I want to start by saying: parenting is hard. Parenting is the goddamn hardest thing any human ever undertakes and I MEAN that. Parenting is not for the faint-hearted, and anyone who chooses to undertake it has my heartfelt admiration and respect. And I mean that too.
But ce soir, I got on the bus and nearly killed a woman and her two children. Because she was pissing. me. off.
And not because her children were noisy. Because they weren’t. The two children (who I discovered were called Hector and Alicia – because she bellowed it up the bus repeatedly) were beautifully behaved. Hector – Hector was three. Hector had a cold. Hector wanted to touch everything on the bus, but only when walking down the aisle to get off. The rest of the time he wanted to sit quietly and enjoy the scenery. Hector was a little angel, and does not deserve my ire.
Likewise, Alicia. She was quiet, mostly. She was interested in everything going on. She wanted to lick everything on the bus (which is how all the bus passengers got to learn about Hector’s cold), and did so. She was rambunctious, but she wasn’t….badly behaved.
But their mother? Their mother was a pain in the effing backside.
I got on the bus, to the sound of Hector & Alicia’s Mama saying “No, Alicia! No, stop that!” Alicia was casually swinging her drink about. The sippy bit briefly touched the seat. “Oh!” exclaims Mama. “Now it’s dirty!”
(Not really, lady, and I have a tendency towards paranoia over germs. Also, it’s good for us to ingest the odd bit of dirt or fluff or germs. Helps our immune systems.)
Anyway, the bus empties out at the city centre, and Mama and her two children are left at the back of the bus. Alicia asks something, and Mama loudly replies “No, you wanted to sit at the back, we’re not moving.”
This continues until the bus pulls away from the stop – Alicia is being…a two-year old, so she’s making a two-year-old’s amount of noise. That’s OK, that happens. But Mama is making enough noise for eight two-year-olds and since she’s clearly not sixteen? That’s not OK. And then. Then the golden moment happens.
Alicia stands up and Mama says “Either sit down, or you can get off this bus and walk home by yourself.”
She’s TWO. She’s a baby. She can’t walk home by herself – a fact that Mama immediately realises is an empty threat, and therefore, when Alicia replies, as small, testing-the-boundaries children do, “OK, get off bus,” there is a long, awkward pause. “Off you go then,” Mama says, as the moving bus turns a corner. “Can you find your way?”
Alicia looks confused. “No?”
“Ha! See! YOU NEED ME!” Mama cries triumphantly, and a million future psychotherapists just punched the air.
A minute or two later, Mama tells Hector loudly and forcefully, “You stay there, Hector.” She and Alicia trot down the aisle and sit in the seats in front of me. Alicia – happy now she’s svengali’d her mother into bending to her (admirably steely) will – sits down. Immediately, Mama starts fussing, trying to get her to sit straight, unfold her legs…and so on. Alicia wriggles from her grasp, stands up on the chair and starts licking the window. She then turns around and starts licking the handle on the top of her chair…which is millimetres from me. I can feel her gaze resting upon me, and with no small amount of haste, I move. Because I’ve assessed her modus operandi, and I will not be next in line for a toddler licking.
Mama, meanwhile, has turned awkwardly in her seat to bellow back up the bus, “Hector! Are you alright?” [Hector’s fine. Hector’s suffering teenage mortification from his embarrassing mother. He is, I remind you, three.]
The bus judders around the corner, and Alicia topples over. She wails, loudly. Mama laughs. “Oh, you’re not hurt! Silly girl!” She turns back towards the rear of the bus and yells, “Hector? Are you alright?”
Mama realises she’s coming up to her stop. “Stay there,” she says sternly to Alicia, who promptly ignores her and starts larking about behind Mama’s back. Mama, meanwhile, has stood up and retrieved her pushchair from the luggage rack. She gathers up Alicia, and straps her in – Alicia immediately calms down. Mama shouts up the bus, “Come on, Hector!” and begins to get off the bus, as it pulls up to the stop. Hector, bless his adorable little heart, quietly gets up from his seat, and trots down the bus, offering a quiet Thank You to the bus driver. Mama pushes the pushchair containing a quiet and biddable Alicia off the bus and calls out, “COME ON, HECTOR!” Because his tiny wee legs aren’t going fast enough for Mama.
I realise this hasn’t been much of an opinion so far, although I think we’ve all ascertained my true feelings towards Mama. So here it is, my final opinion:
Mama, your kids were fine. They weren’t misbehaving, noisy or unpleasant. The licking was unfortunate, but easily avoided. What was noisy, unpleasant and unfortunate…was you. You made everything about you. You failed to enforce your attempts at discipline (because you made an outlandish threat that you could never follow through on) and ignored the ways your children were behaving well. Count your blessings, lady, and stop shouting up the bus like a fishwife on crack.