A young mother and her son were fighting on the train this morning. The mother sat near me with an infant strapped into a harness that pressed into her bosom. She was heavyset with blond hair and a pug nose. Her son, a toddler, got up from his seat and stood at the pole. I hadn’t been paying attention but I noticed them when he turned around the pole and the mother grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back next to her.
“You don’t say that to me, do you understand?” she said.
He stood up and reached for the pole, just a few feet away. She grabbed him by the ear this time, pulled him back. He got up again and she grabbed his arm and yanked him. The boy was strong, had round cheeks and green eyes.
“Stop beating me,” he said.
An older woman sitting across from them looked up and smiled.
The mother laughed. “You think I’m beating you?”
He stood up again and she grabbed his arm and twisted.
“Stop beating me.”
This tug of war went on for a while.
“I’m not so terrible,” he said.
He continued to get up and she’d pulled him back. Then she said, “When you get to school I’m telling your teacher you are in a time out for the whole day. Time out when you get home. No remote control.”
He started to cry. He sat down. Another woman sitting across from them smiled too.
I couldn’t concentrate on the newspaper, kept reading the same sentence over and over.
Now, the boy was sobbing. “Please don’t tell my teacher.” He grabbed his mother.
“Oh, now you are going to hug me? Maybe you’ll think before you talk to me like that again.”
“Please don’t tell my teacher.”
“You are almost four-years-old, stop crying.”
He settled down after awhile but I couldn’t go back to reading. When they got off the train a few stops later I realized that I wasn’t breathing.
[Photo Credit: Masao Gozu]