parents

BEC: The story dividing the country.

A Sydney bus driver reprimanded a mother whose toddler was “carrying on”.

By REBECCA SPARROW

As I write this my 20-month-old son Fin is screaming.

He does that at the moment. Lets out a high-pitched wail when something or someone refuses to do his bidding.

So far this morning he’s cracked the shits over me telling him off for drawing on the walls with chalk, for putting spaghetti on the dog (although the dog was non-plussed frankly) and for attempting to, you know, CLIMB INTO THE DISHWASHER. Naturally he responded to my reprimands by fixing me with the steely gaze of a serial killer and then screaming.

And it’s no different on public transport.

Last month, we took Fin on a flight to Bali. What was he like? I’ll tell you what he was like. He was like an octopus who’d had one too many tequila slammers, that’s what. Like Russell Brand at the MTV after party.  He was charmingly ANNOYING.

With three kids under five in my house, this is what I know: wine that comes in a box actually isn’t that bad. And also? Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.

So when I heard this morning that a Sydney bus driver had reprimanded a mother whose 21-month-old little girl was “carrying on” on his bus, I read the story with great interest. Here’s how it went down according to the Daily Telegraph:

A SYDNEY bus driver demanded a mum stop her toddler “carrying on” or get off his bus because he couldn’t drive with all the noise.

When another passenger intervened the driver allegedly turned on him before storming off the vehicle to sit at a bus stop – leaving his customers stranded by the side of the road for 10 minutes.

Beth Burton had collected her 21-month-old daughter Mia from daycare and boarded the 380 service from Dover Heights to Bondi just before 4pm Tuesday. She was five minutes into the trip when she was confronted.

“As we got to the next stop the driver stood up, looked at me and asked where was I getting off,” Mrs Burton, 24, said.

“I told him on the other side of Bondi Beach and he said if my daughter didn’t stop carrying on like that I would have to get off the bus because he couldn’t drive.”

The Sydney mother with her 21-month-old daughter on Mornings this morning.

Now before you and I tar and feather the bus driver, the mother or the toddler, let’s establish the most crucial point: we weren’t there. Annoying but true.

And the fact is, one person’s ‘whinging’ is another person’s  ‘strip-paint-off-the-walls-screaming-fit’.

So I don’t think it’s fair to comment on this specific story since we don’t have all the facts.

But when it comes to the rights of mothers and toddlers (specifically toddlers with the social graces of Idi Amin) – here’s what I think. If a child is having a meltdown and if it’s loud and quite probably annoying to the people around you and it’s gone on for a good five minutes, then I think as a parent you take your child out of that environment. Let me put it more bluntly: YOU GET OFF THE BUS.

At what point as parents did we start expecting the world to just tolerate our kids when our kids are behaving really, really badly?

It’s not okay.

Do we all need to be understanding and sympathetic of parents with small kids who are on the train to Meltdown Town? Yes, of course. Parents feel bad enough as it is (I should know, I’m one of them).

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But I also believe that when your child’s behaviour is impacting other people’s experiences (play grounds / theme park rides / public transport/ the dairy aisle of the supermarket) and it’s possible for you to remove yourself from the situation and CALM YOUR CHILD DOWN (or, you know, hand them an iPhone) you do it.

Bec’s son Fin on the plane to Bali. Don’t be fooled. This lasted about 32.7 seconds.

When Fin was on the plane last month and started kicking the seat in front of him HARD … Brad and I swivelled him around and held his legs down. I was uncomfortable and fed-up. But that’s my problem. I chose (because I am INSANE) to travel on a plane with a toddler.  And I knew that  it wasn’t fair to the person in front of us to have to put up with being kicked in the back for five hours by Fin.  It’s my job as the parent to keep my child (where possible) under control. Isn’t it?

Obviously there are all kinds of caveats to this. If a child has an intellectual or learning disability, for example, we need to step up and help (or at least cut the parents and kids a lot of slack).

Which leads me to my next point: we all need to start behaving with a little more grace.

Could the bus driver have handled the situation better? Possibly (this is where I remind you that I WASN’T THERE).  But approaching the situation with a bit of kindness is always the way to go. The driver could have asked the mother if she needed some help rather than reprimanding her. Other passengers could have stepped in to help amuse or placate the little girl. Somebody give the child an iPad or an iPhone. ALL THE iPHONES.

In the end the driver’s job is to deliver all his passengers to their destinations SAFELY.   This isn’t Speed. Sandra Bullock isn’t driving. The bus driver is a human being. If he’d crashed that bus because he was distracted by a toddler on a rampage, we all would have demanded to know why he didn’t just stop the bus.

You know, as I’ve been writing this post, Fin has had another meltdown (I wouldn’t let him colour in my laptop with a red crayon because, you know, I’m mean). It’s been hard enough for me to stay focused on this post. All I can say is thank goodness I’m not responsible for driving a busload of people through late afternoon traffic in Bondi right now. We’d have ended up in Melbourne. Somebody hand me an iPhone.

So what do you think?  Are parents increasibly refusing to take responsibility for their kids’s bad behaviour. Or does the world need to lighten up?

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