By Tiffany Markman, copywriter, editor and mom to a five-year-old chatterbox, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books, caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
Let me set the scene for you. We sit in a darkened theatre. Before us: a lush red curtain, quivering slightly – as if in anticipation. Above us: dramatic lighting, darkening slowly to alert the waiting audience to coming thrills. Beneath us: slightly sticky floors and fallen popcorn: the output of hundreds of excited children, about to watch Aladdin and Jasmine and the Genie dart to life before their very eyes.
Behind us? A small blonde child. About five years old. With a piercing voice. Not a whisper. Not an ‘inside’ voice. Not even an ‘outside’ voice, actually. She has a shrill and unapologetic yelp. And she uses it to ask questions roughly every 45 seconds, right from the opening of those lush red drapes to the final curtain call
“Mommy, why’s that man so tall?”
“Mommy, what’s Jasmine doing?”
“How come he’s lying down, mommy?”
“Why’s Aladdin going to jail, mom?”
“Mom, I’m scared.”
“Mommy, is that a parrot or a person?”
“Is that popcorn? Can I have some?”
“Why’s she wearing a wedding dress?”
Now, I get that kids have questions. My own kid is a questioner. But I have two LARGE problems with the little Blondie – and, more specifically, her mother.
The first problem is that Blondie has no sense whatsoever of other people, nor of how to moderate her voice in a public place where others are listening intently.
It’s a children’s show, yes, and so various other children are asking questions, or coughing, or sneezing, or crying, or laughing. But they’re doing so at an appropriate volume, given the context. And when they do get a bit too loud – here’s the critical bit – their parents lean over and shush them. Because: IT’S A THEATRE.
My second, bigger, problem with Blondie is her mother. Who answered every single inane question, in detail and at length, in an ‘outside’ voice. A shrill, unapologetic, no-holds-barred voice that carried theatre-wide. Every 45 seconds for 90 minutes.
I wanted to klap her.
So, here’s my point:
Yes, children should be allowed to be children. Noisy, shrieky, messy, crazy. That’s what playgrounds and gardens and parks are for. And if you’re a free-range mommy (I’m a sort of kugel-free range hybrid), that may even be what your own home is for.
But there are also places where children should behave like civilised human beings. Who speak at an appropriate volume, refrain from spreading their schmutz all over the place (as far as possible), say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and respect others.
These include restaurants (yes, even the ones that are ‘kid-friendly’), shops, cinemas, public transport, theatres, and other spaces frequented by non-children.
I read with horror the litany of misdemeanors carried out by the youthful patrons of Randburg’s Blandford Manor, leading its owners to ban kids under 15. These include: “emptying salt and pepper cellars; breaking all the sugar tubes; chasing/scaring ducks, rabbits and wild birds; peeping into the Spa when clients were having treatments; and…being rude”. There was an outcry, not at the kids’ behaviour, but at Blandford’s decision. Me? If my kid carried on like this, I’d sell her.
The point at which I realised that Blondie and her mom deserved a bitchy blog post came just after interval, when Blondie’s mom hauled out her large iPhone 6+, complete with brightly lit screen, and tapped on it til the end of the play – illuminating half the room and some of Braamfontein. Some people should just stay at home.
Note: If you’re five and you don’t know to whisper in a theatre – or your mom isn’t trying to teach you that valuable lesson – good luck with life, you entitled troglodyte.
Now that I’ve had my rant and feel better, I’d like your thoughts. Am I being unreasonable? Or is there a time and a place where different rules should apply?
Click here to find a list of companies that run parenting workshops to help us with issues like these.