I can tell by your disapproving stares, hushed whispers, and looks of genuine concern that just about everyone on this crosstown bus thinks that they could do a better job raising my 4-year-old son—whom you will identify as the child leaning over the back of your seat throwing soggy Cheerios at you—and I completely agree. Someone needs to put an end to his unacceptable behavior, and I can assure you that person will not be me.
So please, if you want my son to sit still and shut up, consider this an open invitation to any or all of you to knock some sense into him.
I realize this proposition may seem irresponsible, but you must understand that I am a terrible parent whose interest in raising an obedient, well-behaved child has long since vanished, and the only way my son will ever be introduced to the basic concepts of rules, restrictions, and repercussions is through the teachings of one of the random strangers on this bus.
So, if you so desire, feel free to yank him by his shirt collar while he's running up and down the aisle, bend him over your knee, and do your worst. While I might not thank you directly, I will show my silent appreciation for your invaluable assistance by putting my tabloid down for a moment and staring blankly out the window.
I've tried to control my son in the past, but I clearly lack the most basic parenting skills and have perhaps done more damage than good throughout his young life, but I can tell you what definitely does not work: half-heartedly scolding him from across the bus, letting him run around and swing on the silver poles to get it out of his system, taking away his toys and immediately returning them on the condition that he behave, telling him to go talk to the bus driver, and, finally, completely ignoring him—my preferred method to this day.
Please don't feel you should be restricted to corporal punishment. I may be a disgracefully bad mother, but I am still open to any interpretation of child discipline, as long as it doesn't involve me taking any action whatsoever. You are more than welcome to try reasoning with him, strapping him to the seat next to yours and forbidding him to move, calmly explaining how to properly behave on a bus, or exiting the bus with me at our stop and dragging him by the ear all the way home to show that there are negative consequences of inappropriate behavior.
It's up to one of you to establish a set of boundaries for him.
Over the years, I've grown used to his incessant squirming and shouting, so if everyone else would like a calm, quiet ride the rest of the way, then I suggest one of you get up and do something about it.
I should also add that this offer is not restricted solely to other parents. If you have never interacted with a child in your adult life and are not sure whether you possess the instincts or ability to relate to a child, I assure you, you are still vastly more qualified than I am to dole out some tough love.
Not to overstep my bounds, but may I suggest one of you take away his Superball? I don't know if that is the way to handle it, and I certainly don't care to find out for myself, so just leave me out of it, because the first and last time I did that, he cried.
And, by all means, take your time to craft the perfect approach to handling this situation and instilling a sense of enduring responsibility in my son. Who knows, a brief encounter with just the right complete stranger could help undo my years of neglectful and incompetent parenting.
After all, he and I will both be on this very same bus with all of you tomorrow, the next day, and every day after that, and trust me, it will only get worse until one of you intervenes.