I know I often mention the workload and the stress that come with full-time parenting of multiple small children, but there are many things I appreciate about my kids. Some of them are biological and hereditary rather than my parenting achievements, like their disinterest in the contents of their own diapers as a possible artistic medium. Some, however, are clear parenting achievements.
One of those achievements is their set of basic social skills. My kids have been drilled mercilessly on the use of “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome”, and use those terms when their use is warranted, almost every time. They usually say “I’d like…” rather than “I want…”, and they get corrected every time they use the other phrase. (However else they turn out later in life, they will be polite.) This should not be an unusual property among even young children—all it takes is insisting on the use of the right words when phrasing a request—but every once in a while I’m reminded that this is by no means the case.
Another one of our parenting achievements is the ability to walk a store with our kids without undue fussing, whining, or tantrums. I can count the number of tantrums either of my kids has thrown in public on the fingers of one hand, and have enough fingers left over to work a fountain pen. The first time Quinn ever threw a tantrum in public, we left the store post haste, leaving the shopping cart where it was. The second time, he was reminded what happened the last time, and that we would do the very same thing if he didn’t shape up and stop the fussing. Lyra only ever had one meltdown in a store, and it was a rather mild one that involved two minutes of crying and another minute of the sniffles. Today, we went to Wallyworld for some assorted goods, and passing the toy aisles started the usual requests of “I’d like to get a new car/truck/boat”. All it took for me was to say “We’re not here for toys right now,” and ten seconds of grumbling, but there were no tantrums, and I didn’t have to repeat the explanation.
Before this post just turns into one big “Let me Tell You How Great My Kids Are, Thereby Boring You To Tears”…I have a lot of sympathy for the parents whose kids do throw a tantrum in the store. They’re little sociopaths at the preschool age (and often beyond), and they haven’t yet learned to control their emotions (and some never will.) That’s why we don’t let kindergartners drive, buy guns, or vote. Sometimes, a kid has a Very Bad Day, and the parent doesn’t have the time or energy to leave the full shopping cart where it stands and haul the kid back to the car to protect the sensibilities of the store’s other customers. A lot of child-free people roll their eyes at such a scene, and assume all kinds of things about the parenting abilities of the Mom or Dad in attendance. Believe me when I tell you that the parent in question is way more stressed out by that display than you are. You can walk away and shake your head, but the parent has to deal with the tantrum and the embarrassment. (Oh, and good luck trying to remember your shopping list when Junior is losing his shit in the cereal aisle.)
I always give them a knowing and sympathetic smile. It’s easy to be a curmudgeon in that situation, but cut the kid some slack. He’s going to have to pay back all that money our generation is letting the government borrow…and without his future tax payments, the people in their Thirties right now may have to get used to cat food dinners once they reach retirement age.
Of course, all of the above does not apply to those parents who let their spawn run hog-wild in the store, hollering and taking stuff off the shelves, and being a general nuisance to other customers. A two-year-old’s tantrum is one thing, but disinterested parents giving their feral kids free reign in public spaces is a different thing altogether. Control your children, people. If they don’t learn considerate behavior and manners when they’re preschoolers, they’re not likely to pick those traits up later, and there are more than enough assholes in the world already. Don’t add to the Global Asshole Layer, please.