Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pet Peeves: Parental Myopia

Parenting is a tricky business. No one gets it right all the time; we're all human. And far be it for me to judge the parenting skills of others when I'm not even a parent myself. BUT . . . I feel it's my duty to speak out when I encounter such gross parental myopia (or "my child can do no wrong" syndrome).

Case in point: It was difficult to give a certain mom and dad duo the benefit of the doubt at the airport the other day because I was given so much evidence of their warped parental judgment in such a short period of time. There were several examples, but I'll share this particular one with you because it illustrates my point best and I have a photo from my phone to support my rant.

Let's set the scene. Perhaps you heard about the plane delays caused by the FAA's computer problems last Tuesday? Guess who was flying that day? Let's just say I'd had lots of luck that week and was due for something craptastic to befall my day. So, there I was in a very crowded gate seating area, unhappy . . . with a rather large bunch of other unhappy people. Now, usually I feel pretty badly for people traveling with children. As much as we might be annoyed by the seat kicking, ear-splitting screaming, projectile sneezing, etc. of some children, quite often they are accompanied by mortified, well-meaning, exhausted parents who are at their wits end and quite sensitive to the fact that other people around them might not consider their child to be the second coming of Christ. Entertaining, soothing, changing the diapers of , and feeding young children is difficult enough on a regular day in the comfort of your own home. Doing it while traveling should qualify as an Olympic event. (What? It's not any more ridiculous a notion than this, if you ask me.) The parents I'm talking about, however, were not medal contenders . . . not by a long shot.

These parents were not just willfully ignorant but actively enabling their children to behave poorly. The children ranged in age from about 7 to 12 (i.e., in the "should know better" age bracket). I'm forgetting exactly how many of them there were because they were such a collective whirling dervish of activity. These were the kind of kids who thought the gate area was theirs (because they were there, and anywhere they were was theirs), the kind of kids who don't watch where they're going and knock into and step on everyone and everything in their path - with maybe the cursory "oh-ah-sorry" tossed over their shoulder (they've learned to say it but not to mean it, and, sometimes, they actually mean "Why'd you have your stupid foot there in the first place?").

Anyway, at some point, a couple of women across the aisle from me and several seats down were talking and came to realize that the backpack in between them under their feet was neither of theirs, nor was it the couple's across from them or ours. One of the women alerted an airline attendant, who alerted the TSA, who alerted a state police officer (pictured here to the left with the bag in question). What with the women asking around and the state police officer showing up, there was a bit of a hubbub - but apparently not enough so to draw the attention of any of the aforementioned family . . . to whom, of course, the bag belonged. As I mentioned, they were acting like the whole gate area was theirs, so none of them noticed when their belongings were a good aisle or two away from where they had presently decided to plant themselves and test the patience of other fellow travelers.

The conclusion of this story: The bag was removed and the eldest child whose bag it was didn't realize it was missing until the flight attendants finally announced it was time to board the plane. The parents reaction?They were livid that the bag had been removed. The child's reaction? He complained to the mother about how stupid the airport authorities were, acted annoyed, and groused about not having whatever possessions were in the missing bag. The mother's reaction to the child? She kissed him on the forehead and said, "I know dear, I know." WHAAAT? I mean . . . Seriously?? Is it just me? Anyone else have parents who would have drawn and quartered them for such behavior?

The clincher? I'll give you one guess where this family was seated for the 6-hour flight home to California. As I mentioned, my luck had clearly run out that week.

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