Why do people get such a charge out of criticising the parenting of others? You can see them flashing the evil eye at the young mother in the supermarket as her toddler has a meltdown in the Tim Tam aisle. You can see them tut-tutting at the local pool as some kid does a bomb near some elderly swimmers.
And you can see them, pursed-lipped and superior, chanting from the sidelines as the Australian Medical Association proposes a restriction on advertising junk food in the early evenings. ”The parents should just learn to say no.”
Have they entirely forgotten what it was like to be a parent? Sure, the human mind is designed to block out horrific events. As a result, most parents have no memories of the year known as ”the terrible twos”. Most of years three, four and five are gone as well. In our mind’s eye, the child goes from cute baby to half-decent junior soccer player over a period of about three days.
All the same, can’t we try to remember what it was like? Most toddlers have to be approached as you would a madman wired with explosives. The usual method involves a combination of threats, entreaties and bribes. It’s much like the US policy in Pakistan. It’s about as effective.
You then reach for distraction: ”Oh, look! A wincey little spider is tickling your tummy.”
This ploy, of course, brings an intake of breath, as the surprised toddler forgets to cry while considering the matter of the wincey little spider. This momentary quiet, of course, just serves to emphasise the sudden and startling recommencement of the howling, this time invigorated by the notion that their body is under sustained attack by arachnids.
You can understand why the child has now thrown herself face-forward to the ground and is busy turning blue. First her mother refuses her the opportunity to eat a whole packet of Tim Tams, then she stands idly by during a major spider attack. Really, if there was a phone available, the child would call DOCS herself.
At this point, every person in the supermarket is staring at the crime scene, the tut-tutting rising like a mist over the cereal aisle. If bubbles were balloons, the ceiling would be a mass of grey, complete with the message ”baaaaad parent”.
There’s nothing as lonely as being that parent, with your toddler in meltdown, the whole world condemning you and nary a sympathetic glance.
From the looks on their faces, the children of the tut-tut squad must have been perfect.
At their place, it must have been like a scene from The Sound of Music, the children lined up in order of height, hair combed and lederhosen scrubbed, awaiting the chance to chorus ”Welcome home, papa” before scrambling off to do their homework.