A friend and I are at a local café, with her daughter (nearly 4) and my son (5). Now this café is one of those small, cosy places, where you’re encouraged to sit close to your love and gaze into his or her eyes, and occasionally bite into your blueberry muffin. Or sip your cappucino. So yes, space is rather at a premium, inside.
Naturally, it’s also the kind of place hungry, active children love to go to. And are terrible to manage once within. Because either they burn themselves on the tall cauldrons of scalding soups (helpfully placed bang in the middle, where you’re most likely to dash into it!), or bump into the chilled trays of salads, desserts and juices stacked high on one side, or knock into the rows of baked goods arranged on the opposite side.
Which is why, normally, when I go there I’m on high alert and shouting orders, all the time. “Is that your grubby hand reaching for a muffin?” “Is that a packet of chips, put it back!” “No, you can’t have the jujubes!”… So on and so forth. That evening, while I am doing my usual General Mom imitation, suddenly a chirpy voice in an American accent sounds clear as a bell: “Coming through, coming through”.
The friend and I and our children all turn around. A girl, aged 8 or 9, is heading straight for us on her waveboard (a kind of skateboard). She shows no sign of stopping so we hurriedly jump out of the way. The girl smiles, takes the corner and does it all over again…and again and again. She doesn’t say “Excuse Me”, she doesn’t say “Sorry”. She just trills “Coming through, coming through” and keeps waveboarding.
Her parents and a friend are sitting at one of the two corner tables, engrossed in conversation. They’ve left the girl to her own devices and she is obviously utterly bored. I don’t blame her. So she has decided to waveboard. Inside the café. Never mind that there’s barely space to move, never mind that she can hurt herself, and never mind that she can hit others, a child, for instance. And never mind also, that the café overlooks Richard’s Park. Ironically, all her parents have to do is tell her to go play at the park. But they obviously don’t care. And they equally obviously don’t plan on excusing her behaviour to the other patrons in the café. If an Indian child did this in a Western country, do you think he or she would be allowed to get away with it?
I want to complain, in fact, I am itching to do so, but my hungry child takes precedence over my injured civic sense. So I let it be. But whatever happened to common courtesies? It’s not that I am an amazing parent, always polite and patient–I’ve shouted at my son in public, I’ve whacked him at home. I’ve been a Monster Mom, many a time. And it’s not something I am proud of.
But my husband and I do tell our little fellow over and over again that he must say “Please” and “Thank You,” if someone does something for him; that he must say “Excuse Me”, if he wants something.
And we’ve told him clearly that no, we do not plan to buy him a waveboard any time in the near future. And that no, he also cannot (if he ever gets one) use it to waveboard inside small, little cafés.