Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Me me me

This morning Good Morning America ran a story about a family that was kicked off of a plane, because their child was throwing a tantrum. The parents were outraged at the treatment, because they feel she was just being a "normal" 3-year old. I imagine that being removed from the plane was inconvenient from them, probably embarassing too. It's not that I don't feel some pity for the family, however... What about the convenience of the other 125 passengers on the flight?

So many times when one encounters parents with poorly behaved children, their excuse is that they're "just being kids" or that they have to have room to "express themselves". I am all for self-expression, fulfillment of needs, and maximum happiness for everyone. Everyone. Even short people. Nonetheless, one person's happiness, convenience, self-expression, etc. should not infringe upon that of another.

A number of years ago, I was at a restaurant with my friend Kim. We were having a discussion about something serious, some problem or other. I don't remember the topic anymore, I just remember that it was a grave conversation and that the child from the booth next to ours insisted on draping himself over the back of Kim's bench, balancing with his butt at about the level of her head and his feet in the air, while his parents sat obliviously next to him just chit chatting away, enjoying their dinner. When Kim finally had it and told the child that he needed to go sit properly with his parents in his own booth, the mother actually had the nerve to get mad. Her excuse? "He's just a little boy. He doesn't know any better." Kim just looked at her and said, "Maybe so, but you should."

It makes me sad that so many parents don't seem to feel the need to teach their children things like courtesy and respect for the rights of others. I'm not saying that children will be perfect. They're kids. They get mad, they have tantrums. Sometimes they even get kicked off of planes. Those things happen, but that doesn't absolve parents from teaching them how to behave either. Sometimes I think this is how we ended up with this corporate, Survivor, "it's all about me" society, where we seem to value excess, winning and getting ahead at all costs above carving out a good life for ourselves and our communities without steam rolling over everyone else.

It is a great thing to teach children that they are special, but it's also worthwhile to teach them that everyone else is too.

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