Well the gloves are off. In the red corner there are the world-weary Parents of Small Children – who look like they have already done ten rounds with a small, angry, vomiting Mike Tyson – in the blue corner there is Middle-Class Outrage which, on close inspection, has a copy of the Daily Mail under its arm.
The fight of the moment is over toddler tantrums and has been sparked by an incident in John Lewis, Manchester, in which a mother was asked by a member of staff to leave with her 16-month-old daughter after the child went into meltdown, prompting another customer to complain.
When the mum contacted John Lewis about the incident, which she said made her feel ’embarrassed’ and ‘like a rubbish mum’ she received an apology, flowers and a £20 gift card.
This tale of woe has prompted opinion pieces, columns and debate, much of which seems to be celebrating the member of staff who chucked the mum and her child from the shop and calling for John Lewis to ‘grow a backbone’rather than apologising for the action that was taken. One particularly vitriolic piece in the Daily Mail also goes onto attack parents using planes, public transport and breastfeeding in posh places where there might be ‘elderly gentlemen’ who would be distressed by the sight of a woman nourishing her child away from her confinement at home.
The piece reads: ‘It is the responsibility of a parent, if they cannot calm their child down, to remove the banshee from the orbit of other people. Or, let’s be honest, to stay away from grown-up venues and long plane journeys until the child is old enough to behave. It is a simple matter of consideration.’
Presumably this woman was a model child herself. Or her mother did the right thing and dared venture no further than the garden gate until her offspring were molded into mini-adults who would rather sit quietly rather than throw a tantrum.
Now, I completely agree that if your child loses their shit in a place like a restaurant or a plane you do all you can to calm them. Nobody wants to be sitting in front of a screaming child on a long-haul flight or trying to enjoy a romantic meal with the fruit of somebody else’s loins going batshit at the next table.
However, there are few parents I know who wouldn’t try to deal with a tantrum as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most parents are only too aware of the judgement going on around them and of the sanctity of a scream-free emvironment.
It seems that the fact that the John Lewis mum said she was trying to calm her child is irrelevant when it comes to slamming her audacity to shop in a ‘grown up’ venue. Despite it being a grown up venue that sells toys, children’s products and has a ‘family room’ to make those with small children more comfortable when it comes to feeding and changing etc…
The bilious comments that have been made in response to this story sweep all parents and families with young children into a pigeon-hole marked ‘smug, self-satisfied and sanctimonious’. The comments suggest young children should be seen and not heard and also infer that the parents of young children are so dazzled by the rays of light shining from their offsprings’ arses that they cannot define or deal with bad behaviour.
I would just like to suggest that this isn’t always true. In fact it’s rarely true. Most parents are just trying to do their best at being fully-rounded individuals who have lives, jobs, children, relationships and sometimes need to go to John Lewis or the other side of the world to achieve these things. Most parents love their children with all their hearts but can totally tell when their ‘little emperors’ need shutting down and a metaphorical kick up the bum back into good behaviour. Most parents cringe in embarrassment when their children kick off, are fully aware of how vile their child is being and try to deal with the tantrum as best they can.
So in the words of the John Lewis mum: “When shops see a mum trying to deal with a child having a tantrum they should cut them a bit of slack.”