Richmond Proper: The unruly parents of Carytown

I don’t make it out to Carytown much anymore, being an East Ender now, but the last two times I was there I witnessed some pretty egregious etiquette blunders on the same block of Cary Street. You know the one — Cary Court, Can Can, Sweet Frog, etc.

I don’t make it out to Carytown much anymore, being an East Ender now, but the last two times I was there I witnessed some pretty egregious etiquette blunders on the same block of Cary Street. You know the one — Cary Court, Can Can, Sweet Frog, etc.

“She didn’t mean to!”

My husband and I finally checked out Sweet Frog a few weeks ago, after hearing so much fuss about it. It’s no Verry Berry, but it’s still good. It was crowded, so when we walked in we got in line in front of the froyo flavors we wanted. When it was almost my turn to get some coconut, I noticed that there was a group of children mix-and-matching their flavors. Cute! But what’s not cute was that they were darting from machine to machine, in this crowded, busy shop, cutting in line however they pleased. A spurt of chocolate here, a spurt of mango there, without ever getting back into the line for each flavor. Other children and adults waited awkwardly, not sure when to step forward to the machines. The people I assume were the wild children’s parents looked on languidly.

Between episodes of those kids dancing back and forth between flavors, the guy in front of me managed to fill his cup, and it was my turn. As soon as I raised my cup, of course, a tiny arm shot out and grabbed the handle. I jumped back and looked at one of the parents. He caught my eye and then looked at the floor. Finally, when charming little McGimmeGimme was done, I was able to get some coconut.

By this time my husband had managed to make it to the toppings bar, and was lifting a spoon of sprinkles when one of the children came from behind him and squeezed between him and the bar in order to get in front of him. You read that right — he squeezed, with much pushing and jostling, through the space between my husband’s torso and the toppings bar he was in the middle of using.

I only had time to give him a weak smile of sympathy and notice that a nearby mom had been watching the whole episode before the next impossible thing happened. The little girl who had been next in line also pushed her way between my husband’s torso and the toppings bar. Grabbing the aerosol whipped cream as she moved, she sprayed it with abandon, the overspray landing on both my husband’s clothes and my own (I was two feet behind her, actively trying to stay out of the fray). Dumfounded, my husband turned and gaped at the mom, who stood there listlessly. When she saw his face, she yelled “She didn’t mean to!”

I ignored her and was able to calm him down just enough for us to pay and get out of the toppings bar crossfire, as the poor employee behind the counter scrambled to clean up the mess.

So that was our first and our last trip to that particular insane asylum.

Here’s the thing — of course she “didn’t mean to.” She’s a small child. She doesn’t mean to do lots of things. But she’s your responsibility to parent, to lead, and to set a good example for. When she sees that her behavior gets no reproach, why would she bother to change what she’s doing? She will continue to steamroll others in life, until it’s finally her that the behavior embarrasses and alienates, rather than just her mother. It’s a far graver punishment in the long run to be too lazy to correct her now.

This, of course, isn’t one of those “Why do people let children leave the house?!” posts. My husband and I both really love children and enjoy spending time with them, as many of our friends can attest. But an unhurried trip to get some frozen yogurt shouldn’t resemble a contact sport.

“Thanks for stopping!”

I was driving east on a very busy Cary Street. It was dinnertime on a Friday night. Traffic was thick, and had been crawling along, but finally picked up. My windows were down. I was in the right lane, with a large SUV to my left, and all the cars around me were trying to accelerate as best we could in such traffic.

Suddenly, a gentleman leading three small children by the hands stepped right out into traffic from in front of Can Can. Not even at a crosswalk, but rather, in the middle of the street — directly in front of the oncoming cars. I didn’t even see them when they first stepped out because the SUV blocked my view, but I jerked my head in that direction when the SUV slammed on its brakes. I had no time to stop. As I swerved and sailed past in the right-hand lane, narrowly missing this guy and the children, he yelled “Thanks for stopping!”

No, thank you. Thanks for dragging three little kids, the eldest of which couldn’t have been five yet, into the middle of Cary Street. Thanks for being entitled enough to expect all heavy pieces of metal hurtling toward you to stop an eighth of an inch before they hit you, like you’re Magneto. And thanks for teaching the children when and where to cross the street, and how to act toward others in civilization.

Even an adult pedestrian who cares not to die, who is standing at an intersection, and who has a green light, will double-check traffic before he or she steps into the street. But a guy with three small children, in the middle of the block, as cars are whizzing by steadily? I — I can’t even — I’m at a loss.

I’m terrified for those children, and I hope this guy doesn’t continue using them as pawns in his sick version of Frogger.

Speaking of frogs, I bet they were headed to Sweet Frog.


Need some advice or want to share your own harrowing Carytown story? Hit us up at Richmond Proper on Tumblr.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

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