Let me start by saying this ... if you're obsessed with children, DO NOT read this. This may upset you and that's certainly not my intention.
Okay ... because you're a reasonable person, I know you're still reading. I have to tell you about something that happened just moments ago while I was in the bookstore. I had to dash back here at home while the idea was still fresh. First, I've been wanting to write this for quite awhile and I've even done a little research to test out my theory. More on that in a moment.
I was perusing art books as usual when suddenly I heard one of the managers announce on the audio overhead ...
"ATTENTION CUSTOMERS. IF YOU HAVE UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN THE CHILDREN’S SECTION, PLEASE ... ATTEND TO THEM!"
With that, I started to crack up laughing because I knew I had just been handed the hook I needed to share with you.
Rest assured, I think kids are great. Let me revise that. I think many kids are great. Most are full of wonder and promise. Kids really are the future and we need them to keep the species going. But you know what? I don't like ALL kids. At the end of the day, kids are little people. Like adults, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some are good, some are bad. Some are well-behaved and others are not.
Who doesn't have great stories about childish behavior in public? I sure do. I remember one time I was in another bookstore (kids and bookstores can be dangerous combos) and I was leaving the art magazine section on my way to the front counter to make a purchase. All of the sudden, this kid who I assume was with a guy who was his father, starts screaming bloody murder. I'm not kidding.
This little boy was screaming at what had to have been the TOP OF HIS LUNGS! Clearly, his dad had no idea whatsoever how to handle this child. The kid just kept screaming while the father fumbled his way through some sort of ineffective discipline scenario.
I slowly backed away simply because the screaming was hurting my ears. This kid hit high notes that I’m sure even prairie dogs on the Australian outback heard. Believe me when I say that everyone in the bookstore was watching the unfolding scene up front. It was embarrassing.
As the dad hustled the kid out of the store (screaming all the way, I might add), I approached the counter. The clerk and I just looked at each other and simultaneously said, "NO WAY!" I actually said, "NO WAY IN HELL," but you catch my drift.
I recall another time when I was in a clinic waiting room. There were two women in the waiting room, both of whom had children. One woman had a daughter who was running around and misbehaving. It was not good. The other woman had what I must say was one of the best behaved little girls I've ever seen. This little girl was quietly sitting next to her mom, while watching the other girl run around. I don't want to overstate this, but it's almost as if even this girl couldn't believe how the other child was carrying on.
Anyway, at one point, the nurse behind the counter came out and handed the well-behaved girl a lollipop and as I recall said, "Hi, this is for you because you are such a well-behaved little girl!" The little girl responded by saying, "Thank you!" With that, her mom got a big grin on her face ... and so did I. I don't recall how the other mom with the naughty girl responded, but the nurse's message could not have been clearer.
Here's another quick one. I was eating dinner with a colleague in a well-known family restaurant. When you choose to dine in a “family restaurant,” you’re just asking for trouble. The place was so crowded that we had no choice but to remain where we had been seated. There was a little boy in the booth behind me who had a spoon. This kid hit me in the head three times. It was annoying, but making matters worse, the parents actually thought it was cute and funny. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but it really did ruin my dinner.
All of this leads me to say this. I really do believe that most parents think they've got the cutest kid in the world. And why not? If you don't think your kids are cute, who will? However, this practice often allows some parents to excuse or laugh off the often anti-social behavior of their children. What many parents really want from others is to have them excuse their child's bad behavior and utter the phrase that I've actually put to the test ...
"AWW … THAT’S THE CUTEST KID IN THE WORLD!"
Not only does this phrase excuse bad behavior, but it also feeds the parents' narcissism that they express through their kids. You know, something just occurred to me about that screaming kid in the bookstore. If that kid behaves that way in public, can you imagine how he behaves at home?
Anyway, there have been a few times when I've seen kids (or babies) out and about ... usually in supermarkets. Sometimes when I've said to the parent, "That's the cutest kid in the world!" Parents aren't fools. “Oh … well thank you very much!” they usually reply. They eat it up like barbecue potato chips. It's so interesting.
Again, let's face it. Nobody thinks that your kids are as cute as YOU do. Trust me. Nobody. Most kids are adorable indeed, but there are a few hellions out there. Kids are little people. Some are fantastic and well-behaved ... and some aren't so great.
But here’s my true point. As a society, if we love kids as we claim, we'll discipline them appropriately when they're wrong and give them all of the tools necessary to be caring, productive, successful, well-balanced adults. What does this have to do with art? Hell if I know.
I'm still upset with myself for not handling that situation at the restaurant better. I think I allowed myself to get walked over by the parents who refused to discipline their child with the spoon. Not too long ago, I got the solution while listening to a radio program. It was way too late, but if I find myself in that kind of situation again, I'll be prepared.
This woman was telling the radio host about her own encounter with an ill-behaved child. She told the host that at one point during her horrid encounter with a kid (undoubtedly the cutest kid in the world), she loudly said to her husband, "I don't blame the child, I blame the parent!" The woman told the host that right after she said that, the mother of child said, "Oh my God! I'm so sorry!"
Bad behavior is NEVER the fault of little kids. They don't know any better until they've been taught otherwise. However, we should ALWAYS hold parents accountable. It's THEIR responsibility ... and if they're good parents, they'll always apologize for their kids' social infractions.
By the way, can I give a shout out to teachers? I don’t care where they teach or whether the school is public or private. Teachers have a tough job. Whenever I meet a teacher – and I’ve met many – I always ask them how much of their actual classroom instruction time do they spend actually teaching their young students. Most have told me that it’s down to about 50 percent. They usually tell me that they spend the other 50 percent trying to correct and properly discipline unruly kids. Can you believe that?
Keep in mind this is very unscientific, but teachers shouldn’t have to spend half of their time disciplining other people’s children. The kids in question are usually the little hellions who have parents who think that they’re little angels. Ha!
All kids are cute in their own ways. Some kids even deserve the title of "Cutest Kid In The World." However, misbehaving kids? They're not cute ... at all.
Finally, while buying my books at the bookstore earlier this afternoon, I told the checkout guy that the overhead announcement asking those kids' wayward parents to re-assume responsibility made me laugh.
He laughed back and said, "Yeah, we have to do that from time to time. Some of these kids aren’t so cute!"