Visiting the Science Museum on a Bank Holiday Monday is not for the faint-hearted. Still, in the Wonderlab, it’s not the hordes of kids who are bothersome. They’re running excitedly around the exhibits. It’s the parents shouting at them who are too much.
Here’s my reasons why:
(and sorry because for some reason I’ve gone second person narrative. Definitely not due to ‘hanging out with my kids a lot’ sense of expertise. Ahem. I can’t change it back either. Oh well.)
1. You don’t spend enough time with them. Not necessarily your fault, but communication is key.
2. You feel you have to be the best parent in the room and talk like you’re on some sort of tv show. Surprisingly common.
3. Both of the above. Part of this manifestation is feeling you have to tell your children off. The kids meanwhile, they’re fine. They’re in the Science Museum for heaven’s sake. It’s like nerd heaven. How naughty can they possibly be?
Since we are in the Science Museum, let’s go scientific. Evidence-based. Example no 1: One boy was busy telling another boy not to climb on the cloud maker. I thought it was pretty good of him, especially as we were also there, trying to make cloud rings. Unfortunately his stressed-out mother arrived a few moments later and all hell broke loose.
She went straight over to the miniature policeman and smacked him. ‘I told you to leave him alone!’ she yelled into his little face.
It was one of those ‘you-got-it-all-wrong-lady’ moments. Our eyes widened in shock. The boy began crying in frustration. The other boy, the climber, he didn’t say anything, surprise surprise, and sidled over. Sly fox. I side-eyed him and sneered. He didn’t notice my disapproval though – he was too busy looking relieved. The mother was still shouting. How often did that kid get ratted out unfairly I wondered?
So, you know what I’m going to say. I couldn’t help it. My mother in me is growing strong. Example number 2: Lulu broke her elbow when she was six. It was my mother who shamed Lulu’s teacher into getting the class to make her a get-well card. Lu had been off for weeks and her spirits were low. My mum had told the teacher that where she was from, teachers cared about their pupils. Ouch. Still, the card which had been sorely lacking, arrived the next week. And it made Lulu feel way better.
‘You know,’ I said to this mother, ‘your boy was telling the other kid not to climb on the cloud ring. He wasn’t being naughty. It was the other way round if anything.’
Stop. All noise in the Science Museum stilled. Well, in our heads. Because we had just entered a mother showdown. The one where it’s an unwritten law not to tell another mother how to mother. It was clear I’d just crossed a precious line. As the mother stared at me, processing my words, I felt myself gulp.
I steeled myself. I’d only been prepared to pass this threshold because I couldn’t let that little a-hole get away with it (the other boy was still crying in the corner) – and with that smug look on his 5-ish year-old face.
‘Well, they have to learn at some point, don’t they?’ she retorted. And then she broke eye contact.
I swallowed again. The eye contact break meant I’d won. Example no. 3: no points for friendship. She started hustling her boys away from us towards the interactive theatre. I crossed my fingers for that little boy.