Last Thursday I wrote about a car that was driving along the Beltway when somebody threw a rock at it and put a fist-sized hole in the grill. Subsequent discussion was about children who get into mischief and parents who don't give their children adequate supervision.
Thereafter George A. Azars of Arlington reported that a few days ago he was on a Metrobus that was driving slowly past an apartment complex on Columbia Pike when the driver suddenly stopped and opened his front door.
Stepping to the door, the driver called out to "an urchin" hiding behind some shrubbery. "Don't you dare throw it," he warned, "or I shall call the police." The boy, who was about 8 years old, dropped his missile and ran.
Four readers reported incidents in which children pelted private autos and buses with snowballs, iceballs and/or rocks, but Gloria H. Moore of Mount Rainier took a different tack.
Noting that she had read my report with great care and had found no evidence that any culprit had been caught and identified as a "child," Gloria asked:
"Why do you immediately assume children did it?" I really get upset with people who are so quick to assume that if something had happened, children did it. There are many adults of varying ages who do such things and think it's a big joke."
To be very truthful with you, the same thought occurred to me, but tardily.
After I finish each column, which never occurs until it has gone through dozens of revisions, I review it again mentally as I drive home. While I eat my dinner, I can scroll a column through my mind as easily as I can scroll it down a video display screen, and there are nights when the VDT screen intrudes into my slumbers as I strain to see whether I used a comma or a semicolon in a key sentence. In dreams, the screen is always murky.
Last Thursday's column went through the entire review procedure, including my dreams, because something about it bothered me and I couldn't figure out what it was.
Only when the morning paper was delivered did it hit me right between the eyes. Who said the rock thrower had been a kid? That was an unwarranted assumption on my part.
However, now that I have had a chance to think about the matter for a while, I may have hit upon a way to weasel out of confessing error. The dictionary says that a child is sometimes a boy or girl who has not yet reached puberty, but in other contexts may be "a son or daughter, a descendant, a son or daughter of human parents."
So although we usually think of a child as one who is young and small, the word also refers to much older people. While your parents live, you are their child, whatever your age.
My original comments may therefore have been valid after all. Whether the rock thrower was a young child, a youthful child, a teenaged child or even an adult child, he was nevertheless a child of human parentage; and somewhere along the line his parents had failed to teach him some basic lessons. The child had become older without becoming civilized, and now he was having trouble adjusting to the community around him.
That's where the problem lies, and that's why some of our children are savages. If it is your thesis that children are born savage, it is my thesis that we parents have a responsibility to teach, train and discipline until we have transformed them into social beings who know how to live in peace with their own age group and with others.