If someone told me how I should mother my children, I would tell them where the shortest cliff was so they could take a long walk off it. Recently, however, I have found myself itching to do just that: to tell parents to do or not do something involving the care of their child.
When I was a kid I grew up under the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ rule. I was taught it was rude to behave badly when out in public. I had to to be quiet when in a shop or cafe or museum and I was always informed of my manners (or lack thereof!). When at home I was free to do what I wanted (within reason) but if I went to a friends house or out with my parents, the Good Act had to be played as I’m sure it did with most kids. Keep in mind I lived in the UK where people are much more outspoken and you got in s**t for anything so I’m wondering if being in Canada things are a little different or if it is just a sign of the times? Remember that age old threat, “Wait till your father gets home!” Apparently that doesn’t work anymore.
What the heck happened?!
Today, as I was enjoying a coffee in my favourite cafe with my three year old son, I witnessed a whirling dervish of a child who was a ball of running, screaming, dangerous energy. He couldn’t have been far off my sons age and his mother was looking after something even smaller. I know what it is like to have two kids under the age of three – I did that – however I don’t think that can excuse you for knowingly letting your child run up and down a very small space, screaming loudly and disturbing other patrons. This child was a health and safety nightmare! The cafe is on a major road with lots of cars, trucks and large streetcars. The front door is usually always open during the summer to let in the cool air so it wouldn’t take much for him to run clean out and meet with an unhappy accident. There are also shelves with breakable items on them and, let me see, oh yes! People with scolding hot coffee walking around. If he ran into them, another accident. And yet his mother just sat there, watching, with a look of, ‘isn’t he precious!’ on her face.
Looking around I could see patrons were getting irritated by the noise. The staff within the cafe were also looking nervously at each other and I’m sure one of them was wondering if something should be said. When I worked in a restaurant I did have a few occasions involving unruly children – any kids who ran around or were uncontrolled I had no issue telling their parents to deal with it. I told them it was too dangerous and we wouldn’t be responsible for any damages to their kid if he/she got burned, tripped or walked into. I have also seen other patrons taking matters into their own hands but it never worked out too well. I think parents get embarrassed and angry, even though they have no intention of fixing the problem in the first place.
In this situation there were a few things I wasn’t sure of, for example was the mother a previous employee and a friend to everyone there? Was she the owners sister? Perhaps she was well known in the community and this sort of thing was the normal routine! Regardless of all that would it be bad to say something about her child’s behavior? Would it be bad if I walked up to her and said ‘Shut your child up and control him before he has an accident!’ Should this be the line that can be crossed?
I’ve had a total stranger walk up to my infant daughter and physically pull her thumb out of her mouth because they said it was wrong of her to so that. The person was lucky to be able to walk off the subway train. That is a line wrongly crossed. However when it is something that is inherently annoying and rude and potentially disastrous, is it OK to assume something can be said or just wait for the inevitable to happen and then think, ‘I told you so,’ before feeling guilty for not preventing the disaster.
Before I had the chance to actively carry out this thought the delightful party left but it made me wonder: if I had stood up and said something, would it have caused a huge fuss? Would I have been glared at for crossing that line?
Your thoughts? Would you say or have you said something in a similar situation? Have you had a total stranger tell you how to be a parent and was it positive or negative?