Dr Helen (here and here) and Captain Capitalism both have recent posts on parents being incensed when their poorly behaved children aren’t welcome. They have inspired me to write my own post on the topic.
My wife and I were married for 10 years before we had our first child. During that time whenever we witnessed out of control kids the standard refrain was you’ll understand when you have kids. When our daughter was about three we were at a restaurant when a mother (passively) sent her 5 year old daughter to our table to investigate the toys our daughter was quietly playing with. I must have given her a look, because her comment to me was you’ll understand when you have more than one child. Now that we have two, I can honestly say that I still don’t allow our daughter to join other diners at their table or even stand in the booth and turn around to stare at the family on the other side. Obviously I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t change my view on this if I had a few more kids, but I’m pretty confident this wouldn’t be the case. Either way, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most annoying types of parents for your reading enjoyment. I haven’t assigned them numbers, because really they are all winners. Feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments section.
The world is my babysitter. These parents range from the ones who pretend not to notice as their young child joins you at your table at the restaurant (often begging for food) to the ones who actively encourage their children to attach on to you while they are shopping or perhaps reading a novel on a long flight. When my wife worked for a department store one mother told her young son to talk with the nice lady while she went about her browsing. The child was learning his ABCs, and was singing a song to help him remember. By the time his mother returned he was singing a slightly different version of the song: K is for cookie, that’s good enough for me! Cookie cookie cookie starts with K! His oblivious mother of course was the epitome of etiquette: Now thank the nice lady! Another great trick is to teach the child foisted on you some new form of bodily function humor. It doesn’t have to be creative; barfing sounds or armpit farts will do just fine. Then tell the delighted child go show mommy and/or daddy!
Don’t worry, I have a gun. I don’t have anything against children at shooting ranges, so long as they are safe and under the control of their parents. My father started taking me shooting when I was in the third grade. It was serious business and I was always under his control. Fortunately, irresponsible parents at shooting ranges are very rare, and no range-master worth his salt will let this kind of thing get by. I was a member of a sportsman’s club many years ago which had a private self policed range. It was out on the prairie and had a combination lock on the gate. One day I was sighting my rifle in when a truck pulled up with a 10 year old boy riding on the back bumper. The father then proceeded to hand his hyperactive son all manner of uncased firearms for the boy to put on the shooting tables. I don’t know what happened next because I gathered my stuff and left. Another time at a public range an unattended young teen set up shop at the station immediately to my left. I was in a right handed station and his was a lefty one. This wouldn’t have been a problem if he was shooting a lefty rifle, but he proceeded to drop hot brass down my collar with his right handed rifle. I mentioned this to him several times, and each time he stopped long enough for me to let my guard down before starting back up. I’ve since found a better policed range.
What crash? I didn’t hear anything. Whenever you see unattended children running around in public, wait a few minutes for the inevitable crashing sound and/or blood curdling scream. Then look for the only people who didn’t seem to notice. The ones who didn’t turn their heads or even wince are the parents. Often times these parents fear that their children won’t be able to achieve the velocity required to create a spectacular enough crash, and equip their children with roller skates disguised as sneakers.
I couldn’t find a sitter. These parents are most often found bringing their young children with them to wholly inappropriate movies. When my wife and I watched Saw 37 (or maybe it was 38) there were more children under 10 in the theater than there were adults. I also distinctly remember watching a horror movie about an evil tooth fairy with 4 and 5 year old children in the audience. Yes, I know, I’ll understand if I have more kids. Or not.
The world will now stop while my 4 year old ponders the menu. I’ve never been a waiter, so my only direct experience with this is being behind these parents at a fast food restaurant. Little Billy has ordered the same thing the last 20 times they were here, but his parents want to make sure he takes his time ordering to get the most out of his dining experience. Crucial to the process is that he not consider what he wants until the family is actually ordering. Asking him to make up his mind while in line would harm his delicate sense of self, potentially scarring him for life. For extra points, many moms will wait until precious little Billy has made up his mind and then suggest maybe he would like something else better: But you always get chicken nuggets. Wouldn’t you rather have a hamburger? Lather, rinse, repeat. The only thing which will convince these parents to speed the process along is if another cashier becomes free and the people behind them will no longer have to wait.
The rules don’t apply to me, my child is disabled. Some kids have special needs; we all get that. But some parents take this understanding as an invitation to be irrational. The neighbor down the street has a son who is deaf. When we moved in she made it a point to visit with me to warn us of the risk that he wouldn’t hear us when we were driving through the neighborhood. So far, just a concerned parent taking extra precautions. But then we notice that she has set up a basketball hoop on the curb facing the street. The only way her son can use it is to stand in the street next to a (busy enough) intersection while facing away from all traffic. At one point she walked down the street on the sidewalk while her son rode his bicycle at a walking pace in the middle of the street. I’m told she looked annoyed when my wife laid on the horn behind him.
The rolling road block. I always picture this family as three generations all holding hands. But in practice they are careful not to hold hands, because this would limit their ability to fully spread out while walking in a parking lot, crossing a street, or walking in a store. Key to their strategy is to place the most indecisive member of the family in the leadership position. This could be an aging grandparent, but works just as well with a 4 year old. Age doesn’t matter, so long as they don’t have a plan. Then the rest of the family fans out to make sure no one can get around them. Some families will run faking plays where the 4 year old appears to be the leader and fakes right but then at the last minute granny or mommy turns left. When this play is properly executed, half of the family briefly follows the false leader and then mills around in feigned confusion for a while before rejoining the herd. Toddlers are best employed in the cleanup position, waiting until the rest of the family has finally cleared out of the way before deciding to join them. Remember, don’t cross in between the toddler and their inattentive parents; this would be rude.
Your kids are my babysitter. This is a special variation on the world is my babysitter, but worthy of separate mention. These parents watch with delight while their children place their hands on your very young child’s face. Your asking them not to do this or moving your baby out of reach is considered extremely rude by these parents. Once at an airport my wife had to remove a young girl’s hand which was covering our 1 year old daughter’s mouth and nose. The father was outraged. Evidently his daughter wanted to see what would happen if our daughter couldn’t breath.
If you keep acting up, I’m going to have to buy you a toy. There are many variations on this theme, but all of them involve a parent who loudly tells their child not to do something and then never follows through. When our daughter was three my wife was shopping with her at Target. A boy around 4 or 5 years old was playing with the phone reserved for associates. His mother told him repeatedly that if he didn’t put it down she wouldn’t buy him the DVD he had picked out. After a while our daughter observed “He won’t get the DVD now because he didn’t listen to his mommy”. The little boy was horrified and ran off. My wife bought her a special toy that day.
Your mouth is writing checks your ass can’t cash. This is a similar parent to the one immediately above, but instead of coming across as pushovers they come across as bullies. The child is constantly harangued with threats of what will happen to them if they don’t shape up, but no effective discipline is ever enacted. When my wife and I were dating there was a family at the table next to us in a coffee shop where the father (or perhaps mother’s boyfriend) kept telling the boy at the table that his mouth was writing checks his ass couldn’t cash. I could never tell if the kid really was acting up or not, but either way the man kept repeating the same phrase the entire time we were there.