Wipe that kid’s nose and teach him a lesson

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The thing about other people is that they really don’t know how to raise their children. Because of this fact, my skills and opinions are often required.

The need for George arises when children’s behaviour careens sideways in malls, restaurants, stores, parks and other locales where snot, tears, screams and melting ice cream can have a detrimental effect on the smooth operation of society.

Consider it my gift to the universe.

So there I am in a Starbucks. Little Bobby, we’ll call him, carries his trash towards the waste bin – so far, so good.

Little Bobby passes a counter of leaflets. His movement causes a half dozen of them to flutter to the floor, so the keenly observant 10-year-old stops, looks at them and carries on. Even walking back, he doesn’t pick them up.

It’s time for an intervention from the outside. I just can’t help myself. “You should pick those papers up and put them back where they belong,” I tell Little Bobby. “You knocked them off the shelf, you return them to the shelf. That’s the way it works.”

This is a dumbfounding experience for a 10-year-old. I can see memory data spinning madly through his eyes like fruit on a slot machine.

Little Bobby looks over at his equally confused dad, who eventually gives a barely perceptible why-not shoulder hunch and facial scrunch.

The boy does the right thing. The universe cheers.

On another day, I go to the swimming pool in my complex. Unattended children are playing with two lifesaver rings and various deck furnishings. In the water. “We should put that stuff back where it belongs,” I say to them, using the first-person collective so they know we’re all in this together and all part of the same, responsible-acting human race. Which, in their case at least, is questionable. “Oh, we didn’t put this stuff in the pool,” one of them chirps. “Some other kids did.” “Yeah, I know,” I say, even though I don’t. “But you know what? We should take it out anyway. You guys are old enough to know that, aren’t you?”

Again, rightness triumphs and the universe cheers.

Now, sometimes I do keep my mouth shut. When the attending parent does take action, appropriate or otherwise, I stay out of it.

I’m waiting in the ferry queue, the other day. A guy walks by with his screaming toddler against his shoulder. “Stop crying, Very Little Bobby,” he says, “or Mommy and Daddy are going to leave Very Little Bobby behind and go on the ferry without him.”

Now, I am not a licensed psychologist, so call this a gut instinct. It seems to me that threatening abandonment for the crime of crying is not good parenting.

This is tantamount to putting a child to bed and saying there are monsters in the closet that will eat you if you don’t fall asleep right away.

On to another scenario. I spend a lot of time downtown. A thing I see constantly is young mothers pushing their kids around in strollers – while hanging out in groups of cigarette-smoking street kids.

Isn’t it beautiful? Why, life is still about friends and good times, only with wheels and Huggies.

Well, young moms, things have changed. Right now, you should start making your children a priority. It’s a cruel fate to be moms so young, but deal with it.

Get some help and get you and your kids off the street.

Then the universe will cheer like we’ve never heard it cheer before.

George Lee lives, writes and edits in Edmonton, where parents avoid him like H1N1. Reach him at piecesofgeorge@featureswest.com.

Organizations: Starbucks, Huggies

Geographic location: Edmonton

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