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.