Monday, February 14, 2011

When You Are Watching Your Children, Others Are Watching You
My latest newspaper column is out today, and it's all about the people who go out in public without children. Some of these folks have grown children. Others have no children. Some are just lucky enough to be able to drop off their children at Grandma's house while they head to the supermarket. And since they don't have any children under their direct and immediate jurisdiction, they take the opportunity to keep an eye on your children.
Here's the original article at the newspaper's site. Here's the printable version.

When parents take their children out in public, their eyes are on their children.  Parents must always be ready to replace the taken, repair the broken, repeat the spoken, and, well, let’s face it.  Kids can be bulls and the world their china shop.

On those infrequent occasions when a parent’s eyes rise above 36 inches to look at their surroundings, they’ll notice that theirs are not the only eyes on the children.  The world is watching. Watching, and holding tightly to their Blue Willow.

Yes, the world is full of watchers, but their methods of observation are as varied as fish in the sea.  Watch the watchers.  Eventually you’ll see them all.

The Smiler - Always has a pleasant smile, no matter the situation. Will describe a three-year-old who’s pulling heads off Barbie dolls as “energetic.” 

The Scowler - Brow always furrowed; sees no good in children’s actions.  Also generally suspicious.  Will think a well-behaved child is “looking for something.”

The Nodder - Head bobs north and south in understanding.  Believes children will be children and accepts it.

The Shaker - Head shakes east and west in frustration.  Believes children should be miniature adults.

The Nostalgic - Eyes misty, the nostalgic reminisces about her own children, often with one or both hands over her heart. 

The Dreamer - Eyes misty, the dreamer’s gaze flutters between your children and her spouse, communicating a “someday, honey” message.

The Forgiver - Known to say, “That’s okay,” sometimes followed with “sweety” or “sweetheart.”.  A child may commandeer a grocery cart and promptly clip an unsuspecting shopper’s ankles, but the forgiver will wince, whisper “That’s okay,” and limp off to the produce section.

The Forgetter - Does not remember A. being a child, B. having a child, or C. the scientific fact that all life begins before adulthood.  Is known to make comments about animals in the wild “eating their young.”

The Peeker - Wants to watch the children, but doesn’t want you to know. Often found behind menus, newspapers, and church bulletins.

The Starer - Will stop all other activities to gawk at the perceived spectacle your child creates.

The Helpful - Will hold a door, carry a bag, and pick up yogurt containers tossed on the floor by toddlers.  Often a smiler.

The Helpless - Wants to help but is unable. This person often has his own children and can’t risk being distracted.

The Help Resistant - Simply cannot believe a child would act like, well, a child.  Receives satisfaction from letting parent, child, and surrounding citizens suffer.  Nose often pointed upward.

The Empathetic - Will cringe at certain behaviors shown by children, not because of the behavior, but because of knowing the Scowlers and Shakers nearby won’t be happy.

The Rocker - Attempts to calm another person’s crying child by gently rocking herself, sans child.

So watch away, you Smilers and Scowlers, Peekers and Starers.  Enjoy the show because one day you’ll have children or grandchildren out in public, and wouldn’t you know it?  They’ll behave like children.

And we’ll be watching.

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