Criticizing Parents with Toddlers Will Eventually Earn You a Visit From Lady Karma!
Yes, I am an ex-single guy profusely apologizing to parents of toddlers all over the world for fighting the good fight and doing the best that they can to raise their little cherubs. Moreover, a truly sincere apology to every parent of a toddler out there that I have ever given the “evil eye” to during my wild and care-free bachelor years.
Yes, during that period of time I thought you were incredibly dysfunctional losers as I watched your little “Johnny” or “Jane” throw themselves on the floor in the middle of the toy aisle in Target and start the inevitable “jitter-bug” tantrum. I remember watching your child screaming at the top of his lungs and twitching on the ground like he was having an epileptic seizure. Apparently, what I didn’t know at the time was that the “big” parental infraction was Johnny’s mother telling him that he couldn’t have the new Legos Airport Adventure play set. Mainly, because he already had three at home already.
But as soon as you can say “OshKosh B’gosh” or “Yo Gabba Gabba,” all hell broke loose. Now sit back and watch the show.
I can still see his bright red face, the crocodile tears, the saliva drooling from the mouth, and the signature snot bubble inflating and deflating from the nostril like a creepy birthday balloon. He was traumatized by his parent’s “inhumanity” and he wanted the entire world to know about it. The world of Target shoppers.
Oh yes, I remember giving the “irresponsible” mother or father that classic look of disdain, the look of social scrutiny, censure, and loathing. “You’re a failed parent and a disgrace,” I would think to myself. “If you can’t control your little terrorists, don’t have them,” the barrage of unspoken thoughts of criticism would continue. Obviously these parents lacked the skills, discipline, and patience to raise well-mannered and emotionally stable children right?
As a single guy, I distinctly remember taking a crowded flight from Reagan-National Airport to Atlanta one hot summer morning. I sat down in seat 12-A and quickly sorting through my Jan Sport backpack to find my iPod, and my July copy of Men’s Health magazine that I picked up at the Terminal “A” news shop. With ear buds in hand and cellphone turned off, I looked forward to enjoying a relaxing flight; a flight finally free of the suffocating traffic in Washington D.C.
As the plane took off and the pilot eventually turned off the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign, I started my iPod Touch music selection with John Coltrane’s, “My Favorite Things.” Yep, I was in the zone. All of a sudden I felt a solid, deliberate, and direct kick in the back of my seat; coupled with a little annoying voice and laughter to follow. Little did I know, that kick would signal the beginning of an endless barrage of harassment from this kid, with the mother occasionally telling “Johnny” to “stop kicking the seat honey.” She obviously wasn’t doing a good enough job of convincing him that the nice man in front of him would eventually lose his mind and rip the tray from the seat in front of him, tossing it clear into the laboratories at the other end of the aircraft.
Eventually the kid did stop kicking the seat after I gave another furtive glance over my seat toward the mother who was now at her wits end and probably cursing the father who was probably just teeing off at some exclusive Golf course in Fairfax County. She secretly prayed that lightening would strike him down on the ninth hole.
Eventually, it became clear that “Johnny” really only stopped kicking the back of my seat because he was bored, not because he realized that it was annoying the heck out of the man sitting in the seat. To my chagrin, Johnny was now interested in the mechanics of the sliding window shade next to him since mother thought it was a great idea to put the child in the window seat. As you guessed, he began raising the window shade and slamming it non-stop for another ten minutes.
Not being able to take too much more of the distraction behind me, I quickly glanced over my seat again at the kid, then at mother. At that point, Mom looked completely exhausted and ready to open the cabin door and free-fall without a parachute to her demise. I looked into her cloudy, light brown eyes and realized that her soul was no longer there; it actually departed her somewhere over North Carolina. But even then, I had no sympathy for Mom.
The kid behind me eventually fell asleep and yes, I was able to listen to my Jazz compilation in peace until landing in Atlanta. Even today, I believe the poor mother “drugged” her son with Children’s Benadryl to accelerate nap time, but I can’t confirm that for sure.
Now fast forward the clock eight years; I am now married and have a newborn and a overly-exhausted two-year-old daughter sitting in a seat by herself across the aisle from Dad. We were returning from a challenging vacation in Italy and getting ready to depart from Rome to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I knew there would be trouble when my daughter ceremoniously crossed her little arms in frustration as she starred at the seat in front of her. She slowly turned to Dad and said in the little toddler voice that you would expect to hear and said, “are we there yet Daddy?” Mind you, the plane was still sitting on the hot, steamy runway at the Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci Airport waiting for takeoff; and yes, the flight from Rome to Philadelphia was nine hours and fifteen minutes.
Well, as you already imagined, my daughter kicked the living crap out of the back of the passenger’s seat in front of her like she was practicing for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer team. I spent hours in the air preventing her from driving the other passengers crazy and profusely apologized for her throwing coloring books and “Goldfish” over the row of seats in front of her.
Then something miraculous happened.
The passenger sitting directly in front of my daughter slowly and calmly turned around and looked at my daughter. Expecting the evil eye that I delivered to so many parents during my single years, I was pleasantly surprised to see the wide an inviting smile of a young 20-something female (probably a university student).
Instead of sending a piercing and stern look my direction; lecturing me for being a “failed and pathetic” parent, she handed my daughter her cellphone with the app Candy Crush loaded up and ready to play. “Here sweetheart, give it a try,” she said in a warm and calming voice. My daughter immediately stopped her restless kicking and took the phone from the angel passenger. She smiled back.
The passenger gave a final smile and glance at me, and turned around. For the next hour my daughter was completely enthralled by the popular game Candy Crush and the rest of the flight was peaceful and quiet.
It was during that hour that I remembered my unfair anger and frustration with “Johnny” and the disdain I had for his poor mother for not stopping him from using the back of my seat as an Adidas soccer ball. Karma had finally come for me, and I knew it. But instead of helping an exhausted and frustrated young parent, I shamed her and added to an already stressful situation.
Yes, I felt like an jackass.
But it was also during that flight that I finally got it: 95% of those parents that you run into at Target who appear not to give a care in the world what their little brats are doing in public, actually do care. Unfortunately, they are just burnt out, frustrating, and completely out of energy to do anything about it by the time you see them. These are parents that understand that they have to fight the meaningful battles. They know that there are some battles that are less significant than others, and meant to be fought (and won) on another day. The day that you saw them struggling with Johnny, was not that day.
Right or wrong, I now understood the grand parental strategy, and I had become that strategy’s staunchest practitioner and doctrinaire.
Yes, I get it, there are truly horrendous parents out there in America who should be legally prohibited from ever propagating again. They are the ones that leave their kids home alone in bed while they get their “boogie on” at the local dance club. We read about these geniuses in the newspaper everyday. We see them being carted away by the police on the five-o-clock news; shielding their faces from the cameras using a dirty towel. These people will have to answer to the judge or society in general, later in life. I’m not talking about those folks. I’m writing about hard-working parents who really care about raising great kids, but also understand that parenting young children [the right way] is hard work and that some days are just more challenging than others.
So if Johnny’s parents happen to run across this blog in the future, I would like to sincerely apologize for calling you a pathetic, failed care-giver. I’m truly sorry for judging you. Consider us now card-carrying, battle-scarred members of the same club now. Please accept my apology in the spirit that it was presented to you or any other parent that I may have disparaged during the naivety of my youth.
Now please take a deep breath, smile, wipe that apple sauce stain off of your shirt, and we must never speak of these matters again.
Written by: Scott McGinnis | www.GoombayTally.com