Before I had children (okay: child) I had a pretty low opinion of them. As a childfree person, I had witnessed other people's offspring running riot in restaurants, supermarkets and other public places. It wasn't until I became a mother that I discovered that children's antisocial behaviour can mostly be blamed on the parents. If mothers and fathers don't establish and enforce rules then the children can hardly be blamed for not knowing how to behave. Let's explore six annoying habits children have.
1. Playing with the sugar sachets
I confess to occasionally having allowed my child to play with a few sugar sachets in cafes when she was a toddler. I'd always ration them and always leave them on a plate for disposal so unsuspecting customers wouldn't end up using ones with kid germs on them. These sachets were quite a hit and I'd considered them a victim-free way of keeping a child occupied for a few minutes. Well, I clearly need to think again and take a good long look at my parenting choices. As "Grumpy old bag" wrote in the Herald's "Rant" section: "We all end up paying for the 'play' sugar and this teaches the child she is entitled to fiddle with things that belong to other people." Ouch.
2. Sitting inside supermarket trollies
If I took my toddler to the supermarket she would either sit in the specially-designed child container at the front or she would walk holding my hand. What she most definitely would never do is sit in the main section of the trolley. I'm always amazed when I see parents letting their children sit in this part. What are they thinking? It's so unhygienic. As Danny wrote in a Rant: "I think it's disgusting the way people put their children ... into shopping trollies that we have to put our food in. People spit on the ground, there is dog poo etc which is transferred into our food trollies by ... the kids' feet." Quite right.
3. Roaming the aisles on aircraft
I once heard someone approve of a particular airline because the crew allowed children to walk freely around the cabin in flight. It's parents like this who give travelling children a bad name. My child has always stayed in her seat with seatbelt firmly fastened whenever she flies. The only time she's allowed up is to visit the bathroom - and only then on international flights. (I don't consider domestic flights long enough to warrant a toilet break.) So if you've encountered a riotous child running up the aisle, grabbing passenger armrests, knocking seats, causing an obstruction and generally being a nuisance, I promise it wouldn't have been mine.
4. Getting too close to smorgasbord food
As I've explored previously, it's a bit off-putting when children hover over food at a buffet restaurant: "No one likes seeing little children closely perusing (or, worse, poking their fingers into) communal food. Additionally, their height often means their nose is virtually touching the food piled up on the platters." I do have one small confession to make in this regard. Once at a hotel on Langkawi Island, Malaysia, I sent my daughter, aged nine, up to the buffet to see what she'd like for breakfast. The plan was she'd return with an idea of what she wanted so I could go and get it for her. Well, she came back with her own plate of food because she'd met a friend at the cereal counter who'd said: "Need a boost?" and had promptly lifted her up so she could reach what she needed. There's only one thing worse than children helping themselves at buffets and that's a child being given a boost by another child in order to reach the food.
5. Wandering in restaurants
Unsupervised small children in restaurants are annoying to patrons and staff alike. Plus, allowing them to wander around or play on the floor is dangerous; someone could trip over them or spill a hot dish or drink on them. Teaching children how to behave when dining out is an important part of their social development but if you don't insist they stay in their own seat throughout the meal then you're teaching them bad habits that will attract the ire of other patrons.
6. Waving merchandise at concerts
When my daughter was little I took her to a Wiggles concert at Vector Arena. No sooner had we sat down than I was hit in the head from behind with one of Captain Feathersword's toy swords. I spent much of the performance trying to avoid being assaulted by these feathery weapons.
I found it difficult to believe the supervising adults in the row behind me were happy to let their children get away with such disruptive behaviour. I was pretty astonished that the things were being sold in the first place. The show's organisers clearly didn't care that, in the wrong hands, these particular items were almost certainly destined to become weapons of mass annoyance.