Friday, August 20, 2010

Bad Behavior

Well behaved children seem to be few and far between these days. The airports were filled with screamers and runners and whiners and criers and the generally disobedient. The third time the boys aimed the laser pointer at my face I felt called upon to comment. My raised eyebrows hadn't stopped them, nor had my scowl, so they heard my stern, G'ma voice reminding them that blinding strangers probably wasn't the best way for them to occupy their time. Their grown-ups grabbed the device and then went on ignoring them. I sighed and changed my seat.
*****
Sitting on the beach with the Golden Girls, we watched as Maya and Jesse tossed crumbs to the seagulls. Big mistake, kids. Where once there had been one lonely bird floating on the air currents, suddenly there were a dozen or more, squawking and cawing and pecking and generally making a nuisance of themselves. It was a tribute to good parenting as Mike-the-Dad stopped the behavior as they began their second throws. Adding to his wonderfulness was the apology which followed close on the heels of the avian onslaught. Actually, there were two apologies – Mike's from his beach chair and then the one delivered in person by the miscreants themselves. There were many reasons to enjoy the fact of those kids sitting near us; this was just one.
*****
Traveling cross country with the Little Cuter earlier this decade exposed us to a variety of American parenting styles.  Over dinner near the end of our journey, watching overly-boisterous young diners run laps around the room, my perfect daughter looked up from her pasta with a disgusted mien and queried thusly: "You never let us behave like that in public, did you?"
*****
That, I think, is the crux of the matter.  Parents are so concerned about their kids' self-esteem and self-expression that they've lost track of the notion of self-control.  Little banshees drag racing grocery carts in the parking lot, oblivious to the presence of the elderly and the Porsches alike, reflect badly on the parenting skills of their adults.  I find it hard to be aggravated with the kids themselves.  Honestly, it looked like a lot of fun.  But I hear G'ma telling me that there is no way, no how that I am ever going to do something like that as long as she is alive and breathing, so I get in my car and drive safely home.
*****
This post was sparked by Matt Lauer's Today show interview with Dina Lohan, mother of poor little Lindsay.  Apparently, Lindsay is not to blame for getting herself in enough trouble to require jail time and court mandated rehab; it's all the fault of the paparazzi.  In fact, the Lohans are starting a foundation to support the victims of tabloid journalism..... and they are accepting donations.

According to Dina, "you can't make your child not go out and go to a club and not get behind the wheel of a car." That is probably true if you wait until she is 18 or 19 before you exert any influence.  I remember a play group mom laughing as I insisted that the 18 month old Big Cuter put his napkin in his lap and say please and thank you.  Should I have waited until he was 12 to try to instill good manners?  I don't think so.

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