We decided to eat out this evening. The local beach minimart shanty said there were two choices within walking distance. We chose the street terrace at the Hotel du Midi. A neighboring table caught our eye. A little girl of about 2 sat the entire time in her buggy or on her father and mother’s lap. A little boy of about 4 tried to entertain himself by pushing his sister’s buggy around or walking up and down the steps. After he discovered our children’s smiling faces, discipline at his table went downhill. In between his forays to the bathroom, sometimes with his Papa, sometimes with his Mama (when she tottered on high heels after him, cigarette in hand, into the lobby of the hotel) and after which Sandro proudly raced back to us saying ‘French French French peepee French French”, he began to flirt with our 9-year-old. This involved closing his eyes tightly and throwing his head back slowly and then opening his eyes to catch the effect of his performance. When that got boring, he started pretending to be a monster, getting louder and louder. Intermittendly came a ‘Sandro!” from his father, who was in the midst of conversations with dinner companions who we guessed were either his parents or his wife’s parents. The mama sat fixedly in her chair except for her tottering trips to the bathroom. My husband wondered if she were on Valium.
Sandro’s antics increased. He had a willing audience, as our kids were bored by the time dessert came around. Sandro ran this way and that, took his sister’s buggy around the corner and kamikazed it towards us, actually startling us. When he lay down on the floor and began to wriggle around, though, his father got up, yanked Sandro upright, spanked him, said ‘Sandro …… French equivalent of ‘didn’t we tell you never to lie on the ground!…’ Sandro said ‘Oui, papa. Oui papa’ in a subdued manner, head ducked to the side. The spanking itself had not been hard; it was Sandro’s cowed manner that most shocked our children. Clearly, Sandro was used to spankings. This is a punishment our children have never received.
Shortly after that, we were done with our long dinner, and we said ‘au revoir’, and Sandro stood behind the now-closed terrace glass door, watching us go. ‘Look, he’s so sad,’ said our daughter.