Babies are behaving badly across America - and quite possibly around the world - despite the sincere attempts of some young parents to control them.
"Look at what those babies are doing!" an outraged bystander is apt to exclaim, as toddlers in the supermarket yell to be let out of their shopping carts, only to scamper off to ravage chewing gum and candy which is displayed on the lowest shelves in the store.
"Can't that woman control her children?"
Alas, the answer is no. Not all the time. Babies are wired for mayhem. As one mom pointed out, "They are so little, and we are so tired."
When my mother was around 75 years old, she returned from a Seniors Circle day trip complaining bitterly about the comportment of someone not in her age group who had been on the same bus.
"This child ran up and down the aisle, whacking the seats with a stuffed toy - I think it was a penguin - and shouting," she told me. "It was perfectly awful."
"How old was this child?"I asked. "About 2?"
"Yes," my mother said. "Then at the shopping mall a badly brought-up little girl kept running away from her mother and pulling the decorations off a Christmas tree and throwing them in the fountain."
"How old was this little girl?" I asked her. "About 2?"
"Yes," my mother said huffily.
I was astonished that my mother, who had brought up four children of her own, none of us particularly well behaved, could evince such disapproval at the antics of toddlers.
My mother didn't bring us on her shopping expeditions as a rule. In those days, when a parent had to bring the children along, it was common practice to leave them in the station wagon to fend for themselves while the adult ran errands. Children as a rule weren't afraid that strangers would kidnap them, or that they would faint from heat exhaustion. We were all perfectly capable of cranking the windows up and down. There used to be a little handle on the side of the door for that purpose.
No, for us the great danger lay in the fact that we were enclosed in a small space with murderous older siblings and no adults. Even if we told on our brothers and sisters afterwards, the adults were never interested.
"Dick hit me over the head with a shoe."
"Oh, that didn't hurt. She started it. She kept singing 'Davey, Davey Crocket, king of the wild frontier,' over and over again, and I asked her as nicely as I could to stop, and she wouldn't, so I hit her with a shoe by accident."
"He kept shooting me with his cap pistol and saying I was dead, and he knew darn well I wasn't, because I was wearing an invisible shield."
"Work it out between the two of you," a typical mom would say vaguely as she rummaged through her purse for the car keys, or her cigarettes, although, had she given it a moment's thought, she would have seen that letting the children work it out would invariably result in the younger, smaller child getting clobbered.
Do not assume for a minute that I am one of those old coots who hold up such tableaus as shining examples of the good old days.
"We rode our bikes for miles. We played in the creek, and nobody cared where we were until dinner time," old timers like to say.
I think the parenting of those times was nature's way of thinning out the population after the baby boom. There were just way too many of us. And there still are, which is a testament to the toughness of our species.
No, my point here is that today's young, earnest parents need not worry too much about their babies' poor comportment. Babies have always reveled in being as bad as possible-I have observed that two and three year olds act like tiny drunken adults, some like mean drunks-- but generally with time they tire of baby behaviors and go on to other things.
My Texan grandmother, Rose, born in 1884, never forgot that in her infancy she scribbled on the wall of the Palace Hotel in Colorado, where her family was vacationing. Yet when I knew her, she never wrote on the wall, and was always very polite.
So don't worry, and have a good week.