Be on Your Best Behavior

I have always been appalled by children with atrocious behavior in public.

Look, even before I was a parent, I understood that no conscious child will be an angel every minute of the time they’re in public. I know that. Kids will be bad.

And by the way, please don’t jump down my throat for making that statement. I am unapologetic. I will repeat myself: kids will be bad. I’ll even expand: humans will be bad. It’s a fact of life, so don’t get your feelings hurt over a three letter word. People are jerks.

But kids–kids will not listen, kids will snatch, kids will steal, kids will throw screaming fits while bashing their skulls bloody on the concrete. It happens. I know this, and when these things happen, as long as the parent is not being abusive, I give the commiseration face.

Oh, come on. We all have a commiseration face. It’s that half-smirky one with a shrug that says no, I don’t know how we survived without our parents killing us either. If you haven’t given that face at least once in your life, I’ll bet you’re a real drag at parties. You probably send your salad back because the capers on the side were on the same plate. Yeah. I’m on to you.

But a line does exist, and it’s when that line is crossed that commiseration disappears, to be replaced by shock and disgust.

About two hours ago, I waited in line at a popular dog-mascotted chicken-stripped restaurant in the food court, just trying to get an ice refill. It’s hot standing under those skylights all day, y’all.

As I waited, a small child, four-ish, decided that these help-yourself cups of straws belonged to this counter. That decision was not hers to make. Another patron returned the first cup. As the cups were returned to their rightful counter, the employee pulled them back, out of the little girl’s reach. I returned the second and third, taking the last gently from her grubby little grasp.

“No, sweetie, these stay here.”


I was dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. I was at a loss for words. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly.



At that moment, my mind abruptly switched into valley girl mode. Like, seriously? She said that. She totally told me to shut up. Oh em gee! What do I do?

I went with nothing.

She continued her cup-snatching ways, modified into bear hugging one cup while she circled those of us in line. Finally, she moved on to harass the other end of the counter, which was fortunately a straw-free zone.

Throughout the entire episode, her mother completely ignored her, hands on a double stroller, jaw going ninety-to-nothing chatting with her adult female companion. I don’t know which was the heathen child’s mother, but I promise you, they were identically posed and jabbering.

Ah! My turn at the counter. It was a girl I see almost every day I work, since I tend to consume numerous refills of ice with my water during a shift.

“Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re welcome. Did you hear her tell me to shut up?”

She nodded, seemingly as confused as I was, and thanked me again. I told her to have a good night. She responded in kind.

We both meant it. False, hollow have-a-good-nights are nearly as rude as repeatedly telling a complete stranger to shut up.

It just isn’t done, darling.

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