Most parents think their kids have super powers — as in super smart, super athletic and, well, just to save time on this list take pretty much any adjective that would look good on a college application and put super in front of it. Bam, list done.
The one super power I’m not buying is the whole invisible thing. No one’s child was born with a cloak of invisibility and yet many parents act like their kids are see through at events like theater and musical performances.
I understand that parents want their children to experience something like the symphony, but there are common courtesies that still are in place no matter what the age. For example, no child should be allowed to stand up the whole time or do what I call the wander hike.
This is when a kid uses a venue for exploration purposes. It begins with what might at first glance seem like an innocent aisle saunter and then grows to include roaming the stairs next to the row of seats their parents are inhabiting. Once that trail is well worn, the intrepid adventurer starts a parade of bathroom visits so robust you begin to question the integrity of the child’s bladder.
Now while all this is happening, the kid’s parents seem oblivious to the disruption of their fellow audience members’ enjoyment of the event. They act as if their progeny shares the same transparency as, say, Casper the Friendly Ghost. The very best you can hope for is for the child to get bored and proceed to play games on an iPhone with a screen bright enough to make the sun feel impotent.
When this happens I always feel I have only three choices: One is tamping down my irritation and pretending that it’s no big deal. Two, attempting to ever so discreetly get the parents attention with perhaps just the tiniest of hand waves (and I’m talking the complete hand — no single fingers) and gesture that their kid needs to be corralled. Or three, actually saying something. And by this I mean using your words via your vocal cords, not going home and going all cray on social media. Yes, Facebook is an all-you-can-eat buffet for complainers, but more often than not, moaning and groaning as a status update is not really accomplishing much.
Last week, I was attending an indoor musical and the aforementioned three choices were all swirling in the head as I was feeling crabby towards a family sitting in front of me. Two parents with a preschooler were allowing their child to not only do the wander hike, but also stand up in his chair and stare at me.
I gave it 10 minutes to see if the parents would harness their collective brainpower and have an aha moment that their child was not made of glass. After that, I felt, based on my rising blood pressure, that my health mandated I do a little hand-wave thingy indicating their precious gumdrop needed to attach his fanny to the seat.
Well, if that had worked I wouldn’t now be writing this, so we all know the hand wave was a fail. This led to me ever so gently leaning forward and sweetly whispering, “Pardon me, but I can’t see through your son.” That earned me a searing look and then the mother told her son, “Honey, you need to sit down because there’s a mean lady behind you.”
Whatever. All I cared about is that I could now see the stage. It was all good until intermission when the dad saw me and began a beration oration for “interrupting them during the show.” This stumped me to such a degree I was rendered mute until the mom piped up with, “We also didn’t appreciate you making our son feel bad.”
OK, by now I was experiencing two emotions. The most important one was relief. Finally, I had something to write about for my column. Yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes at that, but hey it’s not easy finding something to blab about every week.
Also, I also feeling generous. I was going to use this as a teachable moment and reach out to these young parents. So, I replied, “I am so sorry. I wasn’t trying to make your son feel bad. I was only attempting to awaken what must be very dormant parenting instincts.”
The dad looked at me like he wasn’t quite sure if I was insulting them. I took that as my cue to exit their range of vision. When the musical started up again the family was no longer inhabiting their seats. I guess they had figured out what I was talking about after all.