Picture the scene. You stagger onto the train with a suitcase bursting at the seams with the contents of your student flat and a few bowls which may or may not have been borrowed at some stage from someone and never returned (many apologies- you know who you are). After traipsing through the carriages, you finally squish yourself into a seat and try to remove your jacket without whacking your arm into the face of the person sitting next to you. Following a few minutes of wriggling around in vain, you pretend that you were feeling the cold anyway and would rather keep the jacket on. Now, not only are you uncomfortably squeezed in, but are slowly melting. What’s the one thing you don’t need right now? Other people’s children. You definitely do not appreciate other people’s children right now.
In many situations, but specifically in the above situation, it is by no means socially acceptable to lumber a tired, potentially grouchy, clammy stranger with the responsibility of entertaining your child.
At first, you smile at the bright-eyed toddler in the pram, exchange a *isn’t he lovely* look with the Mother, then kindly pick up the very well-loved rabbit with half an ear missing, which has been thrown out of the pram in your direction. Fatal mistake number one: initiating a game with said toddler when all you want to do for the next couple of hours is have a nap and lose yourself in your book. Too late- the Mother has already cottoned on and the child, having found a new play-mate, couldn’t be chuckling away more. However, all is not lost -you could just stop picking it up, hand it to the mother, turn your head away, look disinterested…but no:
– Mother ‘ Isn’t that nice, Fergus. You’re a very good boy playing with the nice girl. Isn’t that nice? Now you can play with her!’
Firstly, no -it was not ‘nice’, it was, in fact, a rather sneaky way of palming off your annoying child to someone else, hereby guilt tripping them into occupying him for the journey. And secondly, no, I do not wish to entertain your hyperactive child for two hours so you, unknown Mother, can read your book in peace: something I had been hoping to do myself.
Life lessons learnt from this: when I am sleep deprived in a confined, airless place, I do not particularly enjoy other people’s children or other people with children.