Yesterday I met up with a good friend for a coffee. A “good friend” at this stage of the parenting game is someone you see once a year or more by choice outside of any obligations of work or because they are related to a friend of one of your children. It’s a sad state of affairs that you often see the people you like best the least and spend much of your time with people you have little in common with outside of work or parenting. This is not to say I haven’t made some good friends simply because their kids are friends with my kids – I have and it’s been great to be exposed to a whole new group of people at a similar stage of life with shared experiences. It’s really not since University that you probably have gone through such a thorough rearranging of friendships and personal networks. But still. Still. You have good friends from important stages of your life that you never see unless you work really hard at it – and the best you’re often likely to achieve is a couple of times a year.
This is all to say that I get it – I understand the desire of the woman with the feral two year old child left to roam Starbucks so she could catch up with her dear dear friend from when she was young and had dreams and an exciting future. But honey, babe, sweets, you clearly did not get the memo – THERE IS NO HANGING OUT WHEN YOU HAVE SMALL KIDS. That is over. Until at least, like my friend and I, your kids are in full day school or daycare.
My friend and I, both with young children, been through the kids wars etc., would regularly pause in bewilderment and increasing outrage as we watched various Starbuck staff return said child from his peregrinations of the store and its various displays. Over and over again. I’m not sure but it looked like by the end the staff behind the counter were doing rock paper scissors over who would corral the kid this time.
It is so selfish and unfair to make other people have to put up with your kids because you cannot be bothered to do the work which is parenting. Yes. I am uptight and rules-governed. And your point? I look after my kids so that other people do not have to. It is not their job, their responsibility and it is certainly not the obligation of minimum wage service workers – they have milk to froth. What further bothers me about these lazy-fair parents is their unbridled outrage if you need to speak to their child about their behaviour.
A couple of years ago I took my kids to a water park. We were standing in line and this snaky little kid cut in front of us, in particular in front of my kid who was younger and smaller so I called snake on it. Told him to go to the back of the line like everyone else did and wait his turn. The SHOCK on his face to be told to follow the rules. The FURTHER SHOCK when I insisted and made no bones about that he had no option. He slunk to the back and I thought it was over. My kids embarrassed again about me speaking out in public about bad behaviour (BTW I do this to adults too – it can get tense).
Imagine my disbelief when snake brings his mummy over to me later to chew me out.
“Did you speak to a little boy in line?”
“Yes. I told him to go to the back of the line because he was cutting in front of other people.”
Did she get that her kid was being a shit? No. She was outraged that I would dare speak to him and then further outraged that I refused to apologize. Is it any wonder that the kid behaves as he does? Apple meet Tree. She finally swept off telling her child to stay away from “this bad man” i.e. me. Fine by me. If you don’t want other people not to tell your kids that they’re misbehaving then manage them yourself.
In fact think it is my duty to point out to people when they are breaking the rules of civility because otherwise we end up with an uncivil society. Sure people don’t like it, they get angry, they get defensive but maybe, just maybe, if enough of us speak up they’ll get that they just can’t behave a certain way.
I’ve also been on the other end of people telling me essentially that I am doing a bad job as a parent.
( See http://popculture-superdad.blogspot.ca/2012/09/and-there-were-wolves.html)
The result: 1) Yeah, I know that. I go to bed every night knowing that and swear I’ll try to do better next time and that I’ll probably fail; 2) It makes you angry sometimes – how dare this person judge you?; 3) Sometimes they’re right and, after you get over yourself, you try and do better; and 4) Sometimes they’re wrong and, if so, you can just shrug it off and go on your way.
So back to Starbucks. This kid was too young to be spoken to – it wasn’t his fault – it was his mother’s. After the fourth time of her kid being returned it finally happened. CRASH!!! Behind us the kid broke one of the mugs on display. Surprise. Surprise. The mother didn’t even seem apologetic. She just quickly got up, I think paid for the mug and left (with the kid).
What goes on in these people’s heads? Maybe she just figured a $10 mug was cheaper that paying a babysitter.