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Monday, September 27, 2010

Dear woman with two-year-old in smart Islington coffee shop

It’s obviously up to you how you raise your kids. You’re relaxed enough to let your tiny daughter wander towards the open door leading on to Upper Street. You’re obviously confident that if she does decide to totter outside towards the traffic you could bolt across the crowded cafĂ© and intercept her in time. I don’t expect you to bother about people like me who look on anxiously.

If anything terrible happened you would be legally responsible. I can’t help thinking that I would be to some extent morally responsible for not making a scene and insisting that you keep her at your side.

But what’s more likely is that nothing terrible will happen. But at some stage it will nearly happen. If that puts the fear of God into you then it can only mean that you have never contemplated the possibility. And if you’ve never contemplated the possibility, what kind of parent are you?


  1. I watched much the same sort of thing happen in The Rake on Saturday. It could never happen to them....we hope!

  2. One of my pet hates! It really annoys me when this happens, as does seeing a child in the back of car who isn't fastened in (yes unfortunately it still occurs in this day and age).

    I just hope as I parent I'm not as bad as this. I've been way too critical of others over the years!

  3. Had you confronted the mother, she probably would have told you (with a straight face) that God was looking after her daughter.

  4. And what about the parents that show no discomfort in firing off industrial-strength effing and jeffing in front of/at their own tots and toddlers. Not an outburst, but clearly part of an everyday parade of family profanity. There really is no point in even bothering to 'have a word' is there?

  5. @John Medd - funny you should say that - at church one day I saw a mother completely obvious to the fact that her toddler was clambering all over the pews and in serious danger of doing itself a mischief. But, come to think of it, if your child *is* going to brain itself, what better place to do it in than in God's house...

  6. The one that gives me the shivers/outrage is parent with child in pusher-pram-buggy waiting for a gap in traffic to cross the road.

    Parent stands on pavement; child on wheels is already in the road!

    Would the same parent put a child on foot into the road ahead of them, to "clear the way"? Would they F. I hope.

    (yes, I'm a parent, no I never did it, yes I have the imagination).

  7. Not being a parent, when there are under fives around, I tend to be permanently in "well I'd never have got away with that" mode. A case in point: the wedding we attended at the weekend where the speeches were inaudible over the sound of half a dozen or so kids running around while their parents sat beaming indulgently at their wee-ones "playing so nicely together", oblivious to the soaring collective blood pressure around the room.

    I'd never have got away with that.

  8. I've just been watching some old pubic information films on Youtube (..."if you leave your baby outside a shop in the pram, make sure they're strapped in ..."). It's easy to mock them, but I was surprised how many of the messages had stuck in my head. ("And when I came out Colin and Susan were gone ...")

  9. I don't have children, but if I did I'm pretty sure I'd never sleep a wink. I say this to my brother who has two of them, and he says you just get used it.

    I wince with some of the things I think are about to happen to them, but they tell me to relax, kids are not as frail as they appear. That said, bad things have happened and have nearly happened. I just assume they're the experts and bite my tongue.

  10. On the other hand, there are parents who still drive their 14-year-old children to school, because they're worried that they'll get abducted, or knocked down crossing the road (the traffic being 90% school-run 4x4s). And don't get me started on parents who want to sit in on their kids' university/first job interviews.

    I wonder which style of parenting ultimately does more harm.

  11. And can I just add one posting as a counter-balance? There's a hotel called Woolley Grange, which used to be run by a post-Islington couple for families, at a time when most country hotels hated the idea of small children. As a consequence, the hotel attracted almost exclusively Islingtonish (sorry!) families with small children. And all of those parents took a "parental" attitude towards all of the children, whether theirs or not. If a child fell over somewhere, a parent would pick it up; if a parent saw a child heading into danger, they would intervene. In other words, create a social environment in which parents feel they CAN, without criticism, look after others' children, and they probably will. The question to ask is why, in circumstances like those in which you found yourself Dave, we feel we CAN'T intervene...

  12. Like yer man Five Centres above, I am convinced that small children are trying to kill themselves and consequently I become a gibbering wreck when I'm around them.

    This is not helped by my brother who will come to the house and sit on his arse while his children run riot and tell me to relax while I turn into his babysitter for the duration of the visit.