I was at the food counter waiting to buy my lunch and the woman next to me responded to her son’s request with ‘you’re not having a drink.’ She said it loudly and forcefully as she rummaged around in her purse and hardly looked at him. My first impulse was to say something to her, the next, was to mind my own business.  I decided that I really didn’t know what had got her to that point in time. Her little boy could have spent the morning pushing her buttons (the duty of every little boys and girl) sending her to the end of her tether. Maybe he had had enough to drink already and wasn’t allowed any more. There could have been a million reasons why she refused him the way that she did.

Or she could have been the sort of person who doesn’t believe that children deserve the sort of courtesy that most adults will extend to strangers. Because the next moment this lady was polite to the server, remembering to say please and thank you as she ordered her lunch.

It brings up the issue of mixed messages. We expect so much from our children and tell them so every day: don’t do this, do do that, don’t touch, don’t hit, do share. I’m sure that we knew it once, when we weren’t so worn out that our children are taking their cue from us, not from what we say but what we do.

I’ll never know how it turned out  for that little boy, but in a decade or two he will most likely be telling his own children to stop whining.

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