I should really not leave my house, because when I do, I get annoyed by the people I encounter. As you may know, I've got two rugrats and a shopping addiction, so I spend a lot of time in children's clothing stores. The other day I was in such a store. I was moving as quickly as possible and trying not to interact with anyone.
That being said, I couldn't help but notice little Enid. Enid was an adorable, four-ish-year-old who was shopping with her mother. But as cute as Enid was, it could not hide the fact that she was the spawn of the Devil. She was single-handedly destroying the store while Mommy browsed casually (on the flipping phone, of course!). Every now and again Mommy would say, "Enid? Sweetie? Where are you?" Enid would stand on a table used display shorts and say sweetly, "I'm right here, Mommy." Mommy would reply, "Oh, OK. Be careful up there, Enid. You don't want to get hurt. Maybe you should get down? Thank you so much, sweetie pie."
OK, where do I begin with all the problems I have with this conversation? Let me start by explaining how it would go if my kid was standing on the table display in the middle of store: "Are you insane? Get down this instant. What is wrong with you? LEGOs/Puppy (he's stuffed, not real, relax PETA people)/whatever the favorite toy is these days are off limits for a week. You know better than that." I'm not going to go so far as to say my kid would NEVER behave that way, because I'm a realist and my kids can do some crazy stuff.
But seriously, what is the deal with asking our children to behave? "Maybe you should get down?" What the hell is wrong with you lady? She's four. There's no room for negotiating here. I'm all for giving my kids choices to make them feel like they're in control of something, blah, blah, blah, but this is not the time. "Maybe" should be reserved for times like: "Do you want to wear a dress today or MAYBE a skirt?"
I'm around kids and their parents a lot. So I get to see this crap a lot. It's ridiculous. When I go to a park I hear, "Elbert, are you ready to go?"
Mom looks whipped, "Elbert, please? Mommy is tired and we need to get your sister down for a nap."
"NO!" Elbert continues running around like a madman, throwing mulch and screeching like a hyena.
"OK, how about five more minutes?"
Mom is at a loss. "Ten more minutes?"
"Is that more than five?"
Mom looks around to see if anyone else has seen how precocious Elbert is, "Yes, pumpkin it sure is."
"Hmmph." And the monster runs off victorious.
The worst is when it has to do with you. You know, when Elbert attacks your kid at the park.
"Oh my, he's never done that before." Come on dad, you and I both know that's not true. "Elbert, let's not hit our new friends, OK?"
Dad is at a loss here. Time to divert Elbert. "How about some ice cream?"
"OK, pal! Let's go. Say good bye to your new friend."
Are you kidding me? Your kid just attacked my kid with a stick and now he gets ice cream? Wow, can I be your kid? Even my bleeding kid looks like he's weighing the pros and cons of joining Elbert's family. Sure, I get the snot beat out of me, but then we get ice cream ...
I'm all for questioning kids actions: Why did you do that? What were you thinking? That sort of thing. But, these little people are always looking for an out. Why would you ever ask: "What should we have for dinner?" (McDonald's) "Do you want to do your homework?" (No way.) "Why don't you go take a bath?" (Because I hate getting wet.)
The second your kid hears your voice go up, he knows there's wiggle room and why wouldn't he try?
I don't know if it's guilt or fatigue that makes these parents behave this way, but either way, it just annoys the hell out of me. There are so many different parenting strategies out there and I don't know which one this falls into, but people, put down the damn parenting books and use common sense!
Your kid SHOULD NOT be standing on a store display.
You SHOULD NOT be asking your child to stop assaulting other children on the playground.
It's not going to wreck Elbert's delicate psyche if you tell him to knock it off and stop acting like a monkey instead of a human being. He can still grow up to be a contributing member of society even if you think you might have crushed his little spirit.
In fact, I would argue, Elbert will be a BETTER member of society if he learns now to walk on a floor and respect people's personal space. Plus, if you don't stop this little monster when he's four, imagine what Elbert will be like when he's 15? Probably a lot like Tommy Jordan's kid.