Is it ever okay to let your children run wild in a public place?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

The lift had only partly opened when I heard the screams. They were coming from two boys who were wrestling in the corridor and one was soon blocking the entrance to the office where I was heading.

"Hey there mate, do you want to just move a little so I can go inside?" I was using my best child-friendly voice.

I don't dislike kids. I have two of my own and try not to get annoyed by kids being kids.

I peered through the glass doors. A woman looked up from her phone. Maybe she was the mum? She looked at me and the child at my feet blocking my entrance then looked back down at her phone. There was another woman inside. Maybe they were hers?

The boy finally moved, allowing me passage inside. I grabbed a magazine and began flicking through, but it was difficult to concentrate with the constant screams. Occasionally one or both of the boys would barrel down the corridor past the glass door.

The office floor was full of businesses, including a solicitor.

Then a shriek pierced through the air. Someone was hurt. One of the children burst through the door, wailing. He headed straight to the mum on the phone.

"So-and-so did such-and-such to me," he cried.

"Okay, well play nicely then," said the mum.

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Off he went back out through the doors. I glanced at the mum, who was back looking at her phone.

"Try not to judge her," I thought. "Maybe she has had a bad day."

But she didn't look like she had a bad day. Still, what's the saying? Don't judge someone until you have walked a mile in their very fashionable wedges.

Fifteen minutes. I had been here 15 minutes and they were still screaming, running, tackling and sliding their way along the corridor.

Then a miracle happened. She got up, walked to the door and told the boys that was enough and it was time to come inside.

They ignored her, but hey, she had tried, so she came back inside and was about to give up when the receptionist took matters into her own hands.

"Oh, good you're getting them in. Yes, I think that's a good idea because the other businesses might be about to complain about the noise," she said with a smile and not a hint of attitude.

The boys sat down at a little table and began to busy themselves. The mum went back to scrolling through her phone.

And then it hit me. However much my kids annoyed other people, it was never due to my lack of trying to stop them.

How many places had we dragged them out of over the years because they were arguing, fighting, misbehaving. How many times had we warned, cajoled, threatened them to behave. Or else! Yes, OR ELSE!

A girlfriend and I were enjoying Sunday afternoon drinks recently in the swanky bar of a hotel when a family set up shop on the lounge chairs beside us.

Pretty soon a toddler began a little routine of walking to where we were seated, stepping over our legs and squeezing past the table in front of us, before looping behind us, then starting all over again. Each time she almost knocked our drinks off the table.

At no point did her parents or grandparents attempt to stop her. No, they were relaxing over an overpriced drink. Which is exactly what we had been doing until they got there.

Our kids were at home, annoying their fathers, instead of the people sitting at the next table.

My friend got annoyed pretty quickly. "Why are they here?'" she asked a little too loudly.

"Maybe they are staying here," I offered.

"Well, why aren't they in their room then. Their kids don't want to be here. They want to run around. You know what we did when our kids were that age and we stayed in a hotel? We drank IN OUR ROOM."

She had a point. So had we.

Yet here we were, moving tables, because someone else wanted to have a little downtime.

I get it. We all need downtime. My downtime sometimes consists of sitting alone in a dark room and muttering "Shut the f*** up," under my breath while my kids fight in the next room.

I am all for downtime.

Just don't have it when your kids are annoying someone else.