I WAS the mother in the dental office recently. My children sitting quietly, patiently, waiting to see the dentist. I made polite chat with the man beside me and kept a cursory eye on the offspring.
When my acquaintance was called in, a lady came over to me and told me how well behaved my children were.
It was a golden moment.
She blew off my magnanimous "oh, it's them that do all the hard work” self-deprecation and went back to her seat.
I asked my son if he'd overheard. I could tell by his shy smile, he had.
I was also the mother in Woolworths recently, picking blueberries up off the floor while my child screamed.
She had asked for the most expensive fruit there, to which I said no and she, feeling the sting of injustice, threw the slippery "law suit waiting to happen” berries in the foyer of the busy supermarket.
Her idea of helping was to begin eating them off the floor.
I was the mother who figured - a) we'd be paying for them now anyway, and b) Woolies floor has most likely been mopped more recently than my own - that I'd leave her to her own devices while I scrabbled across the floor, scooping up berries as quickly as I could.
My point is that on any given day, a parent can be presented with either one of such scenarios.
How we handle our children can be a fairly arbitrary factor in the grand plan of child-rearing.
But how the people around us, the witnesses to our parental struggles and triumphs, treat us make the going so much easier.
But this isn't just true for parenting.
This mutual respect ought to be how we approach people every day, particularly when the person is obviously struggling with something, whether that is small people, or trolleys, or money. Whatever.
As a colleague wrote recently, the growing number of people choosing to remain childless means a larger proportion of people less accommodating to "breeders” and their broods.
I have friends who have openly cheered - literally raising their glasses - when I had scooped my child off the floor (they had crashed into a waiter and then on to the floor of a restaurant) and declared we would call it a night.
I wondered, if their parents had been in attendance, whether they'd have earned a quick reprimand?
Whether I'd be regaled with tales of my now-smug friends who once upon a time couldn't eat without getting food in their hair and on the floor?
I am not one to shirk my responsibilities and think every passer-by is just as responsible for teaching my offspring lessons in life, but we were all small once.
It pays to remember that the child throwing a tantrum may have been you, once upon a time.
And how you treat a child, or their parent for that matter, shows them something of the world. Try to make it positive.
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