I’ve been around kids in some capacity for most of my life, including being a big sister, an involved cousin, a tutor, a nanny, and a person who does not exist in a self-made bubble where all human life begins at 18. I like kids (sometimes), but Jesus Christ sometimes they just suck. They say rude things, are poorly behaved, throw gross things at me, and sometime are just big fucking nerds who don’t even know about anything cool in the world.
When kids act poorly in public spaces, I think everyone sort of freezes up and doesn’t know how to deal. Certainly, there’s a lot of factors that would affect the situation–if the parents are trying to discipline the kid, being flippant, or worse, loving their little terrorist’s antics. There are cultures that collectively parent and have no trouble stepping in if someone’s kid is, say, pants-ing people left and right, but we prefer to watch disapprovingly, even when a kid is desperately in need of discipline.
Being charged with disciplining other people’s kids can be fraught and uncomfortable, because unlike seeing a total stranger, you do have some leeway. During my time nannying/teaching English to an adorable three-year-old from Taiwan name Lily, I was supposed to keep her in line. I absolutely adored Lily–she had learned English mostly from watching American TV, and would quote TV catchphrases all the time. Because I am a narcissist, I found it especially endearing that she quickly started mimicking my phrases and mannerisms, so this beautiful three-year-old would slump around saying things like “Um, I don’t know. Things are okay, I guess,” or “I really need you to not be such a w-a-n-g about communicating,” after hearing me say that to my boyfriend over the phone. I fell in love with her.
But Lily was trouble. She didn’t know the first thing about sharing, and would run up to kids in the park and hit them to try to steal their toys. When it would come time for me to leave, she would fly into screaming rages and pound her adorable little fists right into my ovaries, which she could reach when standing on tip toe. It was one thing when her mom was around, who seemed to be very over her head but would attempt to drag Lily off of me or a child she accosted, but it was clear Lily was running the show. When she and I were alone, I would calmly say “Why are you hitting me, Lily?” which sometimes disarmed her and sometimes led her to hit harder–it was a crap shoot. Had she been my own kid, I probably would have put her in a chair and talked to her sternly, but I never felt entirely comfortable with that.