Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spare the rod

posted Mon, 18 Oct 2004

I stopped at TJMaxx on the way home tonight. It’s time for a new winter coat. Yes, the one I bought ten years ago for ten dollars at a used clothes store in Chile is still perfectly good. It is made of a heavy wool and has nice hand stitching detail. It is an exceptionally well-made coat with lovely tailoring, but it is a man’s coat and it just doesn’t look that good on me. And my purse always slides off my shoulder, which is a problem.

Today was not the ideal day for coat shopping. It is humid and 80 degrees, but I have discovered that if you actually wait until you need a piece of seasonal clothing, it will no longer be in the stores. The time to buy bathing suits is at Christmas; the time to buy winter coats is at Fourth of July. I don’t make these rules, so don’t yell at me.

But I’m not going to write about the insanity of retail marketing, although the sight of Christmas merchandise already makes me want to scream. No, I want to write about children’s behavior in public places.

I’m sure there were children who behaved badly when I was I child. I know I even behaved badly upon occasion. (Yes, it is true, even as I hear the gasps of disbelief among you.) But I can promise you that this misbehavior was not tolerated for long. My parents did not believe in back-sassing, obnoxious children.

But in the store tonight were a brother and a sister who were out of control. The boy was screaming – a tantrum scream, not a “my finger is caught in the car door” scream – and his mother was ignoring it. He was old enough to know better, maybe four years or so. Then his older sister was playing peek-a-boo with him, which was fine for a few seconds, but then the game turned into extreme peek-a-boo at an extremely high volume, pitch and word speed.

I muttered to the cashier, “I guess it’s better than screaming.”

But as the “peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo, PEEKABOO, PEEKABOOPEEKABOOPEEEEKABOOOO!!” continued, I said, “But then, maybe not.”

The mother still said nothing to shush her very loud daughter. “My mother would never have tolerated that sort of behavior from me,” I said.

“Mine neither,” the cashier replied as the woman behind me in line nodded in agreement.

Is this tolerance of behavior from children that would be completely unacceptable in an adult part of this ridiculous “self esteem” movement? (True self esteem comes from conquering obstacles, not from being told you are great.)

Or is it just lazy parenting? You know – the “I am my child’s friend” school of raising children. (No, you’re not. You are your child’s parent and as such have the responsibility to set boundaries and raise a human being fit to inhabit society with the rest of us.)

I’m not saying that children were perfect when I was a kid. I am saying that when we acted up, there were consequences. There were many Sundays when my siblings and I spent a half hour after mass kneeling in the corner. None of this slouching stuff, either – we knelt straight with our noses touching the wall.

Parents: even if you have learned to tune out your children’s obnoxiousness, the rest of us are not deaf. Discipline your children. It is your responsibility. If you do not, someone will do it for you. And the rest of us aren’t related to your kids, so we don’t have a reason to like them or be nice to them. They have to earn our affection. Don’t make it hard for them.

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