Sitting in an idyllic country pub enjoying a Sunday lunch, I smiled at the little girl seated at the table opposite as she briefly looked up from the colouring book she was engrossed in. She smiled back, then, tongue out in concentration, carried on filling in the pictures.
Then it started.
I rolled my eyes at my friend as an ear-splitting drone filled the air.
And no, it wasn't from the cute little girl. It was her thoroughly obnoxious father. One of an ever multiplying breed: The Attention Seeking Parent.
"LOOK Isobel!" he shouted as a woman came through the door with a dog in her arms, "A puppy! You LOVE puppies, don't you Isobel?"
As he fixed his eyes – and a rictus grin – on the lady in the doorway, Isobel said nothing, pausing only to put down her orange crayon and pick up a red one.
"Go and stroke the doggy Isobel!" her father demanded, leaping to his feet and throwing himself at the poor woman, who looked like she was having second thoughts about staying in the pub.
This continued throughout our starter and main course. We – and indeed Poor Isobel - endured 60 minutes of her dad forcing her to stroke every dog that entered, admire every baby, and 'try some of daddy's prawns, darling, you know you LOVE seafood' all the while the poor little mite was quite happy sitting there colouring.
Eventually she cracked, dissolving into floods of tears after point blank refusing to kiss a snot-encrusted baby her father had practically wrestled from another dad at the bar.
"Daddy does NOT like it when you are noisy and naughty like that!" he admonished as he dragged her out of the pub, "No one wants to listen to your shouting when they are enjoying their afternoon out!"
Oh how I wish I'd had the guts to call after him "Er, no mate, no one wants to listen to YOU – but we all have done, all bloody afternoon."
This was an extreme case, granted, but Attention Seeking Parents really make me cross. While their offspring are generally contented, quiet and happily amusing themselves in public, the ASP just cannot help but make sure they are taking centre stage.
They are subtly different (though equally as dreadful) as the Loud Parenting Parents but their behaviour is all about them – it's not about boasting how clever or advanced or brilliant their child is, but behaviour solely played out to showcase their own credentials.
In this case, it enabled the Attention Seeking Dad to bore the lady with the puppy for 10 minutes about Every Other Dog He Had Ever Seen and his own dog husbandry skills, and also to display his sophisticated palate as he extolled the virtues of Atlantic Prawns to Poor Isobel, and relayed, loudly, a no doubt oft-repeated tale of how he caught his own off the coast of Scotland when he was studying Marine Biology (this was shared at ear splitting levels) at Aberdeen... and all the while Poor Isobel ignored him and carried on crayoning princes and princesses in her book.
"I am SO fed up with one mum who does this constantly," my friend Claire confided, "The worse time being when we were away in Cornwall and took the kids round a really dull museum. I hadn't even wanted to go, but she made us, seemingly JUST so she could shout out all her in-depth knowledge of every exhibit and artifact all the way round. Her five-year-old son looked mortified. But she carried on regardless. It was excruciating."
Excruciating is the word. And omnipresent. In just the last week I have been rendered speechless by a mum instilling in an almost-asleep toddler on a bus the virtues of iPhone over other devices – top of voice of course (how we all applauded her technical prowess when she got off) and a mum in Costa telling her two couldn't-care-less primary school age children about Every Different Kind of Coffee Bean there was and loudly declaring you could NOT beat Ugandan Bugisu...(all the while knocking back a flat white).
I did allow myself a small under-table air punch of satisfaction when one of her thoroughly fed up kids interrupted her to ask "Yes mummy, but what time is Horrid Henry on?"
She shut up after that. And I tried not to meet her eyes and laugh.
What's the WORST example of attention seeking parenting you've encountered?