I don't want to make a hero out of Charles Schmidl, but I understand his frustration.
And I am not sure I would not have done the same thing in his place.
Schmidl reportedly took the law into his own hands Friday at the Amherst Pepsi Center. He and his 5-year-old son were skating when they apparently encountered the 10-year-old of any parent's nightmares.
Perhaps thinking he was auditioning for a remake of the 1956 horror epic "The Bad Seed," the kid began firing pucks at the Schmidls from about 20 feet, hitting the father in the leg. When he asked the youngster to stop, Schmidl said, the boy called him an expletive and suggested he see a psychologist.
Schmidl said he left the ice in search of arena staff, security or one of the boy's parents. Finding none of the above, he returned to the ice to more abuse, with the 10-year-old joined by two belligerent, puck-shooting friends.
"The utmost importance to me was the safety of my 5-year-old," Schmidl said by phone Tuesday. "If one of those slap shots caught my son in the ribs, he would have been severely hurt."
Schmidl said he grabbed the 10-year-old by the front of the jacket and dragged him off the ice. Police arrived and charged Schmidl with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment.
I can't blame the cops for following the letter of the law. Putting your hands on someone else's kid crosses a line. As hard as it might have been, Schmidl should have swallowed his pride, walked away and written off the 6 bucks of ice time.
But this is one of those times when, more than anything else, I wish there were a law against bad parenting. Any 10-year-old who fires pucks at a father and his 5-year-old, trash-talks to an adult and acts like the spawn of Chucky is in serious need of emotional adjustment. Turning a kid like this loose is grounds for a permanent place in the Bad Parenting Hall of Fame.
Schmidl said the incident lasted 40 minutes, during which time the boy's mother -- who said she was in the restroom -- was nowhere to be found.
This is bigger than one kid, one parent and one afternoon. It is about parents who don't discipline their kids, who blame every misbehavior on somebody else, and the spoiled brats they produce. Kids who are this out of control don't happen overnight. It takes years of coddling and lack of consequences to craft a kid who confronts and cusses out an adult. Congratulations are not in order.
Truth is sometimes elusive in these emotional, family vs. family disputes. But Amherst cops, based on interviews with various people present, believe that Schmidl is telling the truth. Beyond that, the boy has a history of bad behavior. The family has gotten warning letters from the Pepsi Center staff about the kid's bad attitude. The clan apparently bears little resemblance to the Cleavers.
"We were already familiar with this family," said John Moslow, Amherst's police chief.
The Amherst Pepsi Center, which for years had budget problems, needs to rethink its lack of staff and security. Folks are not supposed to be terrorized by mini-demons at the rink. And what happens if somebody has a heart attack?
Schmidl, 38, has no doubt that the kid was trying to hurt him and his son.
"He was skating right up to us and taking slap shots at me," Schmidl said.
If so, the kid should be grounded for a month, write a letter of apology, have his Xbox taken away and be denied TV privileges. Somehow, I don't think any of that is going to happen.
In fact, it would not surprise me if the boy and his parents believe that this was all Schmidl's fault. After all, in this kid's mind, any adult ought to be able to stop a few slap shots without complaining.