I know you think your Bigger Kids are being well-behaved because they aren't screaming or throwing a tantrum or peeing on our train table.
I know you think that because your Bigger Kids can toilet themselves and tie their own shoes and know how to say "please" and "thank you" when they are right in front of you, that they can manage themselves on a longer leash while you have coffee and a nice long chat --
or even drop them off while you run errands elsewhere--
and that life is easy street because you think your parenting detail is mostly done, I mean, they'll be out of the house in three to five years and isn't it easier now to just grant them full autonomy so you can finally have some hard earned Me Time?
Or not hard earned Me Time. Who knows?
You may then be shocked to find out (I hope you're shocked to find out) that your teen angels have been up to shenanigans in our store.
Which, by the way, is not a babysitting service for larger children who look more like Justin Bieber than idolize him.
We've seen your kids
- use a book they did not purchase to kick around, playing "soccer" in the children's section
lob Legos at each other from across the store with the speed of a 90 mph fast ball
yank the electronic eReaders off their chargers and leave them dangling by the cords
discuss how fun it might be to "try shoplifting"
forget all basic civility when an employee attempts to speak with them about anything, but mostly, their behavior
Is this horrible stuff?
Well, no. Not when compared with the problems of, say, cholera and typhoid and unclean drinking water.
Kids are kids and teens are teens, but older kids and teens both are fairly "under-cooked" individuals who still need a bit of guidance and direction and even a tug on the shirt collar now and then by their Adults In Charge.
And believe me, before you say it, there are plenty of perfectly lovely teens - boys even - who walk through our doors and manage not to destroy our property or become a loud, obnoxious nuisance, and who can look an adult in the eye and speak in full, polite sentences all while up to 100 yards at a time away from their Adults In Charge.
It is possible.
Your kids are just under-cooked.
You are the chef. Their teachers are the chefs. Their coaches and athletic and dance instructors are the chefs.
Employees whose job it is to provide customer service to paying customers are not your kids' chef.
All we're asking is to not walk away with the oven burning and your kid lighting up like a flambe from hell.
Your Mostly-Understanding-But-Today-Not-So-Much Retail Employee
My advice to parents who are uncertain how their kids are behaving out of sight:
1) Have kids check in with you more often when you're both in the store together.
2) Watch them when they think you aren't watching - not "spying" - just "parenting from a distance". Erem.
3) Before dropping your kid off at a store, introduce them to one of the employees - or even the manager - by name, with your name. Putting a name to their face and yours will work to keep them on their best behavior that we all know they are capable of.
4) If your kids aren't behaving with you right there, chances are they won't behave better when you aren't there. No matter how much you just need some space from them and no matter how much they tell you, "I'm a great person, I just behave badly around you because you bug the crap out of me." That's not good enough.
5) Only send in your kids on their own if they are actually shopping. "Hanging out" in retail stores usually begs trouble. Bookstores are a bit different because people do study and read and hang out. Still, until they get the hang of retail store etiquette, keep trips focused.