My dog and I regularly walk by Palisades Garden Café on our loop through town. My pooch particularly likes to go by the picnic tables on the sidewalk (along La Cruz), in hopes of securing an errant French fry on the ground.
After school, the place is packed with kids, grade school through high school. I love the enthusiasm and youthful energy they radiate. Owner James Kwan has a good business model with reasonably priced food that ranges from super healthy salads and fruits to doughnuts and pastries.
Last month, as the dog and I walked by, one kid brushed another kid on the head in an aggressive move. The second kid backed up. The boy followed him and shoved him. The kid was picking a fight.
What’s the proper response?
I didn’t have to think about it that day; I had already figured that out when my three kids, who are now adults, were toddlers.
I had put them to bed and took the opportunity, with my husband at home, to run to Ralphs to go grocery shopping.
Unencumbered, I swooped down aisles and in the cleaning section I came across two boys—probably 12 or 13. Odd, why would boys be in the cleaning aisle?
I slowed down and one of them was holding up a room spray and explaining to the other you could get a high by inhaling it. The other was making a choice between two different scents.
What to do? Do I say something to the kids? Do I tell the clerk? Do I let it go? Is it my business? I didn’t know.
When I went to check out, the man in front of me was stacking groceries on the belt and the two boys came up and put the aerosol with his stuff.
I asked myself, “If I were the parent, would I want to know what these boys are going to do?”
The answer was yes.
I pulled the man aside and told him what I had heard.
Once you understand that adults are here, not to be friends to kids, but to help raise them, the proper response is easy.
When I saw the kid picking the fight near the café there was no hesitation, I shouted, “Stop it,” and walked between them. The aggressor looked at me and then moved off.
When I see a “pack” of kids, I always think of the novel by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies,” in which prepubescent males are stranded on an island and the bullying becomes awful for the kid named Piggy. The theme of the novel is the conflict between civilization and man’s savagery.
So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the posting on Nextdoor that described a mom’s anguish of her 12-year-old son being bullied on La Cruz. When her son refused to hand over his money, the bully came back with other kids to try to take it. The kid contacted a guard nearby.
I can tell the mom, from my experience with my son being bullied, it won’t end with this episode.
She asked, “Why is this happening in the Palisades?” and then concluded: “The intent of this post is not to bash a beloved local small business, our community, or my fellow parents. Rather, it is a mother’s passionate plea. Sometimes, ‘kids will be kids’ is not good enough. We can do better.”
Large groups of kids go to the Rec Center after school on Fridays, there is smoking and drinking. One person on Nextdoor wrote, “The kids just vape and roll in mobs all about now. The fact that there are multiple parents and families in this community that condone/ignore/allow this behavior every Friday is unimaginable.
“Show some concern for your child’s developing brain please,” the person continued. “Marijuana concentrate is 50-100 times the strength. We are witnessing some serious “failure to launch” children here. It takes one to know one, I had my problems growing up here and it took me my entire early adult life to get it together. More than anything it’s sad. Parents wake up!”
Another person wrote, “It’s not Garden Cafe’s job to parent people’s kids” and pointed out that parents don’t want to be the “bad guy” that they don’t want to parent their kids by telling them “no.”
When my children were in preschool at Circle of Children, parents were schooled of the need for rules and boundaries.
As the teachers explained, you can drive across a bridge without railings, but you feel more secure if you know there are railings “rules” in place.
When my children were in middle school, I read that my child could find lots of friends, but I was the only parent they would have – and that I should find my own friends and not expect my child to be my confident.
So, I ask middle school parents (and some from the local elementary school) to stop by after school some Friday and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery.
If someone is acting out, be the parent that is needed.
Or, take a walk to the park and help the Rec Center employees by stepping in if it is needed.
Children of all ages need to know someone cares and someone is in charge. Moral behavior needs to be taught to children – by all adults.