10/08/2010 12:31 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Achtung Baby Or Liquid Sunshine

A walloping generalization it may be, but German children really do seem to be, by and large, pretty well behaved. One possible explanation for this, in my experience, is high expectations and standards.

But at what price all this refinement? I think I'm a reasonable disciplinarian. I'm a stickler for eating at the table, positively puritanical when it comes to please and thank yous and don't even get me started on room tidying before bed! But I strongly believe that kids should be allowed to be kids. There's time enough to be worrying about your tax returns!

A wise person once said something along the lines of "A small child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a £200 set of swings as he does out of finding a small green worm." A trip to our favourite cafe with a friend and her daughter last summer proved the point.

As regulars at the Italian run establishment, both our children get preposterously pampered by the staff.
We sat outside in the balmy evening air sipping cappuccinos as the kids were with the waiter serving customers ice cream.

Ominous looking clouds loomed overhead.
Sure enough, within ten minutes the rain came and we relocated, chuntering, inside. The kids however were thrilled by the combo of temperate temperature and torrential rain. They skipped in and out squealing in glee, catching raindrops on their tongues, positively relishing in the experience. The rain for them was simply liquid sunshine and their unadulterated exuberance was nothing short of awe inspiring to observe. As my friend and I deliberated over when we had lost the ability to simply enjoy the moment without lamenting the consequences, a middle aged Frau approached our table. Her mission, it soon became clear, was to berate our parenting skills in allowing such young children to get soaked to the skin.

On finding herself on the receiving end of the best Paddington Bear stare I could summon up at such short notice, she had, at least, the decency to attempt a back-peddle. She kept repeating the fact that it was only her observation of the situation.
"Well that's super", I said, "if your powers of observation are so important to the human race perhaps we should build a dome over you and stick a telescope on your head!"

She didn't get it of course (I fear I may have translated the German word for dome as casserole dish!) but we left the cafe giggling in a way not dissimilar to that of our wet three-year-olds and steadfastly refusing to use our umbrellas.