Monday, December 18, 2006

A sour note

I promised (threatened?) to post about that child at the carol concert the other night. I owe it to myself, let along anyone else, to get on with it. So, for starters: there was a child at the carol concert. He was, I'd say, four at most - could have been a largish three. He was sitting maybe five rows from the front, next to a woman who might well have been his grandmother. His parents were there too, but took very little interest in him or what he was up to. He had with him a set of antlers, a blanket, a soft toy and a small car. He was surrounded by adults who had paid for the best tickets in the auditorium and who presumably wanted to enjoy the exqusite and finely-balanced singing of Cappella Nova.

This child was bored about fifteen minutes before the concert began. He was obviously physically uncomfortable on the seat and growing tired and irritable. The result was that he wriggled about, wrapped himself in the blanket, waved the toy in the air, made faces and then began to communicate with Grandma. When she tried to shush him, he pinched her arm with some vigour. He was so obviously past it that I began to hope that his hapless father might remove him at the interval - but no. There they were, back again, the child still carrying on, the parents still resolutely ignoring him. At last, Grandma managed to get him settled in a semi-recumbent postition across her lap, and he fell asleep.

Now there are some things to be clear about here. This was a concert, not a church service - that's another can of worms altogether, and one I'll leave for now. People had paid for their seats and had to put up with this distraction for three quarters of the concert. It was doing the child no good whatsoever; in fact I wouldn't be surprised if the experience put him off choral music for life. He was heard to whine at one point "I don't like this music" - that was when he was writhing on the floor with his fingers in his ears. So why was he there?

Presumably because his parents were too selfish to decide that one of them should stay at home and put the child to bed where he belonged, or too idle to arrange a babysitter, or too egocentric and lacking in imagination to see how unsuited the event was for such a young child. They had the comfortable look of people accustomed to their surroundings, but seemed completely unable to deal with their own offspring. I personally believe that children need to be introduced to adult events only when they are of an age and a stage in their development where they will not spoil things for everyone around them - and this includes church services (I can feel hackles rising in cyberspace already). Parents have no right to inflict the delights of family life on everyone else; it's their choice and they should realise the limitations which parenthood bring - and the responsibilities.

Meanwhile, well done Grandma for trying, and thumbs down to a couple of parents who are raising a petulant child for others to teach. But then, they'll not have the imagination to understand that either.


  1. Here Here! There is nothing worse. Did you not have a quiet word with the parental unit?

  2. Anonymous10:37 AM

    My! My! Chris! A cage has been truly rattled - and I can just imagine your disapproving glares! Enough to frighten the child into submission, I'm sure. I know what you mean, as this Grumpy Old Man goes on incessantly about parents' inability to control their children these days. I never needed to smack mine - one look - (like yours Chris!), was always enough!

  3. We just took it for granted that sometimes parenthood meant that you had to miss things ......a lot of times actually.I, for one, think I have earned the right to enjoy concerts, films, good restaurants, flights, train rides, hotels,shops....oh dear I had better stop and just stick to the first three, without being disturbed by small children!

  4. And if all you lovely people knew how much grumpier I am today now that my own laptop is not speaking to anything and I'm having to use Mr B's machine to blog - and all without me having anything to do with it. Grrrr....

  5. Mac trouble? Welcome to my world...

  6. "and this includes church services OK... hackles raised. :-)

    I don't think the presence of the child was the problem. It was the inability, or rather the unwillingness of the parents to do something about it that was the problem. Is it that people no longer believe it is possible for children to sit quietly and so no longer even try to make them?

    Certainly we always took our children to church and if there was no creche or Sunday school they were expected to sit quietly - even loud colouring in attracted a hard stare. If they became too noisy or distracting, they were taken out and given a good talking too. Some times this meant one of us missed a part of the service. Sometimes it meant there was a minor disruption as a disgruntled child was removed. But it seemed important to establish the pattern of regular church attendance.

    I don't like the growing trend of having a menu of services to choose from: one for young people; one for "traditional hymns"; one for families; one for left-handers who were born on a Thursday; ... If it is a church service, it should be for the whole church to worship God as a family of his people. That means occasionally you will have to put up with an embarrassing uncle, or a difficult granny, or even a noisy child! It's a family thing. :-)

  7. David, you've pressed a few of *my* buttons here - I suppose it comes down to what you look for in church. I'm not saying I'm right, merely that for me worship is rendered farcical with a disruptive child (or any other kind of disruptor) present. I might as well not be there, because I get so put off my scone that I'm not attending to anything but my own irritation.
    When our weans were too small to understand why silence was necessary, we didn't go to church together. The first one joined the choir at the age of 6, and we took them to concerts in which we were performing from the time they attended school at 4 and a half.
    I agree wholeheartedly that it's the parents who are to blame - can't help wondering if the next generation will be even worse ....