Thursday, March 01, 2007

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Ok, I have just returned from my local supermarket where I was witness to an unfortunate event. Its ok, I'm alright and the event did not involve me personally. Actually, in the grand scheme of things, it will seem pretty mundane. I saw a three year old having a tantrum. Now I know you have probably heard of this phenomenon, and many of you will have probably seen it. So I would have you ask yourself objectively right now, what did I do when I saw something like this?

You see, it wasn't the tantrum that most caught my attention. It wasn't even the manner in which the mother decided to handle the situation. It was the onlookers. I tell you, if it wasn't illegal to slap people, there would be a few red faces leaving Safeway right now. Ok, so the little guy was getting right into it. He was determined not to be ignored and was succeeding admirably. His mother was clearly frustrated but determined not to give in to the little monster's demands. Actually, it could be because he was yelling so hard his demands were pretty hard to make out. No, this young mother had decided to ignore her son's misbehaviour and proceed through the checkout, treating him as if he were not yelling. She spoke to him calmly though the frayed edges were beginning to show.

There are many schools of thought on the best manner to deal with such a tantrum and each parent has to decide for themselves which will be the most effective for their own child. Whatever the case, unless the child is in danger of being harmed, I feel it is best to let parents sort things out for themselves, unless they actually ask for advice. Clearly their were other points of view in the checkout lanes today.

Apparently some people think it is acceptable to openly discuss appropriate parenting methods in the hope that the errant parent will adopt the clearly more sensible point of view and in doing so will miraculously cure their child of that pesky case of personality. Those people should be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. This mother was clearly doing her level best to contain and control the situation and it certainly didn't help to have stupid people spouting things like, "I would never let my child behave like that." I actually heard someone suggestion that a good hard kick in the behind would get the little bugger in line. Hello Fool!. We don't kick people in this society and you should thank your lucky stars we don't. And we especially don't beat children into "line".

This little boy may have been misbehaving because he wasn't allowed to have a chocolate and I know many of you would consider his reaction fair and just. But it may not have been chocolate, it may have been a toy or chips or lollies or he may have just been overtired. He may have a chemical imbalance or some behavioural disorder. Having been witness only to the tantrum, and many children have tantrums, it should suffice to say that unless he was wearing a T-Shirt that said "The bitch won't let me have chocolate!", I would have to assume I do not know enough about the situation to offer any unrequested advice. Apparently not everyone shares my point of view. Of course, I lack the ability to fully define a complete personality profile of someone I have never met and have no information about beyond the fact that they appear upset.

Then there were the people who watch and laugh nervously. These people are stupid but are not so bad as the first group. You see, these people want to help both the mother and child by trying to "lighten" the situation. They hope that the child will see that life can indeed be happy and the mother can see that this situation can be laughed at. They are actually trying to help but are simply too stupid to know how. Now, I know that sometimes, a child having a tantrum can be very, VERY, funny. And even though I know I shouldn't, I have laughed long and loud at some of Princess' outbursts. But this situation was not funny. And no one there thought it was. These particular people hoped the child would enjoy being given some attention, and that by laughing at the child, he would see that it was himself that was funny. Kids love it when you laugh at something they do ONLY if that was their objective. They HATE being laughed for any other reason.

Parents also don't appreciate being laughed at, but at least have the benefit of being able to understand why people are doing it. The problem this time is that laughing in the hope that the parent will feel that there is a funny side, can backfire seriously. Chances are, unless you know the parent in question, you can count on a backfire. In short, laughing out loud at this sort of situation only makes it worse, so make sure it is really, really funny.

Finally, a few stupid people tried to directly interfere. Mother Theresa would have slapped these people silly and Ghandi would have laced on his best butt kicking boots. When a mother has just taken a lolly off a child to put it back on the shelf, you DON'T offer him some grapes from your own shopping and you DON'T, DON'T EVER, DON'T EVER OR I'LL KICK YOUR BUTT, say to the mother "Ahhh let him have it. He's obviously upset." Yes, moron. We all know he's upset. But if his MOTHER has decided he doesn't need any more lollies, she is probably right.

So, you are probably wondering if I did anything, said anything to help. I did not. You may now be thinking that I should be ashamed that I did not help. I am not. You see, the mother in question did not want help. She did not want advice either. She wanted to disappear. She wanted to be done with this whole mess as quickly as possible. She did not want to have another scene made over her, no matter how kindly it was intended. I wanted to give her a big hug (not because she was blonde and attractive) and tell her it would be ok. But the truth is I have no idea if it would be. I don't know that this kid wasn't going to scream at her everyday until he committed suicide in a jail cell. I don't know that he wasn't going to fall into a sound and peaceful sleep as she drove out of the car park. I only know she wanted to be left alone and to get out as quickly as possible. The attendants at Safeway very subtly enabled a closing checkout nearby to allow one more through without making any fuss. Kudos to them.

Its a tough gig being a parent, but its tougher for some than others. It can be because we are not prepared or because our child has special needs. It can be because of so many things, that most of the time, we will never know precisely why things are the way they are. DW and I are lucky because as challenging as Princess and Little Man are, we get a lot back from them. In the supermarket today, most of the "stupid" people I was referring to were obviously parents. While it seems counter-intuitive, the people most likely to behave appropriately were those who don't have kids because they don't assume that they know better. We parents, and those who have responsibilities for children, such as teachers, babysitters and so on, can all too often see our own children in the briefest of moments that we see other children. And we judge the best course of action accordingly. But that may be quite wrong.

I do not like to see kids upset. I do not like to see their mothers upset and worse still, to be treated like failures by stupid people who have no idea, compounding the failure they already feel at having been so embarrassed by their wayward child. Jesus said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." I say, "Judged not, because you are probably wrong." and sometimes I say, "Judge not, you idiot."


Thought for the Day: The hare almost always beats the tortoise but lets face it, survival of the fittest is not a moral story.