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Yes, my kids are brats. And I bet you were, too

Submitted by on Tuesday, 1 December 2009 4 Comments

Boots announced his arrival home with a wail and a belly-flop on the floor.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dad asked.

“It’s not Christmas,” I said.


“They were decorating at school today, and he doesn’t get that he doesn’t get to go shopping and wrap presents today. I told him he could help with cards, but he says that’s boring.”

The crying continued until, five minutes later, Boots sat down and dozed off. Fatigue is the only reason he ever throws a fit these days. No, that’s not an excuse. It’s a fact. Little people get tired – even if they’ve slept a solid 10 hours every night – and react with frustration that turns quickly to tears.

And it’s not indulgent or soft parenting to put up with it. Neither is it, as some would say, an epidemic. At least, it’s not where I hang out.

It must be in some places, though.

“Holy terrors and their lax parents are disturbing the peace in airports and restaurants, grocery stores and schools,” one writer says.

“I’ve been to house parties where the parents are basically flattened, frightened, against the walls while the children rampage around like a savage horde of sugar-buzzed, hyperactive Huns,” another complains.

“Control your kids in public. Park your stroller efficiently. Don’t block aisles and sidewalks when you can avoid it. And if your kids can’t behave, keep them home. That should be one of the many sacrifices that came with your choice – not a newly given ‘right’ to inflict bad kids on good people,” a story commenter lectures.

Yes, other than a select few coffee shops and the grocery store, I mostly kept the kids home for many, many years. We’ve reached the point now where we can enjoy a quick sit-down meal but it took training.

I remember carrying both kids, one under each arm, out of a fast-food chain when they were 1 and 3 because Big Guy would not behave. You probably remember only the ruckus the brats made, though, and not the swift action taken to end your agony.

I’ve walked out of grocery stores, leaving fully loaded carts behind. Sorry about that, stock people. I know it was rude, but it beat the alternative.

I’ve admonished Big Guy for kicking the airplane seat in front of him, and I was telling him to quit before the lady in front of him turned around to shoot me the stink eye. He complied the second time, which wasn’t bad for a 3-year-old. I don’t know what she expected me to do – dose him up with Benadryl before the flight?

Yes, I’ve seen the other side, too. A couple, both doctors, who would let their children smash pasta and crackers into the carpet at a nice sit-down restaurant, not once, but every time they dined there. The kids were school age, but obviously not old enough to sit through a two-hour meal.

This happened in the 1980s, though, so clearly children rampaging “like a savage horde of sugar-buzzed, hyperactive Huns” is nothing new.

We’re in a transition stage now, where things that used to work no longer do. For years I’d set a timer to signal the exchange of a coveted toy but then I realized that was me making decisions they needed to learn how to negotiate. Now I try to coach them through it, stressing that they need to work it out, but when the brawl erupts anyway they both get two-minute “quiet” time outs. Positive alone isn’t enough – I occasionally need a stick along with the carrot.

Is the new approach working? Not if you judge by the sound of it.

And that’s the problem with those on the outside looking in. They’re seeing snapshots – mortar rounds of unruliness, sniper volleys of snark. They’re condemning, not just one family but all of us, based on their limited vision.

As for the Hun-spotter, if he’d like to gaze at the guys with “beady, bloodshot, malice-filled eyes,” he’s welcome to go for it. I guarantee you, though, his return will be resentment, not compliance. As a bonus for me, in the future the guys would probably happily suffer their quiet time outs and discover that mean mom’s not really all that mean.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • RiceWenchie said:

    Ah, sniper volleys of snark… What a perfect phrase to describe how my teens get along! LOL

    I was one of those who was not above doing time out with my child in a public bathroom as well as leaving instead of allowing my child to annoy any other customers. He learned quickly that if he wanted to eat that yummy food, he better be a good listener and on his best behavior. LOL!

    My ex-in-laws/husband would give me a horrible time about bringing activities along for Bubba when he was little. A child (read that human being) will keep themselves occupied whether there are appropriate activities or not. Might as well provide some destruction free appropriate activities rather than having them try to burn the place down or something, right?

  • Debra said:

    Might as well provide some (destruction free) appropriate activities rather than having them try to burn the place down or something, right?

    EXACTLY! My husband used to make fun of the ton of crap I’d cram into backpacks before we went anywhere, too – until he saw that it (mostly) works. Except for the time in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport where Big Guy threw himself on the floor and refused to play along with our gate-to-gate sprint. I couldn’t blame him on that one, though. It was only 7 a.m. and he’d already been up for four hours.

  • Sandra Foyt said:

    Training the kids is a never ending job that doesn’t always look pretty from the outside looking in. It takes a lot of self-confidence to parent in public, but how are the kids going to learn if you don’t take them out?

  • Debra said:

    That’s where the logic of the “keep them at home” crowd confuses me, Sandra. If anything we probably stayed in a bit too long, except for things that were strictly kids’ domain – roughly from right after Boots turned 1 until he was almost 3. I had a tough time last summer when we finally started venturing out again, but they do OK most of the time. I did have to walk out of a grocery store a few months back, though, when they wouldn’t quit shoving each other out of one of the grocery carts that has a car on front. They’ve been angelic since – the possibility of being sent home to Dad while I get to pick all the goodies simply isn’t a risk they’re willing to take anymore.