Papa Don't Preach

Scott Kara's (rough) guide to being a father.

Papa Don't Preach: Keeping kids under control

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The unhappy face of a child in a confined space makes people sour.
Photo / Thinkstock
The unhappy face of a child in a confined space makes people sour. Photo / Thinkstock

She tried to hide it, but I saw the look of utter horror on the face of a woman who sat next to me on the plane from New Plymouth to Auckland recently. Her contorted - almost fearful - face was because of my 14-month-old girl, Katie.

Though the sweet little munchkin does get a cheeky glint in her eye when she's up to mischief, and she can scream with the best of them, she's no child terrorist.

What the lemon face lady was scared by was Katie's general state of restlessness as I held her before take off - and how she was flinging the plastic safety instruction card around wildly.

The woman settled into her seat, got out her Woman's Day, and ignored us as best she could. Still, the barbs of tension and annoyance continued to emanate from her.
As parents we've all endured the stares and glares of irate members of the public when your kids are throwing their toys and screaming in confined spaces. Planes are the worst places for this to happen because there is nowhere for anyone to hide.

Before I became a dad I used to have a similar mindset to the woman sitting next to me on this short flight. As a kid howled, or ran up and down the aisle of the plane, I would think to myself: "Can you bloody well keep your kid(s) under control."

And at cafes, if a child was wreaking havoc, I would look across, firing daggers at the parent and really wanting to hiss at the pint-sized terror.

However, now that I have two children I have come to realise that sometimes there is no way of controlling them when they are confined to a small space, wanting to explore a new environment, or cooped up for a long period of time. It's even worse when they are tired.

While we were in New Plymouth we went out to an Indian restaurant for an early dinner. All was on track, Katie was happy sitting in her high chair, scribbling on bits of paper. The mixed entrees and onion baji came, and she was still happy apart from the occasional restless squawk which made the table next to us bristle a little. But then the main dishes took too long to arrive and Katie wanted out of her chair.

She was fine wandering between the tables, my wife and I taking turns to keep her out of trouble, but there were the inevitable balks, and even slight sneers, from a few diners. I felt like telling them to take a big gulp of wine, chill out and eat their dinner. But I didn't.
Then there are those parents who don't seem to give a hoot about their kids running riot. They are worse than their children.

I wish I didn't care so much, but I do, because even if I can't shut my kids up, or control them, I at least want to be seen trying.

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