Archive for June 11th, 2008

A Kiddie “Catch-22″ (And DIPSTICK Parents, Too)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Remember Yossarian, the WWII flyer from Joseph Heller’s Catch 22? In that novel, his military shrink found him fit for combat – even though Yossarian claimed to be insane. The Doc reasoned that only sane persons can think they are crazy.

I’ve noticed a corollary to Heller’s premise that concerns kids at primarily-adult gatherings (which can mean anything from sporting events to R-rated movies or hospital visits, but which especially includes weddings and anniversaries.) According to “Dave’s Inverse-Parenting Skill Tests In Critical Knowledge” (hereafter known as “DIPSTICK”), the parents who worry that their child might be causing a disturbance which could interfere with other guests’ enjoyment of the evening virtually always have the well-behaved kids. Rather, it’s the oblivious mom and dad (DIPSTICKs) whose little darling is – even now – leading a junior wolfpack up the down escalator, peering into adjoining stalls in the restrooms, or terrorizing elderly waltzers on the dance floor.

At social gatherings, children of DIPSTICK parents are – for all practical purposes – orphans. Stoked on caffeine and sugar, Little Attila and his unsupervised horde of pint-sized Huns swarm through hotel lobbies and 4-star restaurants like a Biblical plague. Meanwhile, should the closely-monitored offspring of attentive parents simply stare too inquisitively at Uncle Harry’s thrift store toupee, his mortified mother – apologizing profusely to Harry – will yank her child back to their table so fast that the poor tyke will suffer whiplash.

And that’s the “Kiddie Catch-22: the good kids (who aren’t bothering anybody) inevitably belong to parents who are open to the concept of – and are vigilantly on the look-out for – juvenile misbehavior.

Meanwhile, the authentic miscreant runs riot, ignored by his DIPSTICK parents. Most of us adults don’t blame the kiddo – we know it’s not his fault. The real delinquents are his mom and dad. But when your party is being disrupted – no matter who is being irresponsible – that’s bad news.

The good news is, after your event is over, Little Attila will still be a problem. He just won’t be yours any more. He’ll be back with the DIPSTICKs who’ve allowed him to become such a nuisance in the first place. One hopes that – for his sake – they will eventually take remedial action.

But when the attentive parents say their farewells to you, please take a moment to compliment them on the fine behavior of their child. Good parents deserve to hear those kind words once in a while.

And so do their kids.