When did it become OK to walk through public places or sit in restaurants with a screaming child?
Once upon a time, we had dignity. Once upon a time, parents were singly focused on rearing polite, respectful little humans and would, at all costs, inconvenience themselves for the ultimate goal of teaching a life lesson while also considering those around them. We all know that no one wants to sit behind the crying baby on an airplane just as we understand that when it happens, there is very little for the poor parent to do but rock baby while apologizing profusely to those within earshot. In turn, we nod and say things like, “That’s OK,” and “Oh, I only feel sorry for you,” and “Poor baby,” because that’s all anyone can do. But there is a growing and disturbing trend among new parents that offers no hope of life lessons to children or courtesy to fellow shoppers and diners. It’s called: Keep right on shopping and pretend like I don’t have a kid screaming at top volume! It’s called: “Screw everyone else as I am the single most important person here.
Not so very long ago I was in a store that also sells greeting cards in the spinning carousel. While her father stood at the counter making a purchase, fully aware of what his daughter was doing, a small girl began wildly spinning the card rack causing cards to fly out in different directions. Initially, the clerk said, “Um,” and pointed to the cards. The father turned, made note, chuckled, and returned to what he was doing. Stunned, the clerk looked around to the rest of the customers with pleading eyes. No one moved. What do you do? Can you discipline another person’s child? There have been a number of stories in the news in which a person took matters into his own hands and it did not end well. If it takes a village to raise a child … can the villagers actually step in? While we all agree that every member of society should be valued, no one can agree on what level of intervention is permissible or acceptable or agreeable.
That, Dear Readers, is why I don’t belong to a village. I belong to a pack. As a former professional dog trainer and now fun-time trainer (that means I take your dog’s leash from your hand and teach a few lessons when I can no longer stand watching Fido leap all over someone in the park) of a combined 30 years, I know exactly how to handle an out of control puppy.
When it was apparent that the non-parent was not going to stop the card flinging activities, I stepped forward and began picking up the cards. At first, the child thought I was being friendly and might even participate in the desecration of “Hope You Get Well” cards and she smiled at me. I growled. I growled a low menacing growl and it startled her. She, the ever enthusiastic yet un-trained puppy, tried another smile. I growled again. As I got closer to her, still picking up cards and careful that no one else could hear me, my growls got more ferocious. She froze. I moved closer still, reaching for the last card by her feet, and mimicked exactly how Cujo sounded right before he ripped someone’s juggler out. And I must say, it really was one of my better growls.
The girl ran to her father and hid behind his legs. As they were leaving, I saw her point back toward me as her father shook his head. “That lady growled at me like a mad dog!” Sure she did. Sure she did. What sane woman growls like a dog at a little girl? The clerk, however, said, “God Bless You!” but because I’m super mature, I pretended not to know what she was talking about. Me? Growl? Don’t be ridiculous!
While I’m sure that little girl went on to terrorize other stores and its patrons, there is a lesson in all this. Ethically, however, I cannot condone the disciplining of other people’s children as there are bound to be legal ramifications for both the newspaper and for me. Therefore, I cannot suggest that we, as a society, begin growling at misbehaving children to show our displeasure at what they are doing any more than we can growl at the supposed adult for standing there like a useless parent. This was merely a whimsical anecdote about how I love dog training. To truly end public child tantrums, screaming and poor parenting, please buy multiple copies of this story, carry them on your person and hand out liberally while shopping and dining.
This has been a public service announcement.
Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.