Have parents gone a bit mad?
Lactose-intolerant, wheat-averse, allergic to peanuts, crazed by sugar, gifted – was there ever a time when children were so readily labelled and so precious? Or is it that parents have become slightly mad?
Several reports this week make me wonder. In one, a policeman was banned from watching games at Christchurch's major football venue for behaving like "the spectator from hell" while watching his son's team play. He admitted assaulting a match official.
And also this week, a Queensland mother was banned from her son's former school for a year after punching the principal and threatening to have him killed. There'd been issues with her son's laptop that ended in her shoving the principal and punching him three times in the head. Which must have seemed so logical at the time.
What a mistake to look on your kids as part of yourself, a younger rerun of your genes, but some parents seem to take the idea on board and react to every slight their child experiences as a major tragedy.
It's their job, as they see it, to make sure their child shines on the sports field, even if they're trained to be un-sportsmanlike in the process. It's their job to back their child against authority – police, teachers, doctors, whatever, because their child could never make a mistake or be wrong about anything.
You dream of parents like this when you're a small kid sobbing in the sandpit and thinking the world's against you, but actually it's a blessing to have parents who live in the real world and want to help you live in it too.
Stories about brattish parental behaviour are not unusual, which makes me wonder why we take such delight in comparing our system with the folly of China's one-child system, where each child has six adoring adults caring for them, parents and grandparents, who have all their hopes invested in them. This must make for a blissful childhood but a stressful adulthood, knowing you're effectively the welfare system for the older people, and have a duty to look after them as well as they once looked after you.
We know those little princes and princesses can be little monsters, but there are plenty being reared in our world, too. Think of the preschoolers free to run rampant in cafes and restaurants, ignored by their indulgent parents while they toss food about and shriek? Nobody dares challenge the parents for fear of attack, and I always feel sorry for the hapless workers cleaning up after them.
By then, of course, they've cleared the eating place of other customers, but children are entitled to self-expression, and people who don't go out to be amused by them are mean old cows – as indeed I am.
I'LL add here the new right of every baby to be fed by a pair of full breasts on full view in public. This new development – we used to conceal the whole caboodle without traumatising our offspring – must put many people off their tucker in eating places, but you mustn't say so. There's a new belief, it seems, that exhibitionist feeding creates the best children.
This week a young man lost his job over taking his fashion statements to work and expecting his boss, and the public, to lump it. They took issue with the rings through his lips and nose, his wearing his baseball cap backwards, and the way he wore those low-cut trousers that always seem about to drop. The Employment Relations Authority agreed that it was unreasonable of him, after being warned, to ignore his employer's expectations.
I'm not even slightly surprised he thought he was more important than his boss and the customers who complained about his manner. I take the irritating way kids will respond with "not a problem" when you order a coffee, say, or ask them to help you in a shop, to mean they're only playing at being mere mortals when they give you their offhand pretence at service. Usually they're being God.