If you grew up around the time I did in a Black household, chances are you’ve seen the film “Bebe’s Kids”.
This singular film has become so engrained in Black culture that the title alone has become a descriptor. For what, you ask?
Bad. Ass. Kids.
Among my family, particularly my cousins and I, we’ve always referred to the ill-behaved kids we see out in public as “Bebe’s Kids”. It’s become synonymous with the screaming, obnoxious, unruly children we’d see tearing each other apart out on their front porch, or driving their parents insane as they terrorize a fast-food restaurant or a store in the mall.
As I’ve gotten older (and become Auntie to several nieces and nephews), I’ve softened on how quickly I refer to someone else’s child as a Bebe’s kid. Having personally dealt with an irritable toddler who won’t sit still as you’re trying to check out, or a fussy baby who just won’t. stop. crying, I sympathize.
But as I found myself charging towards my front door to scream at the person who had somehow found two airhorns and was loudly trumpeting them up and down the courtyard in our apartment complex only to be held back by my boyfriend who realized it was a child, I realized I had a limit.
And as that same child emptied cans of silly string into the bushes in our front yard, I also realized he had pushed it.
My boyfriend and I jokingly say that we’re rapidly becoming “get off my lawn” types, but I never came closer to actually saying that phrase than when I saw this child, with no supervision, treating the public courtyard as his own concert hall, wielding two airhorns as his instruments. While my patience has softened for those who have to deal with wrangling their children in public, I was still brought up by parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles who did. not. play. that.
I can still remember the looks my grandmother gave my cousins and I when we would act up in public, her fingers curling at us in a way I still remember vividly as I knew a spanking would ensue if we didn’t knock it off. I remember my mom’s stern voice when I would talk back and the realization that her voice alone could scare me straight. I didn’t fear them out of some authoritarian obligation, but out of respect. And as the child’s grandmother just let the boy run up and down the yard, scrolling nonchalantly on her phone as if he wasn’t even there, every ounce of my upbringing wanted to come out.
And then I thought of myself in a few years, dealing with a fussy newborn while on one of my infamous Target or grocery store runs. I think of the judging glances cast my way as I’d fiddle with their bib or try to pat their back to soothe them. The loud sighs as the crying continued and the annoyed stances as I tried to hurry along in line. I think of all of the mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas who endure that struggle every day.
And I still wouldn’t put up with that Bebe’s kid.