Saturday, April 07, 2007


Other People's Children

I fairly often find myself astounded by how irritating other people's children are. It's really kind of amazing how many parents fail to maintain "effective voice control," the minumum standard for keeping your dog off a leash. I think that children should be maintained to the same standard - if they won't listen to their parents, they should be tied up to make sure they don't harm other people or property.
After a fruitful trip to the Town Dump today (not literally - fruit goes in the compost out back), I had to go to the toy store to get stuff to put in the fake plastic eggs for easter tomorrow, which really bugs me, because it means I won't be getting any chocolate on Easter. So there I was, buying the rabbit and fox families of Calico Critters (TM), which - ugh. I'm just not going to talk about Calico Critters or Webkins or Barbies or American Girl dolls on this post, except to say that, praise be to heaven, my daughter and I still love each other in spite of them. I've lost track of my point, now I'm just angry. Oh, yeah, toy store. Well, of course toy stores are the cruelest places in the world, because they are full of toys that your child cannot play with. Realistically, toy stores have their place in society, as do pornography stores and gun shops, and they all share one common trait: they are places you should not bring children. A child should not be expected to go into a toy store and see dozens of cool things that he/she cannot have, and expect to be happy and content and grateful. Many adults cannot manage this degree of emotional restraint. Ok, I've fallen off my point again, which is to comment on the behavior of 2 children, obviously brother and sister, who may or may not have had a parent in the store. I couldn't tell by looking around whether any of the adults milling around was related to/ responsible for them. The girl (who I thought was a much younger boy for a long time, until coming to her aisle and actually seeing her) was crying and shrieking and generally throwing a tantrum about her brother not sharing and not playing nicely and so on, for 20 minutes, without any adult stepping in. The last five minutes of this includes time in which this girl was shrieking for her MOM!, who was ignoring her or MIA. Her brother was talking to her reasonably and calmly as far as I could tell from a distance, but as I got closer I realized that he was relentlessly pushing this girl's buttons. At the age of, like, 9, he was being a manipulative little prick, getting off on his own cruelty. I don't know whether his sister is slow or disturbed or just having a bad day or what, but seriously, I think people in the coffee shop down the plaza were getting uncomfortable. I thought to myself, I have to tell Mrs. Livingjetlag about this; thank God I have the child that I have.
I didn't have time to tell Mrs. Livingjetlag about this adventure, because my daughter's best friend was hosting an Easter Egg Hunt at a nearby park. While the siblings in that bunch of children at least weren't tormenting each other, I was really shocked at how these kids behaved. It was obvious why this was so: empty threats. If you threaten to take a child away from something fun, and the child continues to be a little pusbucket, you must remove the child. I've done this. There are many restaurant meals which I've had to have wrapped up, events I've had to skip out on, but I've seen the alternative - the woman at the coffee shop who obviously wasn't going anywhere until she was finished talking to her friend and having lunch had absolutely no effect on her daughter's shouting and running laps around the table, when she threatened the child with "I'll take you home right now." Her little kid knew at some level that this was a load of crap, and wasn't having any fun anyway. At the park it was the same way. The kids were not under parental control for the most part, which is not surprising for a party, but really, some lines were crossed. Noise, hyperactivity, acting outside the rules of the game, all relatively acceptable in a kids'-party situation as far as I'm concerned, but sharing, sticking vaguely with the group, non-violence or at least no violence beyond what the recipient finds appropriate (if both boys want to wrestle, fine) are the bare minimum. Right? No? Really? You're just going to let your son keep doing that? Wow. Well, good luck with the next 10+ years, then, we won't be seeing you. Thank God I have the child that I have.
Wow, so while I was wallowing in self-righteousness, I went online to read my emails and check this blog and then get some info on where I can get my vasectomy, and I got distracted by the Next Blog button, as I so often do, and came across little John Craig Birtch of Scottsdale Arizona, pictured above at the age of zero (just born, 24 weeks 5 days gestation, 1.5 pounds) and reading his mother's blog, "Our Miracle Boy". You can read it for yourself at This is an amazing child, an amazing family, and I can read and empathize, but I'm sure I can't imagine what it's like for them. There are so many people out there who ruin their healthy children, this just shows how much of a crime that is. She doesn't say this (and may not know), but 24 weeks gestation is the absolute minimum birth age to be considered "compatible with life" at the most high-tech and well-staffed centers, so even though this child has been through nearly a year of medical care with smatterings of childhood thrown in, he has had more life than many would have dared to hope for. I gave a little money to his March of Dimes Walkathon team, even though they are "not-for-profit" rather than "nonprofit", which can sometimes allow for a little corporate/ethical ickiness. Thank God I have the child that I have, no offense to the Birtches, may fortune smile on them.
Your humblest and most devoted servant,

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