A few weeks ago I was driving from the market to my house. I used to take a fairly direct route but some idiot, who was elected as the President of the Waverly Hill Association – no one knows how or who elected him – decided there should be changes in the traffic pattern along that route. He lobbied the county to have 4 traffic circles in installed in the one previously unobstructed distance from the metro to our house. This is the kind of guy whose answer to questions about why do something that costly and ridiculous is to say, “if Waverly Hills doesn’t get the money someone else will.” Forget the good of the community or the fact that there are parts of the county without streetlights. He feels entitled. But I am jumping ahead.
There are many houses along the way and now there are 4 traffic circles in this tiny area where the street was previously unencumbered by these things that are impossible for anything larger than a Mini Cooper to navigate. (Tire tracks have been spotted over the middle of 2). Luckily I have a Mini Cooper but I still take an alternate route because I don’t want to be confronted by stupidity on every trip to the grocer.
The street I take runs parallel to the roundabout laden larger thoroughfare. When I was one block from our house I saw that the street was blocked by orange traffic cones. “Oh for Christ sakes, not more circles or sidewalks,” I shouted to myself. “Now what are they going to do to this block?” (I do talk to myself because I know I’ll listen.) Then I saw some young children playing in the middle of the street. I stopped the car to see if there were parents around and sure enough there were three adults gabbing on the side of the road. I said hello and asked why the street was closed. They answered that their children were playing here. I moved the cones and proceeded cautiously down the block and said, “this is a county street, not a playground. (There is, by the way, a playground two blocks away). And I believe it is illegal for you to close it.” There were some obscenities and a few indignant harrumphs but they removed the orange traffic cones. Which brings us to what I wanted to blob about again -- entitlement.
As much chutzpah as I have, it would never have occurred to me to close a street so that Seth or Jordan could play on it. We actually used our eyes not traffic cones to watch our children, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is that these people felt they were entitled to close the street. They had the right to inconvenience about 50 other people so that they could chatter while their kids played without having to be watched. Have you noticed that more people are taking less responsibility for how their children act. Let me just say, in case you think I’m some kind of curmudgeon, I like kids. I love when the neighbors come over and their children play in our yard. You may recall David’s picture yesterday where there were pink flowers covering our yard and a car. Those petals are like pink snow and kids love to play in them. What I don’t like is when people feel entitled to allow their children to act without consequences or a simple, no. For example, you go to a restaurant and next to you is a family with kids anywhere from 2-10. This is not a fast food joint. It’s a place where it costs plenty to have a meal. The children do not sit at the table, they run around, make noise and throw their toys. I assume they have brought toys so they will sit nicely, but this is not the case. Anyway, you wind trying to have a nice meal in the middle of a three ring circus. Do you say something to the Maitre d’? Do you say something to the parents—who by the way, don’t think the noise is a problem. Is this about feeling entitled or not having been taught any manners. I think it’s the former. My friend Laura, when faced with this situation, tells the host. Then if the management does nothing, she refuses to pay. I prefer to say something to the parents—but you knew that.
A few months ago, Jordan was home from school and we went to have brunch at a favorite place. We sat next to a three year old and two women, one was the mother the other appeared to be the au pair. The mother talked on her cell while the au pair watched but did not discipline the kid—probably because the mother was there. Anyway, the kid was playing with a plastic bucket. He was banging on the bucket with a spoon. It was non-stop and incredibly annoying. The mother ignored the noise and simply turned her chair so she could hear whoever was on the phone. When they were starting on dessert, the mother looked at us and the kid and smiled like his actions were adorable. I turned to her and said, “Why don’t you put the bucket on his head and let him bang on it, then he would know what that sounds like to the rest of us.” More harrumphs, no vocalized obscenities. The mother finally took the spoon away. It wasn’t brain surgery.
David, feels pretty much the same way but he is a bit gentler in his approach. The last time we were on a flight there was a six year old crying non stop. We listened to the parental discourse. It wasn’t about her ears or being frightened. It was about getting attention from her parents and all those around her. They assured one another that the other people on the flight did not mind, After all, the people who she was annoying had no alternative. Finally David got up and gently said to the parents, why not ask her if she sees anyone else on the plane crying? Then maybe she won’t feel like she should be crying either.” Needless to say, it worked. And David was elected most popular passenger.
Best I can figure, there are a few reasons why parents behave this way. They want to be their children’s friend and think if they administer discipline the kid won’t like them. Why has it become so difficult to say a simple “no”, or “that is not acceptable behavior!” Maybe they think if they don’t take responsibility someone else will – like letting a child play in the street and assuming drivers will watch for them instead of their caretaker. Or they feel they are entitled to allow their kids to do anything they want anywhere anytime no matter the effect it has on anyone around them. I’ll go with this new sense of entitlement. Whatever the reason, the only thing orange traffic cones should be used for is as a hat, that entitled parents must wear when they have behave badly…. We’re just sayin.