As a parent, your patience is pushed to the limit. Forever tired and constantly fighting a losing battle against a knee-high tyrant that you really should win (but just can’t), there are certain situations that will always test you, despite your tolerance being fortified by unhealthy levels of caffeine…
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I’ve been fully immersed in the parenting world for almost four years now and while I anticipated boundaries would be pushed and tensions increased by the behaviour of children, one source of irritation I’ve been surprised by, has been other parents.
I don’t want to be too judgemental (but I will anyway) and critique other parents and the way they bring up their children, but with my attention constantly tuned to parenting these days, I often identify incidents that I think are just a bit…off. None of us are perfect parents despite the way our Instagram accounts look (!), but surely my exasperations can’t just be put down to my cranky old ways? So without further ado, here are three things that really grind my gears… (Sorry if you do anyof these, please don’t hate me!)
Checks for flights to a remote island to hide from tirade of abuse
1.Five Minutes Peace. Actually, Two Hours Peace
We all know the lovely children’s book Five Minutes Peace, where Mrs Large the elephant seeks some time, away from her children, if only for just a few moments. We’d all like that now and again wouldn’t we? Just a few minutes to recharge the batteries before further mayhem. But some parents seem to take those five short minutes, multiply them by 200 and instead of escaping to the nearby bath-tub like Mrs Large, disappear off the face of the planet, removed of parental responsibility.
My first experiences of this came when I started taking Edie to soft play. Before I’d ever attended a soft play, I assumed they were a child’s heaven. Then it hit me. Actually, it hit Edie, hard in the face; soft play is hell on earth. Brutish children are left to run riot and bully their way around the foam jungle as their parents escape their responsibilities over a Nescafe Gold Blend and a Ginsters pasty.
Parents seem oblivious to their ill-mannered children barging smaller kids out of the way and turning what was supposed to be a safe environment, into one resembling a wrestling ring. Sure, there’s the odd sweaty parent struggling over the foam-covered poles ensuring their offspring make it out alive, but these committed parents have also unintentionally and unfairly become referees to the carnage.
I’m not proposing the answer is for parents to follow their children round telling them off at the first sign of a ball-pit cannonball, it would just be nice to see a parent showing that they have spent a little time teaching their children the importance of good behaviour, manners and responsibility.
My other experience of this came recently at a child’s birthday party where several parents just dropped their kids off before legging it as fast as they could. I’m pretty sure it didn’t mention on the invite that the host was actually agreeing to be a babysitter for two hours, I might have missed that bit though, not sure. When an invitation has been received it should be seen as a privilege, not an opportunity, and isn’t it just a lovely opportunity to watch your child have fun? Also, and more importantly, how would you feel if your child choked, fell ill, got injured or wandered off from the party? It doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
And breathe, rant over. Look what you started Mrs Large with that ruddy bath you wanted!
What the heck did that poor pigeon do to be harassed by a toddler through the centre of town? Or that panicked mother duck, who’s been hounded away from her ducklings at the farm? Ok, so these incidents are clearly innocent enough in isolation - of course a toddler knows no better, but those that should know better are the parents cackling away at the sight of the worried animal being pursued by their child. Knowing how to behave around animals is a key lesson when growing up; it’s vital to learn how to enjoy them but importantly, how to respect them, which let’s face it, is just a key lesson in life. And, you know all that crusty pigeon poo on your car… Karma is a wonderful thing.
3.Public displays of un-affection (I don’t think that’s a word but you get the idea)
We’ve all been there: the supermarket, the centre of town or in a swanky Italian restaurant like Pizza Hut, when an unexpected meltdown erupts from a child’s tiny lungs and cheeks glow a peculiar red, a tone David Attenborough would observe as a demonstration of menace or warning when stalking in the wild. And like the wild beasts he pursues, our children adopt a temporary feral persona as they attract the threat of disapproving passers-by. Before you know it, you have a toddler, lashing in all directions and lying face down on a dirty floor, refusing to budge. Much like a wild creature refusing to retreat from a rival, an inevitable stand-off then ensues between parent and child. A number of factors, some innocent, some not, might have triggered the situation, but to ease the outburst, public humiliation of a child is probably, actually definitely, in my opinion, to be avoided.
Kids will have tantrums, there’s an inevitability to it when they’re so young and full of emotion, but what gets to me, is not the screaming kids, no, it’s the parents who roar wildly at their children, making the already stressed child worse. Remember, children have under-developed, immature minds, it’s easy to forget that when they’re horizontal on a pavement, but when they’re clearly seeking attention, it might work to provide said attention to them, but sensitively rather than confrontationally. I’m certainly not perfect, but I think I’ve learnt now after a few ice-cream aisle outbursts, reasoning with them calmly instead of using a thunderous threat, might work better than public humiliation. Instead of losing our cool, let’s put ourselves in their tiny shoes, where sometimes, just like the animals they are, emotions run wild. Some of us could perhaps just do a better job of helping our children control those emotions. You don’t see Lord Attenborough telling that silverback he won’t be getting a Happy Meal if he doesn’t stop beating his chest do you? And if reasoning with them sensitively to find a resolution doesn’t work, just dump them at a birthday party for a couple of hours and let someone else deal with it.
And there we have it, three issues I’ve found myself somewhat frustrated by since becoming a parent; responsibility avoiding, pigeon abusing, public humiliators – is that you? If so, please don’t hate me! And before you track me down and plant a pigeon’s decapitated head in my bed, just think how some simple changes to the way a child is treated and guided by their parents could benefit them and the way they treat others.
Boards flight to remote island