I was walking along a street this afternon when I heard a child shriek. It is not unusual on the family-filled upper West Side to hear crying children. Usually a parent is trying to soothe or a nanny is ignoring [or trying to soothe]. I glanced behind me and saw a little girl with a gleeful look on her face as she shrieked. A little boy, nearly the same age [3ish] took his turn. They shrieked alternately nearly the length of a long crosstown block. As they were passing me with a father near-by I said to the father, "They're not being funny." They were being horrid! A police car or fire engine has a purpose for shreiking. "They're just children" said the mother very quickly and defensively.
Since when is it appropriate, on a city street with other people present, to allow two children to scream like banshees with no consideration for whoever else is walking there or might be in the houses one is passing? These looked like or propserous middle class WASPY people. In a way I'm less surprised they fit that category than if the children were from some minority group. These seemed to be parents with a sense of entitlement -- the entitlement to freedom to be obnoxious as they chose because in some way they are among the chosen, comfortable urbanites raising children in the expensive city. They too may have been allowed to shriek on the sidewalks by over-permissive parents.
Once the subject was mentioned, even that briefly, the children seemed to lose interest and stopped shrieking. Perhaps they had a little more sense of propriety than their insecurely defensive mother. Or perhaps they were simply shrieked out. It was a tiny incident but I found it far more egregious than the many times I've heard a bawling or whining of outright sobbing child being pushed along in a stroller or held by a parent while being told, "no, we can't do that now. We're going home. No, no ice cream/candy/toy..." Children will cry, some have learned to shriek for the effect of getting on nerves ... but most parents wear a somewhat embarrassed, apologetic expression. Nannies are another story, they are not categorizable; they are so different one from another. A part of me wishes I were able to think really fast on my feet and could have said something properly cutting. Well ... the kids did stop and that's all one could hope for.
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