Are Other People’s Kids Your Problem?

Near me in the café, a little boy of about three sits in a push-chair while his mother fiddles with her iPhone. He’s wide awake, he’s quiet, yet there’s a dummy parked in his mouth. The boy asks for something, removing the plastic thing from his mouth to speak. When the brief conversation is over, Mother puts the dummy back.

FreeImages.com/T. Rolf

I feel like telling her that a dummy is a pacifier, and, as such, is only for pacifying babies.  This boy isn’t a baby, nor does he need pacifying. But I’m not sure she’d appreciate a lecture on dummies and speech development, especially now that she’s returned to her phone.

Besides, it’s not my child. It’s not my business.

In the supermarket a little later, I’m distracted by yelling from the next aisle. A woman is dragging her child by the arm, calling him, among other colourful things, a proper little stinker. I hadn’t actually noticed a pong from the child (but then we are at the cheese counter). Several shoppers stop, visibly shocked. Whether it’s the woman’s rough handling, or the fact that she’s hurling abuse at her child in Waitrose, of all places, I’m not sure. But neither I nor anyone else has words with her.

After all, not our child. Not our business.

FreeImages.com/Gokhan Okur

It must have looked pretty bad on the day, many years ago, that I smacked my twins outside the school gates. I say ‘gates’, but that school had no gates, simply a path that led to a busy street. I didn’t just tap each of my sons on the bottom – I actually slipped one of my shoes off to do it. The reason? Aged four, they’d run out into the road in front of a passing taxi which, fortunately, screeched to a halt. I figured a sharp shock would be a better deterrent than the standard telling off.

But the shoe and I didn’t look good, I admit, especially as none of the other parents had seen the incident. The mothers glared. Some tutted or shook their heads, probably wondering how a family doctor (who also writes extensively on child-rearing) could possibly behave in this way. Yet not one of them opened their mouths. Perhaps they feared that, for two pins, I’d have smacked them with my shoe too. Or maybe they just reasoned those weren’t their children, and it wasn’t their business.

Just the other day on London transport, a woman with long flowing locks boarded the train, two schoolboys in tow. It was about 4 pm and, after a day at school, the boys still looked clean and tidy in their uniforms. Yet the mother, when she wasn’t preening and flicking her hair, was shouting at one of the boys. “You’re disgusting,” she howled as he flinched. “Really disgusting.”

Whatever it was that he had done, it was surely his behaviour that was despicable, not the boy himself.  But I said nothing. Eventually it was their stop, and the woman, still tossing her hair about dramatically, dragged them off as she continued to berate the one who was allegedly so disgusting.

What would you have done?

***

For those of you outside the UK, Waitrose is the most genteel of supermarkets. There are things you can expect to hear there, and things you really don’t.

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Rushed off Your Paws at Christmas

You don’t need telling that it’s a busy and stressful time of year, especially if you have family to look after.

No wonder so many of us will be rushed off our feet. Or indeed our paws. 

I’m thinking of dogs like the lovely May here whose duties include opening and shutting doors, unloading the washing machine, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches, and if need be getting help in an emergency.  

There’s the Christmas shopping to attend to, and that requires money. Here’s May using the ATM.

assistance dog using cash machine

photo by Canine Partners

All the food to buy.

assistance dog shopping in supermarket

photo by Canine Partners

Not to mention sorting out the Christmas post.

assistance dog with post

photo by Canine Partners

Canine Partners like May are trained to do a range of different tasks, but they’re intelligent and can adapt to the person’s lifestyle. In a survey, over a third of their humans say they rely on them to tidy toys away. Some dogs even let the cat in and out. And in and out again.

FreeImages.com/Robert Bak

And they do all this without a murmur of complaint, which can’t be said of most humans.

I don’t know about you, but I think May deserves something in her Christmas stocking.

Christmas stocking

If you don’t need an assistance dog yourself, you can still adopt one. Might even make a good last minute Christmas present for someone.

Have a merry Christmas, one and all.  

holly garland

You may like to know…

Canine Partners assists people with a range of disabilities to enjoy a greater independence and quality of life through the provision of specially trained dogs.

For example, the charity works in partnership with Help for Heroes, aiming to train dogs to meet the needs of people with even the most complex disabilities.  These life-transforming dogs also provide practical, physiological, psychological and social benefits including increased independence and confidence as well as increased motivation and self-esteem.

Canine Partners is a registered charity and receives no government funding. It depends wholly on public donations and legacies.

That’ll be you and me.

angel tree decoration

 

Easy tweet: “Christmas stress? Some busy feet barely touch the ground via @DrCarolCooper & help from @canine_partners”

A cure for the shopping habit

I doubt I’ll ever buy another thing. The price of accumulating stuff is a periodic clear-out, and if that means another car boot sale, the aversion therapy has worked.1181530_at_the_flea_market crop

Car boot sales mean getting up ridiculously early.  At 6.45am the venue was already buzzing. We’d barely opened the tailgate when people started poking around, helpfully extracting our stuff from boxes and baskets.  They drifted off when they realised we had no vinyls, military badges or priceless artwork going for a song.

We did have clothes, books and general bric-a-brac.  One man spent ages doing and undoing every zip on a rucksack.  He returned half an hour later to do it all again before buying it.

Some had a specific mission: football club badges, trousers for work, king-sized bed-linen.  For others it was a day out.  One young woman sipped from a trendy Mason jar drinker as she strolled around.  I looked for the cameraman, sure that she was on a shoot.

When we weren’t helping folks try on suits (‘It’s a 42” chest’ I reminded the XXL man who was trying to pour himself into a pinstripe jacket), there was always people-watching.  Ankle socks and high heels were the favoured footwear for women.   One woman walked around with Chihuahuas stuffed down her front.  Her puppies?  I’ve no idea.  

chihuahuas cropThere were lots of kids, not always supervised.  A toddler bashed a wooden train to pieces on the concrete. His parents ignored him in favour of bargaining over a laundry bag.  Many people had brought their dogs.  A spaniel cocked his leg against a tyre.  A man with two boxers asked about a picture-frame.  When I said it was 50p (about 75 US cents), the man said he’d go away and think about it.

Some people can’t resist the lure of towels they don’t need and books they don’t want. One woman picked up every book on our table, from Angels and Demons to Weaning Your Baby, then shrugged and told me she didn’t read.

The weather turned windy and cool, but I could take my pick of warm clothes off our cheapo clothes rail.  By now the rail had toppled over several times.  Here it is lashed to the car with a printer cable.car boot sale

Nobody bought the printer anyway.  Seems there’s not much call for elderly printers with empty cartridges. Who’d have thought?

We had to keep our eyes open or things could go walkies, but there were sales to make.  At £8-£10 each (about $13-$16), the suits went fast. ‘Looks great on you’ said my husband as another punter tried on a jacket, checking his reflection in a car window.

For those of you who’ve never done a car boot sale, you can buy or sell almost anything there: bikes, baby clothes, furniture, you name it.  It’s a bit like a flea market, minus the fleas.

Though, come to think of it, I’ve been itching quite a bit since.