02 September, 2011

Temper Trap

We’re going on holiday soon. Abroad. I should be happily looking forward to a bit of sun and a relax. Instead I’m slightly stressed thinking about in-flight child-containment strategies.

At home I have no problem with our kids making a big din in the name of fun. And if there’s a tantrum to ignore, I’m your man. (My in-built noise-cancellation technology has evolved to the point where I can totally screen it out.)
But in a confined public space it’s a different story. I’ve never been a massive fan of other people’s crying kids imposing themselves on my ears, and I’ve always felt hugely awkward when mine have gone loud in the restaurant/book shop/Trappist monastery.

There is a lot to be said for avoiding ‘scenes’ and keeping your life easy while they’re little. To minimise our instances of being the most-disliked family in earshot, we made a few guidelines:
Timing is everything. If you’re eating out, get there early so that food arrives before your kids have got really hungry (as opposed to ordering when they’re already hungry and having to endure ravenous screams for the duration of the wait)
Unconsciousness is your friend. If you want to do some shopping straight-forwardly, do it when they’re due a nap and can fall asleep in the pram
- Don’t force it. If the kids are tired or having a bad day, it’ll most-likely be very stressful eating out. (And no-one wants to be the person who snaps and drops the C-bomb in Pizza Express on a Saturday afternoon.)
Do it another time. Or get a babysitter and do it when they’re in bed.
Swiftly analyse your environment. Jason Bourne walks into a diner, “The first thing I'm doing is I'm catching the sight lines and looking for an exit. I can tell that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs 220 pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the grey truck outside.”

I walk into any café/bar/restaurant, “The first thing I’m doing is I’m looking for a quiet place to change a nappy or put on a meltdown-calming puppet show. I can tell that our waitress knows where to get crayons and that the group on the next table won’t see the cute side if our daughter wanders over and verbally-freestyles on their physical appearance. I know the best place to look for a chocolate-based distraction is the newsagents next door”

All that is great for short-term situations where you’ve got the fall-back option of taking the kids outside if they kick-off. Long train or plane journeys are a different matter. It’s all about temper control. And the children have the strongest negotiating position. If anyone’s got any different tips, I’d love to hear them, but so far the only solution we've found is just to drop all the usual rules on use of treats, TV, Rohypnol, etc.
... My holiday hand luggage will contain stickerbooks, a laptop, various Pixar & DreamWorks DVDs and a heady cocktail of crisps, chocolate, Calpol and sweets.

Learned Wisdoms
#19: A good way to overcome your fears is to face them. If you’re often embarrassed by the somewhat anti-social actions of your children in public, wait until your daughter is old enough to walk and to operate basic mechanisms like, say, the lock of a pub’s disabled-toilet-&-baby-change-room. Then leave her free post-nappy-change while you use the loo. Once she’s opened the door, walked out and left you standing, mid-stream, in-front of a table of eight interested elderly folk, you’ll be effectively embarrassment-proof for the rest of your life.

#20: Before you’ve got children, when you see a parent shouting at their screaming kid in public you think “Oh, what a terrible parent. That poor little child, living with such an aggressive bully”.
Once you have children, you see the same scene and think more along the lines of “What horrible thing did that mean little f*cking little kid do to push that poor, poor adult over the edge?”

1 comment:

  1. Strategies for kid-handling - close-quarters combat:
    When you have lost control...drop and roll. It rhymes for ease of recollection when the sh1t is going down.... and it can be applied to adults, children or both at the same time.