When I was 18 I shared a beach house with a bunch of wonderful people in Lordship Connecticut. There was one other woman living there by the name of Beth.
Beth eventually married Mickey and they had three kids her youngest being a girl. She taught Amy who was 3, anytime she saw someone litter to say ouch on behalf of the earth. Witnessing this, if you were lucky enough, broke your heart in two. This wee creature would stun people into picking up what they dropped.
Beth died of breast cancer fifteen years ago but her sweet, gentle parenting still resonates, and I’m sure not just with me.
I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the conspicuous consumption, especially where children are concerned, is off the charts. Yesterday I met a 3 year-old with his own iPhone so he could call his grandparents in Palm Beach. I don’t know, it made me a little sad not to mention envious since he was also wearing Gucci loafers the size of Twinkies.
Kids aren’t really kids anymore. They’re just short adults that just have to answer to taller ones. I have nothing against smart Upper East Side kids fortunate enough to attend the best schools learning things that make my head spin. I only wish they could still be kids a little while longer.
The biggest parental responsibility that seems on its way out is good old-fashioned common courtesy.
I was recently having breakfast at Le Pain Quotidian on West 72nd Street. I like that particular one because it’s big and airy and the service is faster. I was sitting against the wall awaiting my oatmeal with apricots facing two, I’d guess, 7 year-old boys and their state-of-the-art silver skate boards sprawled in the aisle. Their parents, who I realized were French, were oblivious to the havoc this inappropriate seating was causing. The waitresses, coming from the kitchen, had to step over them with their eggs and whatnot to get to their tables.
Why didn’t they say anything?
Because it’s not that kind of place. It’s child friendly without boundaries so all bets are off behavioral wise. When I saw an elderly woman almost take a spill because she couldn’t get by, that was it for me.
Yes, you guessed it. Susannah, model citizen, spun into action.
Now I know enough when you’re about to criticize anyone, especially parents who become like grizzly bears in regard to their mirrored images, tact is required, even if a butter knife is more preferable.
“Excuse me,” I said with an itchy smile, “I’m concerned your sons are going to be trampled if they remain where they are.”
The mother looked at me as if to say, sons? Oh yes, those two belong to us. The father, to his credit, quickly made them get up and sit at the table despite the fifteen, no Papas, that came out of their feral little mouths.
“Merci merci,” the mother said to me as I went back to my banquette mumbling “fuck you, fuck you,” beneath my breath.
The two boys, who by the way were utterly beautiful with their long, wavy hair and chiseled French faces letting you glimpse how gorgeous they will soon grow up to be, stared at me as if I stole their last franc.
Just then a waitress caught her heel on the edge of one of the skate boards almost tumbling so Papa finally got up to move them to the side. I mean, it actually took a near accident for this to happen.
Parents, they should be required to take a test. You can’t man anything even remotely dangerous without a license so should raising kids be any different?
Food for thought.
I found myself leaving the same time as the unconscious French four. When we all got outside I watched as one of the kids threw a gum wrapper on the ground as they walked toward Strawberry Fields.
No, I didn’t pick it up but I did say ouch on behalf of the Earth.
God bless you Beth, where ever you are.