I am not a “kids” person.
I don’t really like kids. To be blunt, I think that before the age of about twelve they’re all a bunch of wee sociopaths and between thirteen and around sixteen (at an absolute minimum, some never pass this phase) they’re just assholes with no real excuse.* Sure, in brief doses they can be amusing and even cute, but there’s about a five-minute window and then I’m over it. By and large, we stick to a fairly simple arrangement: they stay away from me, and I don’t threaten to break anyone’s shins. It’s worked swimmingly so far.
That said, I do work in a toy store, which is both better and worse than you can imagine for someone who just doesn’t really like children. Better because I’m surrounded by a bunch of other child-hating misanthropes** and worse because I, you know, have to be near kids all day. But for the most part their parents take care of them. I only have to pay attention to anyone under the age of eighteen when someone thinks it’s a wonderful idea for little Bobby to pay for a twenty-dollar item entirely in piggy bank quarters.***
As you may imagine, I’ve seen countless instances of terrible behavior from children. Interestingly enough, I’ve gone from the type of childless person who gives a parent with a screaming child the stink eye to the type that kinda sympathizes. Like I said: kids are tiny little sociopaths. Their entire existence is essentially a study in narcissism, you have to feel for someone who deals with that all day. I also don’t entirely blame the parents for having them. Hormones make people do idiotic things, and we as a species are almost cripplingly under the sway of our offspring.
I’ll also note that, on the whole, parents at our store deal with misbehaving children like fucking champs. Tantrum? The child disappears.**** Crying jag? Parents shut that shit down. I don’t have an issue with the vast majority of parents.
About twice a month I see parents parents who, as their child throws the biggest, screamiest, messiest, cryingest tantrum in the middle of our rather busy store, replete with kicking, flailing, and knocking shit over, just walk away and continue to shop as if that shit is not going down. To be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about taking a few steps back and pretending to be unfazed as the child runs out of steam, or “ignoring” the kid so that they get the picture that Tantrums Don’t Work On Mommy or Daddy. I’m also not talking about that dazed behavior that parents occasionally sink into when their kids are having a bad day (and believe me, I am intimately familiar with the terrified deer-in-headlights look overwhelmed, fried mothers and fathers of grumpy toddlers have) but simply wandering off and leaving their kid without a backward glance, as if he or she were just playing on the floor. Usually, they murmur something like “oh, that’s nice dear,” and peruse the aisles far enough away that the kid is not even in peripheral vision any longer. And those parents? Those parents I judge. Oh, I judge them long and hard. It just seems so… neglectful.***** Do the ignoring-the-tantrum thing, keeping an eye on the kid while they wind down. Take the kid outside. Hell, plead with your three year old as if he or she actually had the ability to give a shit about something other than his own wants, I don’t care. But your child freaking out on the floor and you’re not even registering it? That just seems wrong.
However, I have no kids. I know nothing about parenting, or children, or… anything really, involving dealing with people under the age of about fifteen. I’m the youngest sibling, and the youngest of all my cousins, and only one friend of mine had a younger sibling when I was growing up. None of my friends have reproduced so far, at least not any that I see regularly. So the reality check is this: do these parents sound as neglectful as I seem to think they are, or am I just being one of those judgy childless people?
Regardless of whether I’m off the mark on that or not, I will just say on a related note that leaving your kid in their poopy diaper the whole hour you’re in the store needs to fucking stop right now. Forget crop dusting, that’s all out biological warfare.
*What, the nerves in your frontal lobe haven’t fully developed? Well in my day, our frontal lobe nerves developed by ten years old, and they had to work two jobs to support a family. While walking to school in the snow. Uphill. Both ways.
** Parents coming across this are saying, “Not the employees at my local toy store! They’re so sweet to my kids!” To which I reply: Yes. The employees at your local toy store as well. It’s a shame what deceptions otherwise guileless adults will perpetuate for slightly above minimum wage.
*** Here’s a hint: hit the bank before the toy store and teach little Bobby the wonders of paper money. We’ll thank you when we don’t need to roll quarters in order to close the fucking register drawer.
**** Hopefully not permanently.
***** Using the “inattentive” meaning of neglectful, not the legal meaning. But I can see that 911 call going down poorly for everyone involved.