to her friends, her girl gang.

Those lessons stuck. I let her be on her own for a day and overnight at a hostel with her two surfing friends when we were in Bali. She did very well and was very careful. This past summer, two weeks after her HS graduation and 18th birthday, Molly traveled with her really great boyfriend Jordy to Peru for three weeks. She applied the things we taught her and though she had a bout with food poisoning, she came back safe, sound and full of wonderful travel stories. Success on her part, success on us, her parents' part.

But, you know what really sticks with Molly and what she will use the rest of her life? SHE WAS RESPECTED. She was never belittled or dismissed. We respected her phases in her childhood, we respected her limits, we respected the fact that sometimes she, as a matter of age and lack of life experience, would say or do the wrong thing. We respected her and she learned to respect others because of this. We demonstrated respectful compassion towards her and her friends, and thus she grew up to be compassionate.

So, I'll say it over and over - RESPECT KIDS. They learn from your example. You snark at a kid? ("Oh, now I've heard everything"), they'll think it's okay to snark back because an adult did as much.
Kids deserve the benefit of the doubt, always.

And, if anyone thinks I'm a lightweight, easy on kids, spoiling them and any other paltry accusations, I have an 18 year old daughter and 5 adult stepchildren you should meet. They'll tell you - respectfully and with compassion - that I was and continue to be a kind but badass parent and they are better citizens of the world because of that.

Grace Davis said...

BTW, I don't know how I keep messing up with my Google ID, but, for the record and to let folks know that I'm not some anonymous chicken-shit, my blog is State of Grace

Suzanne said...

If she bought two tickets, she should just say so - or the conductor should have. Really, I blame a lot of this on the conductor, who is an adult.

I think it goes back to the idea that if she just sat alone, nothing would happen to her. What, is she not going to get up to go to the bathroom for the entire ride? Or get a snack from the snack car? Just telling a kid to sit alone and you'll be fine is ridiculous. How many parents told their kids not to talk to strangers, and the kid complied, but something awful happened anyway? We live in a world where you can't just seal yourself off from others and assume nothing will happen. If she takes a school bus, does she have to sit alone in case another student would assault her? It's been known to happen....

I'm sorry for the situation that the girl found herself in, but unless she paid for the second seat, it is unfair for her to not let someone sit down. Again, it does nothing to guarantee her safety, but punishes another fare-paying rider who likely would not touch her but now has to stand.

Back to top