Aiming to be happier families.

Stop it, You are going to be in trouble!

It’s 10:30 on a Thursday night and it’s freezing cold.  I am sitting on the train with a friend, coming back from London. As my face begins to thaw, making me able to move my eyes around, I notice a family sitting across the aisle. Dad, daughter of about 4, son of about 10 in his school uniform facing me. Mom and half a son of about 6 in line with me. I say half a son because I can only see the bottom half of him as the top half is concealed behind his Mom.

The Dad has his elbow against the window and is resting his head on his hand, while the little girl is leaning up against him, her eyes doing the slow butterfly dance of tiredness. The ten year old has his feet on the seat opposite and is bouncing his knees up and down. The mother is sitting curled up sideways, her back to me with her feet perched on the seat opposite and the half-a-son is sitting quietly by the window.

The Dad, noticing the little girl’s eyes have closed, puts his hand on her knee and tells her gently not to go asleep because they will be home soon. When she snuggles closer, he does a magic trick, hiding his folded ticket in his hand and asking her to guess which hand it is in. She guesses wrongly and the top half of ‘half-a-son’ comes into view as he tries to guess. The older boy guesses correctly and dad continues the game for a little while longer, eventually the children are all awake again.

The older boy tells his mom a story about a girl in school who does magic tricks, but his mom doesn’t seem terribly interested. Everyone else has settled back down again so he puts his feet back on the seat. Dad tells him to take his feet off the seat (mom’s are still on his seat). The boy ignores his dad and looks around the train. Dad tells him again to take his feet off the seat. At this point he becomes aware that I am watching. He takes his feet off the seat and looks straight ahead, but I can see the cogs clattering in his head.

His sister has started to curl up again and dad is looking out of the window. He puts his feet back on the seat and nudges his mom with the toe of his shoe.

Stoppit Joe,” she mumbles and pushes his feet away. He looks at me to check that I am still watching. His dad looks at him and he puts his feet down.

“I’m starving,” he says, to no-one in particular but looks at me again to make sure I have heard, and keeping eye contact with me, his hand snakes across to his sister and he pulls her jacket. She pulls away and he does it again. She whines and dad looks at him, but he is sitting looking ahead.

Again, he nudges her and mom says, “Don’t Joe, she is tired.”

He looks at me and does it again.

“Joe, stop. You are going to end up in trouble.”

He smiles and nudges her again.

“Joe,” his mom says, “you’re always doing that and you end up in trouble. You know that you are going to be in trouble.” His hand sneaks out but his dad looks at him and he folds his arms. Then he looks at me and puts his feet back on the seat.

My friend, who has been sitting in silence next to me, leans closer and says quietly, “Are you busy writing the next chapter of your book?”

I smile and say that I was actually concentrating on biting my tongue and keeping a blank look on my face.

Why was Joe acting up? – It was 10:30pm on a school evening. The two boys were still in their school clothes and judging by the colour of the little girl’s clothes, she had come from nursery school.

 Although the parents weren’t shouting, and the father was trying hard to keep the children entertained, they should really not have been out at that time on a school night. They were all tired and hungry – Joe was “starved”.

 However, not knowing the circumstances as to why they would be travelling so far (Our stop is 45 minutes out of London and we got off before them), I cannot condemn them for that.

 Perhaps though if they had thought to get the children something to eat and drink before getting on the train?

Perhaps if Joe had sat by the window?

 Perhaps it would be better if mom didn’t set a bad example by putting her feet on the seat?

 Perhaps, instead of repeating herself three times with an obscure threat of “trouble” his mom could have said, the first time, “Joe, stop prodding your sister, she is tired. If you prod her again you will not be allowed TV/PlayStation/Xbox/to go to your friends.” Then if he did it again, she would be able to take away the privilege.

 Yes, this may have led to pleading, but then dad would have been able to give him the “Shut up Joe” look.

 – One of my favourite ‘lines of wisdom’ is: Keep it simple. In this case it would be, don’t take your children out until they are exhausted and, don’t nag.




13 March 2013 - Posted by | Parenting | , , , ,

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