I don't remember exactly what she was losing her mind over, but she decided she wasn't walking one more step and proceeded to throw herself onto the floor screaming. I picked her up and sat her in the big part of the cart, my eyes shooting daggers at her chubby, tear-stained little face. I continued toward the check out line, tossed a few more things in the basket, and eventually made my way out of my own personal hell on earth.
Shit that was embarrassing.
When my son was 3, we were in a restaurant when he decided he'd had about enough of sitting still in his booster chair. Screaming and kicking and all-around unpleasantness ensued. Not uncommon behavior for a 3 year-old because let's be honest...3 year-olds are nightmarish little creatures. After pleading with him for a couple of minutes to kindly get his act together (and him declining by continuing to not cooperate), my husband removed him from the scene. I asked for a couple of to-go boxes, scooped up what was left of our food, paid the bill and left. Sigh. We tried.
I can personally see a glaring difference in these two situations. While my daughter's tantrum was likely annoying to witness and listen to (and probably humorous to the other moms who were smugly shopping without their children), we weren't preventing anyone from getting their shopping done. She wasn't blocking the aisles or throwing things off shelves, or hindering other customers' general reason for being there.
However, when we were in the restaurant, my son's misbehavior was negatively affecting the dining experience of other patrons. While it was seriously…SERIOUSLY…inconvenient that we had to leave before we were finished, it would have been unfair to stay and ruin it for everyone else who was sitting in our area. We knew that taking a toddler into a restaurant (that wasn't equipped with a jungle gym) was a gamble, and the losing end of that bet was to have to bail before we were ready. We played and lost.
This weekend my husband and I decided to take our kids to tour the Winchester Mansion. We'd gone ourselves several years ago and told the kids about it, and they've been asking for us to take them ever since. If you ever find yourself in the California Bay Area, you should make the drive to San Jose and check it out. But it's not cheap. And there are lots of stairs and windows and tight spaces and not much (any) room inside for running around. Which is why my husband and I were surprised to see a family join our tour with a baby that was probably around a year old, a toddler and what I'd estimate to be a 6 year-old. The parents were so attentive that had I not seen them all walk up together, I wouldn't have even known who the kids belonged to for the rest of the tour (there really should be a sarcasm font). The mom did hold the baby for the duration - except for the time that she put her down and allowed her to repeatedly open and close a couple of the 100+ year-old doors in one of the rooms.
The toddler ran (and I mean ran) ahead of the group the majority of the time. The tour guide even asked him to hold her hand a few times so he wouldn't get hurt - you know, since HIS PARENTS couldn't be bothered to do that. Hellooooo they were here to enjoy the tour, you know.
The 6 year-old left handprints on every century old beautiful leaded glass window she could reach. But in her parents' defense, they didn't realize it seeing as she was so far away from them that they couldn't possibly see her doing that. How could they be expected to tell her to stop if they didn't even know it was happening? DUH.
Fortunately, the kids didn't behave in ways that prevented anyone from being able to listen to the guide or enjoy the tour. They were no more than mildly distracting. And I can't say that I am 100% sure that if one of the kids would have started screaming that their parents wouldn't have done anything about it, because that didn't happen. Thank goodness. But given the indifferent attitude I witnessed the rest of the time, I would have been surprised.
I'm not suggesting parents shouldn't take their kids out in public. Of course they should. That's how they learn appropriate public behavior. But not paying a lick of attention to them or neglecting to reprimand bad behavior is teaching them that it's okay to be inconsiderate of others and the property of others.
And there was my A-HA! moment.
It is no revelation that kids today feel entitled. I truly believe it is becoming an epidemic. But why wouldn't they feel that way? Think about it. They see it all the time in their parents. Those parents this weekend felt no obligation to manage their children's behavior. After all, they paid to be there, too. At least that's the message they were sending to the rest of us.
I think most of us would agree that it's considered taboo to say anything negative to a parent about the way their kid is behaving. Remember - I'm a parent, too. My stance on that is almost always mindyourownbusinessthankyouverymuch. The problem we encounter here is that it seems like people these days feel entitled to take their kids wherever they want and allow them to act however they want - without repercussion. An "I paid to be here, so too bad if my kids ruin it for you," mentality so to speak. That's not okay, either.
There ARE places that it really doesn't matter if your kid has a melt down while you're there (i.e. grocery stores, Target, Wal-Mart, the mall, the park, any restaurant that has a slide in it, any restaurant that gives out game tokens, any location that has a ski-ball machine, any location that rents something to wear on your feet (bowling shoes, roller skates, ice skates, etc.)…and Costco). If you don't have children and choose to go to one of these places, know that there will be children there and there is a good chance that one or 12 of them will be screaming because something isn't going their way. That's what kids do and it's really none of your business if it's not hindering your reason for being there. GET OVER IT.
Then there are the places that it DOES matter if your kid has a melt down while you're there and you need to do something about it. That would include any place yourself AND OTHERS are paying** for the privilege to be. And church. Which I know is a touchy subject because Jesus loves the little children all the children of the world. Well, so do I but that doesn't mean I'd prefer to hear them scream over listening to the message. If they're having a full-on episode, be considerate and take them outside.
I get it. I was a parent of toddlers and I was tired. SO TIRED. I was hoping to be able to hear the entire sermon that one Sunday without having to go to the cry room. It made me want to throw my own little tantrum to have to walk out of the movie when it was only half way over. DAMMIT I just wanted to eat a meal in its entirety. DEARLORDJESUS do you even KNOW how badly I needed to get out of the house and what it took to even get me there in the first place?
The thing is - none of those things were any one else's problem. When I signed up to be a parent, I signed up to miss out on a lot of things that I really would have liked to do. Because even though parenthood is awesome (no really), raising kids and doing the right thing is pretty fucking inconvenient almost all of the time. Deal with it.
**Airplanes don't count. I know it sucks to listen to a screaming kid but what are we supposed to do, throw them out the emergency exit? Get a grip.