December 12, 2005

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Dammit!

As has become our habit in the past few years, we timed the decoration of our Christmas tree for the same day as the annual church pageant. The schedule basically went: Get tree; bring tree home and wrestle it into the house; string up the lights; dress for pageant (two angels and a sheep this year and I had to usher); go to pageant; go to after-pageant cookies and candy party in fellowship hall; come home and put up remainder of tree ornaments.

With the Llama-ettes stoked up on excitement over the tree and the pageant plus massive helpings of cookies, cocoa and candy-canes, by the end of the day I was feeling (as I usually do) that King Herod probably had the right idea after all.

This dovetails a bit with an article Cathy Seipp wrote about badly behaved children and the problems with contemporary "parenting" that I've seen remarked upon here and there in the past few days. In general, I agree that many parents are far too lax with their kids and, at the same time, far too demanding on society to tolerate their little darlins' behavior and I'm hopeful that, as she suggests, the pendulum might have reached the end of its arc and started back the other way. However, before everybody breaks out the torches and pitchforks the next time they see little Johnny having a meltdown at the local Giant, let me offer this:

Raising children is very much like baseball in that we parents do this every day. In baseball, there is no such thing as a perfect season. Even the best teams are going to lose 60-odd games per year. Likewise for parents, the simple fact of the matter is that there are going to be times when, no matter how consciencious we are, no matter how hard we try, things are going to get out of hand. I think this holds particularly true around the holidays, when everybody - parents and children alike - are in a semi-crazed state to begin with.

Now, I'm certainly not defending parents who think they have a "right" to take little Johnny anywhere and everywhere, that he has the "right" to behave however he likes, and God help anybody who dares raise an eyebrow. Since the Llama-ettes came along, we have massively curtailed our own social life specifically to keep them from making public nuisances of themselves. But even we have to go out now and again and take the gels with us. And yes, I have had each of them go to pieces on me in a public spot at various times. Does this mean that I'm an over-indulgent parent? No, it simply means that these are the times when the odds have caught up with me.

I suppose I'm just saying that I don't want to see us go over to the opposite "children should be seen and not heard" extreme. The next time you see some mother standing in line at the grocery store with a flailing, howling three year old wreaking havoc around her, don't automatically condemn her out of hand. Instead, look at the circumstances of the situation. She may or may not be more deserving of sympathy than censure. If she's trying, consider giving her a break.

Of course, if she's not or doesn't seem to think she has to, then you have my full permission to scorn.

Posted by Robert at December 12, 2005 12:23 PM | TrackBack

Amen. All that I will add is that the parent has to recognize a full-blown meltdown when it is in progress so that abrupt goodbyes can be made and parents leave with the screaming kid.

Posted by: LMC at December 12, 2005 01:05 PM

Absolutely. Knowing when to hit the silk is imperative.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 12, 2005 01:14 PM

So long as the mother with the screaming kid doesn't buy the kid a cookie/candy/toy to try and get them to shut up, I am more than willing to cut them some slack when a meltdown happens. HOWEVER, when a parent consistently rewards bad behavior with treats, well, what's the lesson their kid is going to learn? I can't tell you how many times I saw this when I worked retail. It never ceased to amaze me how little kids manipulated their parents into giving them what they wanted At that point, it's up to the parents---the adults---to realize when they're being conned by their kids. If they don't, well, they deserve whatever condemnation comes their way.

Posted by: Kathy at December 12, 2005 02:37 PM

What Kathy said. I'm of the school of parenting thought (not being a parent, of course) that when a kid has a meltdown, ignore them. Leave the premises, but don't even reward the behavior with negative feedback. Ignoring is a good way to stop it outright and prevent a repeat - no reaction is no incentive.

Posted by: jen at December 12, 2005 02:56 PM

"Ignoring is a good way to stop it outright and prevent a repeat - no reaction is no incentive."

Hahahaaa. I gave into the Dark Side a long time ago.....

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 12, 2005 03:00 PM

You have to be willing to pack up and leave the grandparents' house with a howling two year-old under one arm like a suitcase, even if you have been there only ten minutes. What I tell my son is this: "I am at least five times your size and I am going to win every time."

Posted by: LMC at December 12, 2005 03:32 PM

I agree with everyone here, but I'd also add that the necessity of the activity should mitigate the amount of scorn heaped upon the parent. There are some chores and tasks that must be done, and there is no way to avoid it. In those cases, I'd judge the parent based on what they do to make the best of the situation.

Although I have to say, I find it highly ironic how many people I've heard who are adamantly against public smoking bans, but think parents should be kicked out if their children are annoying.

Posted by: Brian B at December 12, 2005 03:32 PM

Brian - You're quite correct. Grocery stores, for instance, merit more leeway. Five-star restaurants and orchestral performances merit a strict, "What do you think you're doing bringing a kid in here in the first place?" response. That's what I meant about curtailing our own social activities, not that we went to five-star restaurants much before.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at December 12, 2005 04:30 PM

I couldn't tell you where the nearest Five Star Restaurant is. LOL

But yes, the grocery store was exactly the example I had in mind. Of course, my situation colors my view:

I work Mondays through Fridays 6 AM to 3 PM. My wife works one job Tuesdays through Friday 4 PM-8PM, plus 9-7 Saturdays, and takes The Lad with her to a second Nanny Job, 12:30-5:30 on Mondays and 9-2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This guarantees that one of us is always with The Lad, 24-7. It also means that our schedules are pretty tight, especially since we're sharing one vehicle. So when i DO find time to run domestic errands, I don't have much spare time to hit the reset button just because he's not being Mr. Charming.

Posted by: Brian B at December 12, 2005 05:51 PM