Dear Annie

Dealing with a screaming child

Dear Annie: I was recently shopping in a department store, when I heard the very loud screams of a child. Because the screaming was so abnormal, I wanted to seek the child out to see what was causing it. When I found the screamer, she was being pushed in a stroller by her mother, with a man (possibly her father) and two other women walking alongside. As the screaming and crying continued, none of the adults made any attempt to talk to, interact with or hush the child. It appeared as if they were in full ignore mode.

As a mother, I know that children have these types of meltdowns when they’re hungry, they’re tired or a request for something shiny or sparkly has not been met. However, when my children were young and I found myself in a public place when they began to get cranky, I immediately removed them from the store and took them outside until they calmed down. To me, this was the polite thing to do so I did not subject other shoppers to the subsequent crying that was sure to come.

The store was quite large, and as the group moved away from where I was, the child continued to cry, kick and scream in her stroller. Everyone in the store could hear her as the family casually strolled from department to department.

The reason I am writing this is to plead with parents to have some common courtesy when in public places with your children. Perhaps when you know you will be out of the house longer than your child can tolerate, be prepared with a bottle, a snack and a small book or toy to keep him or her occupied. You may be used to hearing your child’s screams, but it can be annoying and disruptive to others who are nearby.

— Mind Your Manners, Please

Dear Manners: You offer great suggestions for parents preparing for outings with their young kids. Of course, one of the adults should have taken the little girl outside, for her own sake and for the sake of other customers. I surveyed a group of young moms, and they defended the adults in your scenario. I understand their feeling that you just can’t win and that it is a mistake to give in to your child’s every whim. But allowing the little girl to scream uncontrollably — as if everything were normal — is quite absurd. You are right, and they are wrong. Thank you for writing.

Dear Annie: Perhaps this will help you: The definition of “gross” is “144 of anything.” I’ve asked you before to stop using that word as a definition of something terrible. My children and I have had that unfortunate last name for too many years, and legally changing one’s name is complicated and expensive.

Picture yourself as a child with this last name, and think of other children and even adults using it as a pejorative to make fun of you.

— Speak Carefully

Dear Speak Carefully: I’m sorry that my usage hurt you, but that wasn’t my intention. The first definition for “gross” listed in my dictionary refers to the way in which I and many others use it. But that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with your surname.

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