Today I took my daughters and two of their friends to the local amusement park. Yeah, I spent about 5 hours there being the world’s most AWESOME mom. It’s kind of nice now that the older two are well, older and less inclined to follow strangers with candy. I can send them off to ride the Hurl ‘n’ Hurl and Deathdrop!! with nary a worry and Miss Thang and I get a little one v. one time in the more 4 year old appropriate land.
As it turned out after a scheduled meet up, Oldest decided she wanted to hang out with me and Miss Thang until the next pre-arranged meet up. It worked out well and when it came time for me to “meet up” with the wayward 3-some she took Miss Thang to a show so they didn’t have to “die in the wicked hot sun” while waiting at least a half an hour for the others to finally remember that we were supposed to meet. Excellent foresight on her part I must say. ANYWAY….
The agreed upon meeting spot was a themed miniature water oasis. It’s cool and fun, but from a parental stand point has awful logistics. The entrance is on one side and the exit is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay the frack over there, so if you’re paranoid like I am you’re killing yourself chasing them to the entrance and then meeting them at the exit before they squirt out into the crowd and are lost forever (or those heart stopping 30 seconds). Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.
While I was waiting I stood next to a woman and her double-wide stroller. She was watching her three daughters play in the water area – scowling at them. The oldest looked to be 4 and the youngest about 2 with a middle one in between. “Don’t you lose her like you did last time,” she hollered at the 4 year old. “You’d better bring her right back here when you get out of there.” I was stunned. Really? Your 4 year old is responsible for your 2 year old in a crowded amusement park? Seriously? Because… you’re to lazy to walk to the exit? She continued to yell at them as they tried to have fun and she got more and more irritated when they didn’t respond. Their lack of response was mostly because it’s impossible to hear anything but splashing water and screaming kids within the oasis, but I suspect it might have been a little bit of would you just shut your hole?!
Eventually the dad stomped up to the mother dragging yet another child with him. She might have been 6. The dad was furious furious that she hadn’t been allowed to ride whatever ride they’d stood in line to ride. He cussed, he gesticulated, he shot glares at bystanders. His daughter did the same thing, mimicking him expertly. (As an aside, it KILLS me when parents get upset when their children can’t ride certain rides due to SAFETY guidelines. Also? There are height guidelines posted ON EVERY RIDE IN THE PARK before you even get in line. What the hell?!)
“Get the rest of ’em,” the dad said and reached out to slap the sun visor back on their stroller. “I’m fucking done with this fucking place.” He put his hands on his hips and walked around fucking this and son of a bitching that. The three little girls scurried out of the oasis when he bellowed at them to “get your [sic] asses over here.” Then these two parental paragons just bitched at their kids – they weren’t fast enough in putting on their flip flops, they weren’t getting in the stroller fast enough, they were walking the wrong way, they were walking in the way, and by God don’t make me spank you!
Listen, we’ve all had those moments. I don’t know of a single parent who hasn’t just flipped out over the weirdest of things. I get that. I live that. But this was different. Not only was it lazy parenting (Sissy! Watch your sister so I don’t have to! -and- It says you’re too short to ride this ride. Naah… the line’s 40 minutes long. You’ve got plenty of time to grow!), just the way these girls behaved around their parents just shouted well… nothing good. There was the angry 6 year old (see Daddy? I’m mad too! Just like you!!), the over-responsible 4 year old taking care/protecting of her sisters because her parents wouldn’t, the quiet 3 year old who disappeared. I mean, she was still there. I could see her, but she did absolutely nothing to draw attention to herself, and not in the smug way my kid would. She just… vanished. And then the baby who, well, she was 2 and we all know 2 year olds are all kinds of weird anyway.
How horrible was it to be those girls in that moment? To see everyone else having fun, to see parents laughing with their kids, and to have to leave your oasis so you could be yelled at because your sister was too short to ride a roller coaster? If that’s how their parents treat them in public, what the hell goes on when they’re home?