LIFE AS I KNOW IT, with Lesley Apps
ONE of the most contentious topics around is parenting. It's also the one where I have to master the art of biting my tongue to the point where it bleeds. But not today.
What riles me most of all when it comes to this subject is when see a parent reduce a perfectly capable, well- educated, intelligent person to an insignificant quivering lump of worthlessness, incapable of putting forward an opinion just because they have no offspring.
For one thing parenting isn't neatly contained in a box owned by two people (or in lots of cases, one), there are lots of people involved in the raising of children, grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, but despite that there is some unwritten law that says no one shall dare intrude upon the parental box no matter where it is located - supermarket, cinema, cafe, friends' place, classroom or sporting field.
As that saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child but more fool the person who gives an obnoxious child a glare in a public space, particularly if you are without a two-foot companion yourself because "what would you know".
With this in mind, the declaration of having done rugrat duties myself should give me instant credibility. But it doesn't. Generally speaking, any idiot can have a baby and keep them alive. The actual instilling of character is where the hard work begins and if that starts to go pear-shaped, and well let's just face it, the result is not going to stay contained within a box.
So when junior is acting up in a crowded eatery or during a show and there's seems to be no acknowledgement of this nor any serious attempt to quash it by the senior official on duty, sometimes that's just not good enough. Enter the odd disapproving glare or polite comment and you may as well have pulled out a crucifix and called the kid Damien because you're going to hell anyway.
Perhaps occasionally before rising ready to step into that parental high horse stirrup, you should heed the advice of your childless friends or the reaction of a stranger and use that as some kind of behavioural bar too. Sure, you have the right to go everywhere and take your kids with you, but there's an element of common decency that comes with living in a civilised society but the art of recognising where the line is has dramatically moved in favour of those yet go to the toilet by themselves.
I can't count the number of times I've heard three-year- olds speak to their parents and grandparents atrociously in full view of the general public, and the negotiations that follow are so spectacularly ineffective I want to tell the kid to get lost and take the parent/s to the nearest pub.
Maybe letting a wobbly tot carry a fully-laden milkshake the size of their torso around the food court wasn't the best idea given that man ended up wearing most of it up his trouser leg. I know she was upset but that was because her sweet drink was gone. Anyhow you ran and got her another.
Naturally pointing out scenarios like these, or judging parents as parents like to call it, is fraught with danger (for me mostly) particularly if you can relate to that type of offence and in doing so, take plenty of it.
But sometimes it's just not appropriate to give your precious petals that god-given right to do whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want. Not reining it in appropriately for the sake of those within earshot (which can extend to several hundred metres given the range of arias around), is, to quote a common phrase from those vocal offenders, "just not fair".
It's not mean to pull your child up publicly and call them on their behaviour or withdraw a privilege (that's removing it, not just threatening to). Or if it really becomes untenable, pick up the offender and follow Elvis out of there.
As the daily mantra goes, parenting is never easy but it's not supposed to be. Raising little humans to grow up and be decent, caring, contributing members of society is a big responsibility and stacks of hard work with plenty of mistakes and tantrums along the way but being considerate of other people's right to enjoy that same space while you do this hard work should constitute part of it.
There are venues that are controversially starting to arc up about the rise of children's disruptive behaviour by posting rules and bans which is only perpetuating the 'them and us' attitude.
It's time for the grown-ups to get together on this one and leave the two-year-olds out of the conversation so they can concentrate on making the important decisions, like whether they want a jungle or nautical theme in their bedroom*.
*Overheard in IKEA.
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