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Kids behaving in stores is a prehistoric concept
Dennis Wyatt

It sounded like a Pterodactyl – one of the flying “dinosaur” birds in the Jurassic Park series.

We were not, however, in a movie theater. We were in the Modesto Target.

When we heard it again but even louder, Cynthia took off looking for the source.

Seconds after she disappeared behind a row of shelving, I heard the sound again only this time it was followed by a similar sound that came from Cynthia.

That was followed by what looked like a 10-year-old boy standing a short distance from his startled mother along with his little brother asking Cynthia why she did that.

Cynthia’s response, “If you can do it, so can I.”

I’ll admit my initial reaction was disbelief. But then I got to thinking I wished I had thought of doing that.

Role models for how kids should act in public are becoming as rare as harmony in the halls of Congress.

The mother didn’t get angry. She just stood their stunned.

Could she not hear her sons whopping it up as if they were on a prehistoric playground bellowing out bird calls? Perhaps that is how they act at home so therefore it was the norm.

There was a time, not too long ago, when kids were expected to be civil in public places such as stores and – believe it or not – restaurants.

Perhaps we were bad grandparents. Whenever we had our grandkids with us and they started acting up in a store or a restaurant and  they declined requests to settle down or cease their temper tantrums one of us would walk them outside and stay there until they returned to civilized behavior. There was no yelling or beating our part. We simply held our ground until they complied with acceptable behavior.

I’ll concede some ground in fast-food restaurants. Kids, however, giving wild animals a bad name in sit-down restaurants is not acceptable.

Laurel Fang – the classy lady who oversaw serving guests at the former Isadore’s restaurant – would ask guests who allowed a child to get out of control or did not get them to stop wailing if they were having a tantrum to address the issue. If they didn’t, she’d ask them to leave.

I get kids are kids. What I don’t get is that people believe they should let their refusal to fine tune their parenting skills impact others.

Perhaps kids scream at the dinner table at home or run around the dining room or kitchen table when they are supposed to be sitting and eating.

That was the impression we were left with a few years back before Tony Roma’s closed in Modesto.

A party of eight with four kids under six years of age was seated next to us. They were fairly loud but not aggravatingly so. What was, though, was their running around the tables that included more than a few times bumping our chairs and even slapping our table. Just as I was about to say something, one of the kids unscrewed a salt shaker on an adjoining unoccupied table and dumped the contents.

Thinking erroneously that would give me an opening with what I assumed were their parents although the term “zookeepers” did enter my head for a moment until I realized zoo animals were much more reserved, I asked one of the adults if they realized a little boy that was with them was dumping out a salt shaker.

The answer was that it was no big deal and – the real kicker – that is why the restaurant had waitresses.

It was then that I realized civilization as Emily Post knew it was on life support.

I admit I fairly rarely ask parents if they can check on their overzealous child when they are using a store as their stage for the mother of all temper tantrums. It has a lot to do with an instance years ago before Pak-n-Save was converted into a Safeway on in Manteca.

I wish I was exaggerating but we had been in the store for five minutes and a young boy had been wailing at the top of his lungs non-stop – save for ragged gulps of air – as he sat in a shopping cart as his mother serenely shopped the aisles acting as is she couldn’t hear a thing.

We sought out the assistant manager who told us we weren’t the first to complain and that when she approached the woman, she assured her that her child was quite fine, thank you.

I penned a column on the incident noting what I thought was inappropriate behavior on the mom’s part.

I got an angry letter from the mother who said things were different today and that she couldn’t go around hitting her child as my parents did.

I made it clear to her that my parents never hit me but they bothered to invest time in my future as a member of a civilized society as to what behavior was acceptable.

They enforced standards with “the look” that told you that you were crossing the line and there would be consequences if you did not cease and desist immediately.

Parents that don’t believe they have an obligation to their offspring and society to enforce standards of behavior in public could be why more and more adults interact in the public square screaming at each other.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.