I recently read an article about a woman in Indiana who decided to teach her fourteen year old son a lesson about the consequences of lying, drug dealing, and stealing. She made him wear a sandwich board at a busy intersection that said, " I lie, I steal, I sell drug (sic), I don't follow the law". Surprisingly some people called the police and reported her saying it was humiliating to the child and she should be stopped. The child? How about 'future prisoner'? She defended her actions by saying she was trying to save her son. Instead of criticizing her I think she deserves a pat on the back for caring enough to take action.
I witnessed something similar several years ago while working in a small emergency room. We had a young black man, who was twenty years old, brought into our ER because he thought he was having a heart attack. For some reason he had decided to try cocaine for the first time and evidently his dealer failed to tell him that cocaine can increase your heart rate. Drug dealers are usually negligent in not telling you about the side effects of whatever you're buying from them. This young man was not a thug and I doubt seriously that he had ever been in trouble with the law. He spilled his guts to me while I was inserting an I.V., putting him on a heart monitor, and doing an electrocardiogram. His heart was okay but he was truly petrified. After I left his room a very sweet older woman came up to me and asked to see him. She was his grandmother and looked like everyone's ideal picture of a grandma. Her hair was pulled back in a bun, her wire framed glasses were perched on the tip of her nose, she was a small woman, and she had a large handbag tucked under her arm. She was very soft spoken and her eyes were moist. I assured her he was going to be fine and if the doctor said he could have visitors I would let her come back to see him as soon as possible. I asked the ER doctor if it was okay to let her go into her grandson's room and after a brief hesitation, which I thought was odd at the time, he said it was fine. I should mention that the ER doctor, who was one of my favorites, was also black. When he was in medical school he had briefly dated a young, pre-Stedman, Oprah. He broke things off with her after his mother told him she would never amount to anything. I don't think he ever really forgave her for that. I went into the young man's room and told him he had a visitor. His first words were, "Oh God! Please tell me it's not my grandma!" I told him it was and that she was very concerned about him. He agreed but begged me to not tell her what he had done and I assured him I wouldn't but I thought she already knew. I told her it was fine to come back and visit. I walked her to the door of his room and she asked me if it would be okay to shut the door because she wanted some privacy. I told her okay and went back to the desk. The ER doc was just shaking his head. I guess he knew what was about to happen. About thirty seconds later the doc and I heard her beating the tar out of him. I mean really letting him have it. I stood up and asked the ER doctor if he wasn't going to go in and stop her. His response was, "Are you crazy? If I do that, when she's finished with him, she might decide to let me have it too. You don't mess with a mad, black grandma." Obviously he spoke from experience. Things quieted down after a minute or two. The door opened and the sweet little woman I had let in smiled at me and told me she would be waiting for him in the waiting room. I went in to make sure my patient was still in one piece and he was. He was also crying. I asked him if he was okay and he said yes. Then he looked at me with his tear stained eyes and said, "I disappointed her. I'll never do it again." I told him from what I had heard that might be a good idea. Then he told me that she had promised him if he ever did it again she would kill him. I told him I would keep that in mind because I believed she meant it. I never saw him in the ER again so I guess he took her seriously and decided that would be his last experience with illegal drugs. Before he went home that night I asked him if he knew why his grandma was so mad. He said, "Because she loves me." He was right.
After this incident I realized what we really need in this world are more mad grandmas. Women who are strong enough to stand up to their children or grandchildren and let them know when they've crossed the line. People who care enough to let them know the difference between right and wrong. I don't advocate hitting anyone, and looking back, I think most of the noise I heard was her hitting the siderails of his bed with her fists. The woman who made her young son wear the sign at the intersection is guilty of nothing more than caring enough to say no, this isn't acceptable and you're going to pay for it now! We need to let our children know we love them enough to allow them to hate us for any actions we take to keep them safe. When my oldest daughter was sixteen years old she decided to stay out for three hours after her curfew one night. I was standing on the railing of the front porch waiting for her. I just knew she was dead. I prayed and bargained with God to just bring her home safely. Finally, at three o'clock in the morning, I saw a car pull up in the driveway and she popped out like nothing had happened. She walked by me and said a carefree goodnight! I grabbed her by the shirt so we could 'discuss' the situation. She looked at me and said, "If you hit me they'll put you in jail." I told her eventually they would let me out. I've never hit one of my kids but I came awfully close that night. I guess the look in my eyes scared her because she never did it again. So the next time one of your kids does something stupid, let them know. If you don't think you're up to the situation let me know. I have the number of a very sweet grandma that will be happy to help you out.