Over the looooong summer holidays I have found myself repeatedly doing something, I've never really done before, and in front of complete strangers... apologising for my children's behaviour!
Aged seven, four and two they are what many would euphemistically describe as "spirited" - others who are less charitable might say they are, well - just loud! And I would have to agree - they are! As they battle to be heard over one another - the noise level often escalates to multi-decibel levels.
This summer as we've done more and more "en famille", my husband and I have both noticed the increasing intolerance from strangers to not just ours but also other peoples' children.
Landing at Malaga airport after being cooped up on a plane for three hours my kids quite naturally needed to expend some energy. This manifested itself in them performing a rather loud and energetic rendition of the theme tune from - of all things - Spitting Image. I'm sure you remember the words "throw a chicken in the air, stick a deck chair up your nose, fly a jumbo jet and then bury all your clothes..."! Why I'm not quite sure? How they know the words I am equally unclear - but older cousins may be involved! But as they galloped through the airport you definitely couldn't miss them. We received some interesting looks from the other passengers - some grimacingly tolerant, others downright disapproving. There was one lovely lady who at the luggage carousel and after enduring the third rendition of the song - laughed and said she hadn't heard that for years and wouldn't be able to get it out of her head!
A few days in we had an unfortunate holiday visit to the doctor when my four-year-old fell out of bed and gashed his head. As we entered the clinic the usual wall of noise that accompanies our family- assaulted the doctor - I instantly gave him a weary apologetic smile and asked if he was prepared. He raised an eyebrow and said in broken English "it depends". As it happened he was very encouraging of their many questions as to what he was doing? What was that piece of equipment? Why were his gloves blue? Could he breath through the mask? And so it went on...
On a night out without the children we drove out to a restaurant in the Costa del Sol hills. Boy were we relieved they hadn't come with us, when we arrived to discover an unexpectedly posh, civilised, quiet restaurant in stunning manicured grounds. We spent the first twenty minutes saying to each other "can you imagine the kids here?", "thank goodness we didn't bring them"! There were other people there with young children who were all beautifully behaved - it soon became apparent they weren't English! The couple on the next table to us had two small children with them, one around three years old fast asleep in his dad's arms, the other a baby asleep in a buggy. As the baby stirred and started to cry I tried to catch the eye of the Mum to give her a sympathetic smile - but before I had the chance she had whisked him off for a power walk around the gardens - clearly not wanting to incur the wrath of the other diners.
On the way home from Spain we were delayed and stuck in the plane on the runway for three hours, going nowhere fast. My four-year-old was overtired and yes I admit, a little bit whingey. Although I've often had to answer the classic "are we there yet" from him, it was the first time, two hours into a journey, I had had to explain to him that we hadn't even left yet!
Just thinking about the bad temper and intolerance emanating from some of the "grown ups" during the three hours we were sitting on the runway, makes me think that the kids on board actually deserved a medal in spite of their behaviour!
As the minutes, and then hours, ticked on... The middle aged lady with the Marbs tan and false eye lashes behind us was busy conducting an eye rolling tour de force aimed at my kids, before finally hissing "I can't take this anymore". I accept that whining children that aren't yours in an enclosed space is no barrel of laughs (it's often even worse if they are yours!) but she'd have been better served channelling her energy at getting an unforthcoming explanation for the delay from the Ryan Air stewards. Most of us of a certain age have had to deal with a tantruming child, and if we haven't, then I can guarantee we've all been one once!
It seems we've gone full circle from the Victorian era of children being seen and not heard, to feral children being given Asbos - back to a society which looks disapprovingly on kids being - well -kids!
When did we become so intolerant of children and their "normal" behaviour? Don't get me wrong I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to my children being rude, aggressive or ungrateful. I would be the first to apologise for that, as well as of course make them apologise too! But I refuse to apologise anymore for my children being inquisitive, engaging, lively and yes occasionally overbearingly loud.
As we piled into the taxi on the way home from the airport, the kids having been stuck on a plane for six hours - three of them going nowhere - my knee jerk reaction was to instantly start apologising to the driver. As the noise levels inevitably started to rise I once more said "sorry" and sshh Shhhhh!! BE QUIET! to the kids. He chuckled and said I've got three kids and three grandkids - I've seen it all before - there's nothing better than the sound of children! Somewhat stunned - he at least managed to shut me up! Hear Hear I thought!
My kids have enquiring minds - they love new experiences and want to know - well everything! I think that is great! I would rather have kids who are engaging and engaged - than - well the alternative!
So, sorry, from now on no more apologies from me for my kids!