For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take my daughter to a Christmas performance of The Nutcracker. But when my aunt bought the entire family tickets to see the ballet at Lincoln Center last year, I decided to leave my daughter home. I didn’t feel she was ready to sit for that long, and I didn’t want her to ruin it for anyone else. This year, I decided to test the waters by taking her to a local – though professional – performance that was a little bit shorter and a lot less pricey than the New York City version.
Madeline was thrilled to be going to her first “grown-up ballet” and picked out her prettiest holiday dress for the occasion.
On the Saturday before Christmas, the auditorium was filled with families with little girls all excited about seeing the show. We, of course, were seated two rows behind a couple who, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to bring two boys under the age of five to the show. The younger one started crying less than ten minutes after the lights went down. “I don’t want to watch this!” he wailed. The older boy decided to up the ante by standing on his seat and yelling, “I want to go home!” The couple’s winning strategy for dealing with these two justifiably unhappy little boys? Mostly ignore them. Who cared if no one within earshot could enjoy the performance?
Directly in front of us sat an angelic-looking little girl with her mother. I can’t tell you what her mother looked like because she never turned her head. Her daughter, on the other hand, stood squarely facing us the entire time we were there. The minute this child came in, she started talking and never stopped. I thought she was charming at first as she chatted with my daughter about Santa. When the music first started and she didn’t turn around to watch, I thought for sure her mom would step in.
Nothing doing. My daughter said to her several times, ‘You shouldn’t be talking right now.’ The child would fall silent for a minute and then continue right on blabbing. No amount of sighing from me or throat-clearing from my husband made a bit of difference to this child’s mother. I was just about to tap the woman on the shoulder when the child happily blurted out, ‘You know why my daddy isn’t here right now? Because mommy yelled at him.’ Bingo! The woman yanked the child into her seat without ever taking her eyes off the stage.
A week later, my daughter attended a classmate’s birthday party where the three boys seated right next to her hurled pieces of pizza at each other from across the table while their oblivious parents did nothing. When I stepped in and told them to stop, the surliest of the bunch looked me squarely in the eye and said, ‘You’re not the boss of me.’ Very nice. His father was equally friendly when I asked him to get control of his son.
So here’s my resolution for the New Year: I promise not to call your kid a brat, if you promise not to raise one.
Betty’s multi-tasking parenting columnist is a New York Times best-selling author who covers fashion and entertainment for publications, including People. When she adopted her daughter from China in 2005, she discovered motherhood provides great material on a daily basis. Between driving her daughter to nursery school and juggling play dates, she writes and is at work on her first novel.