We ran an etiquette comment diversion here last night, and I enjoyed the hell out of the comments that came out of it. Except for one phrase that kept popping up throughout the comment board: “Control your children.”
I used to empathize with the sentiments that came out of the “control your children” comments, but now, the phrase makes me bristle. More times than not, it is not a statement that comes from mouths of parents. In the past, the very same situations that would have prompted that thought in my head now elicits my pity. It’s an easy statement to make when you don’t have a bawling infant, a squirmy two-year-old, or an obstinate three year old. I’ve been lucky so far; there have been no major embarrassing incidents in my parenting life, though there have been more than a few inconvenient ones. But on the rare occasion when we decide to take our child to a restaurant (God forbid, parents take their children out to eat — gasp!), a grocery store, or — shudder to think — an airplane, I have lived in holy terror that my child would take that opportunity to act out, and I would become the guy who received the evil glances and mutters, as I sat helpless and bereft.
Because that’s what it is: Helplessness. It’s a no-win situation for parents who brave public places with their children. A two or three year old is going to act up on occasion; it’s what they do, and no amount of proper parenting can completely control it. And if it happens in public, you can become the scary asshole who disciplines their child in a public setting or you can attempt futilely to calm your child with controlled whispers, as the people around you mutter, “If that was my kid, I’d …”
Whatever it is you think you’d do, chances are, you wouldn’t. And if you do, then you’re that parent. And nobody wants to be that parent. And please don’t tell me that you’re going to be that person who asks for the check before your food has even arrived, because screw that.
So, tonight’s diversion is for parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters, and other caregivers: What embarrassing situations have you been unfortunate enough to be a part of that involved unruly children. And how did you handle it? And remember this, when you’re preparing your comments: Everyone loves a hero — the guy who does and says the exact right thing — except parents. Heroes can go fuck themselves; I’ve got a child to raise.