Thursday, September 10, 2009

RUMBLE IN THE GARDEN


I witnessed something yesterday that I never in a million BILLION years thought I would ever see in Paris, ESPECIALLY in the very serene, very upscale and very calm Jardin du Luxembourg.
There was a good old-fashioned catfight between two middle-aged women.

I was quietly sitting in a chair meditating on how to be more successful by one of the many circular patches of grass that you can look at but never ever dream of actually walking on (this outdated concept of garden eludes me...what's the point of grass if you can't roll in it?). A group of 10 year old boys were running around the circular path with fake guns, shooting at each other, playing a game. Four mothers stood by watching them and directing the game. A woman of about 50 sat in a chair near me, reading the paper. The game went on for about ten minutes or so and I was enjoying watching the freedom of kids just playing. The reading woman near me was clearly not as the boys kept ducking behind her chair and shooting their guns from behind it which made a CLACK CLACK CLACK sound. Suddenly, without any warning, the woman reaches behind her chair, stands up, grabs the boy's gun out of his hand, screams at him and throws the gun into the trees. The boys all stopped in front of her and yelled back.
That's when she did the unthinkable.
She raised her hand and slapped the boy across the face.
Hard.
OH NO SHE DIDN'T.

Oh yes, she DID.
She slapped another woman's kid. I sat up in my chair with a start and before I could even process what just happened, the Four Mamas Gang was already on the move and halfway across the forbidden grass. Like tigresses protecting their young, I have never EVER seen French women move so fast and with such intent. In a khaki pants pack, they moved as one and were up in Slappy's face before I could even blink an eye. In mere seconds, one of the mothers already had all the boys herded back over the grass and the other three Mothers had Slappy encircled. Animals are animals. You mess with the kids, you're gonna feel Mama's TEETH.
For REALS, yo.

Then the screaming began. Back and forth, back and forth. I thought for sure it would end at that and dissolve into the usual French argument for an hour, so I settled back into my chair.....but then Slappy kicked it up ANOTHER notch.
She raised her hand AGAIN and slapped the MOM.
Even harder.
OH NO SHE DIDN'T.

Oh yes, she DID.
All hell broke loose as the Mom completely lost it and grabbed Slappy's hair with a vengeance. Slappy grabbed back and for a moment, they were locked in a battle of the hair grip. In a matter of seconds, these two women had gone from calm Parisians to two shrieking, clawing, punching banshees at each others' throats. The two other members of the Four Mamas wrenched the now flailing Mom out of Slappy's grip and the three of them shot back across the grass, again, moving as one giant khaki pant. And then Slappy did the MOST surprising thing to me. She sat back down calmly, opened her paper back up and simply continued reading. I sat in shock, staring at her and wondering how she could have raised such hell and then just calmly sit back down as though she hadn't just bitchslapped a kid and tried to rip the Mom's face off.
Cultural difference or just a case of the crazies?
I'm not really sure.....

Five minutes later, the Four Mamas returned with about 15 guards from the garden who honestly looked a little bewildered by the whole situation. Then things took their expected and natural French course with a lengthy discussion between all parties that lasted at least the 32 more minutes I stayed and probably long after I left.

But for one moment there, I saw a little bit of New York....more walk and less talk.
Nice job, France.

28 comments:

karigee said...

Thank you; this made my morning.

Anonymous said...

This made my morning too. Awesome!

Auntie Charro said...

I got laughing so hard then sneezed and peed my pants.

Will Atkinson said...

Awesome! I enjoy reading your posts, always entertaining.

Jessie's thoughts: said...

"A khaki pants pack." Thank you.

I love the French with their slappy ways and desire for peaceful reading.

Next time could you try to take some pictures?

Peter (the other) said...

Yeah SLAPPY!!! Children NEED to learn to respect other people, early. Here is just one opinion from your own NY Times. Humans who spend too much time with their offspring suffer a neuroplastic change which makes their little Fluffys and Muffys perfect creatures in their minds. They also learn how to tune-out their ever screaming racket. There are parks and thern there are playgrounds. One is meant for an adult to find repose amidst the chaos of the city. The other is designed for children to let loose. Proper behavior in the proper place is a root function of society, just listen to Lenny Bruce on the subject (in his description of the original need for "law" enforcement). Yanks bring up some severely spoiled and bratty knee biters, in my humble opinion. But the French are close behind, particularly their boys ( and French women carry a chip on their shoulders about that until they have their own sons to spoil). But... I am not opinionated... ;-p

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Woweee. I kept gasping in astonishment. The only part that didn't surprise me was Slappy sitting back down and reading as if nothing happened. I've seen & heard French people (women mostly) making a fuss about others' excessive decibels on buses and in restaurants. But never a gifle!

And you are the best raconteuse!!

donna said...

Um, Peter, you do not hit other people's kids. That's called "assault".

Peter (the other) said...

Hmmmm, Donna...

"...you do not hit other people's kids."

so you are saying it is alright to "hit" your own kids?

Actually, that is a rather new definition, and one that is not agreed upon by all cultures. Dana used the term "slap" which is usually understood to mean with an open hand, differentiated from hit because of its intent to shock more then damage.

Although as a modern person, I too would prefer a less "violent" response, I think the larger question here is the lack of sense of inappropriateness by the children and their mother. They should have apologized, and stopped their behavior.

Besides, if my mother may have slapped me (at most) a few times in my growing up, and several young women (at most) in my young adulthood, I could not say it was an inappropriate response to my showing of lack of respect, and usually very effective.

If you don't want your children to be slapped by strangers, teach them to act respectfully. This is one of the responsibilities that parents must take on when they choose to become parents.

Oh well, the 6th attracts the worst of the bourgeoisie, ripe with an American sense of entitlement. You might notice in the Wikipedia article on the Luxembourg, that Dana links to, it is stated:

"The garden is famed for its calm atmosphere."

The children were violating that expectation, and the parent, who chose to create her little possessions would rather talk with her friends then be responsible for her possessions. Selfishness upon selfishness (in a world where 10,000 children die each day from preventable diarrhea). I am sure they would rather be slapped.

Anonymous said...

Peter-- you raise decent points and I, too, have marveled at the brazen chaos some Parisian kids can make in adult-oriented spaces. I would be interested in any links you can provide regarding the changes which occur at the level of neurons when parents spend too much time with their offspring. That sounds fascinating.

However: 1) hitting a child is assault. Illegal. End of story.
2) the child-oriented parks in Paris are few and far between (especially around Luxembourg) and frankly they are crappy. I'd hate to raise a child in Paris. My opinion.
3) grabbing a child's toy and shouting and hitting them without first asking them to play elsewhere is crazy behavior.

Anonymous said...

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article6832050.ece

Just appeared in the UK Times.

Anonymous said...

The French are hilarious. But seriously...these are CHILDREN we're talking about. Must kids fear a slap in the face by strangers just for acting their age? Peter, I'd like to see how well-behaved you were as a child. If you were perfect, I'd have to say you missed out on what childhood is all about! The Luxembourg Gardens are definitely there for family entertainment...many children can be found playing there and pushing little boats around in the pond. It is not only for calm adult reflection. The adults should behave like adults and keep their hands to themselves--they are the ones to blame--not the kids for playing! Babies cry, kids get naughty, it's just a fact of life...but just because their tendencies are not favorable by adults does not mean they deserve a slap in the face by someone twice their size and several times their age! If Slappy had a problem, she could have found a more peaceful spot or asked the children kindly to leave her chair alone. Responding to kids with violence is the most childish act of all!

The Bold Soul said...

I'm floored; my first thought was: "This happened in MY favorite garden?" (It's where my husband and I met on our first "blind" date and fell instantly in love!) Second thought was (despite what Peter thinks): "It is NEVER ok to hit another person's child. Not. EVER. Throw the bitch in jail and let her think about her actions for a night or two. Maybe next time she'll think twice." Not that it's any better to slap your own kids -- I don't agree with that either -- but though I might raise my VOICE to someone else's child if provoked, I would never raise my HAND. I expect adults to have more self-control than to get physical when they're angry, especially with a child. I mean, what's WRONG with people? There is just no excuse for that sort of behavior.

Ironically, I've noticed overall that young French children tend to be rather better behaved in public than American kids seem to be. Sure, a pack of little children can get over-excited, and they don't tend to think about the impact of their play on those around them because they're too immersed in it. Teenagers can be annoying no matter what their culture! I do think the Khaki Mom Gang ought to have been a bit more considerate and corralled their kids better so they weren't disturbing others. But no matter how irritating the behavior of those kids, there are about a dozen different ways that woman could have handled her anger other than to fly off the handle that way. And French women usual PRIDE themselves on their self control.

Very, very surprising. I hope she got what was coming to her. Seriously.

And very well written, too. ;)

Mike said...

In Australia, the current bestselling and prize winning novel is called The Slap, written by Christos Tsialkos. It's about guess what? What happens when a bloke slaps another family's child at a backyard BBQ. The Slap is being made into a a tele series and has won literary prizes. What you saw right ther in Jardin du Luxembourg KFD was was not merely an incident. It was literary gold! Just gotta figure how to mint it.

Great story. Must have been a real eye-popper at the time!

Rispa Frances said...

Yeah, go Slappy! Some kids just sometimes need a good slap, even if they're not your own. And some mom's do too, for thinking it's OK that their kids can just wreak havoc and be inconsiderate towards others! And good for Slappy to stand up against inconsiderate behaviour and then just go back to her paperback!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining. And while admitting that slappy might have chosen a more socially acceptable solution, we also notice that the kids "yelled" at her when initially she directed her protest at their material rather than their persons. Where do kids learn such behaviour? What is the world coming to? (Incidentally, the Luxembourg gardens do in fact provide a large, very well equipped play area where the children might have enacted their wargames to their heart's content.)

nyrocks said...

If this had ever happened to my child, Slappy would have been blessed with eternal quiet.

"khaki pants pack"- great, just great

Frenchee le Trip said...

OMG what a story. And beautifully recounted. Thanks for the share. I'm going to add a link over from my blog.

Anonymous said...

Funny story, but let's get things straight. These kids were playing, not running around hitting people or terrorizing others. The woman was completely out of line grabbing the boy's toy without warning and throwing it away, and then slapping him when he protested! Think about it from the POV of a kid. You're minding your own business and having fun, then suddenly some strange woman steals your source of entertainment--of course you'd be pissed! They certainly should know not to yell at their elders, but that doesn't give a stranger the right to discipline someone else's child, having NO idea about the child's history or family life. It can be very dangerous, especially since slapping a child hard CAN inflict more serious physical and emotional harm. Does a child really deserve to be traumatized by a stranger for running around a park? Goodness gracious, people. I would never let someone hit my dog, let alone my child! It's ridiculous and I can't believe people actually support this crazy woman's violence.

Shelli and Gene said...

Wish I'd seen it. And I thought you only got in trouble for picnicking on the grass.

It's lucky Slappy and the Khaki Pack weren't packing.

Cancemini4 said...

I was just there, how did I miss this?? A couple of days ago I also saw a fistfight outside the Eglise St Severin between a drunk (wielding broken wine bottle) and a church employee. It took another even drunker, even crazier guy to finally scare off the first wino. Priceless.

KFD said...

And some say Paris is quiet....:)

KFD said...

And thank all of you, by the way, for the very interesting discussion on this topic, I have really enjoyed reading all your responses! Lots of food for thought here....

Adam said...

Doesn't surprise me that this happened in the Jardin de Luxembourg - just about my least favourite place in the city. If kids want to be obnoxious and loud, I suggest the Parc Monceau where rich kids run wild whilst poorly paid nannies struggle to even iunderstand what they are saying.

The Parc de Belleville is the best place for everyone - some quiet places, some places where kids can run wild in peace!

jessica said...

wow. wow. wow

Anonymous said...

OMG! I LOVE THIS STORY! I swear in France, the old ladies get the run of the mill. I mean for real they thing the whole world revolves around them and you had better not interrupt them! This story was an awesome play by play thank you! I think it should be called, "La Place de Melrose"...mdr.

Peter (the other) said...

Long after the fact, and in the silence... as asked for, here is the reference as to parental neural-plasticity:

Leuner, Benedetta, Glasper, Erica R., & Gould, Elizabeth. (2010). Parenting and plasticity. Trends in Neurosciences, 33(10), 465-473. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2010.07.003

Kristy said...

That is CRAZY- who is psychotic enough to start slapping random children across the face?? Unbelievable- wish you had some pix! LOVE your blog and hearing about all your Frenchie adventures...