Lay Down the Arms

Joe LaBracio daddy-o

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As the father of a sweet, well-behaved, curious, fun, almost 5-year-old, I need to take a moment to rip into clueless, oblivious parents.

Isn't it amazing that there are absolutely no requirements, tests or regulations to become a parent?

You have to study for decades and pass a myriad of exams to practice medicine.

You have to toil for hours over tests and certifications to be responsible for someone’s life savings as a financial planner.

You can't get behind the wheel of a car without passing a written and practical exam.

Yet to procreate and be responsible for another life all you need is a little luck, some mood lighting, a few cocktails and a really fun night or morning or afternoon in bed. That's it.

It's drives me crazy how many parents should not be parents and just plain suck at it.
I feel bad for their kids.
I feel bad for the rest of us around them.

I won't go through every archetype of the clueless, selfish parent. We all know them. We see them every day…at drop-off, at pickup, at restaurants, at the mall.

Let me take a moment to vent about two of my favorites, two that infuriate me to no end: the clueless parent at the park and the infuriatingly entitled parents who—when they fly—shirk all responsibility for their children and subject the rest of the cabin to their bratty, undisciplined kids.

Come with me to the park first.

I recently did a staycation because, well, I live in Los Angeles and there is no reason to leave here in the summer. I like sleeping in my own bed and going to my favorite spots. And, nothing makes me happier than a morning at the park with my son, seeing him in his element, and regressing to my childhood by tackling every inch of the playground with him.

So, one day, we're at a park in Santa Monica loaded with moms, dads and nannies—many of whose Lululemon pants suggested they just came from a workout (but probably didn't)—all sipping their lattes and fresh cold-pressed juices.

My son was playing on a structure when two brothers—ages 5 and 7—came our way. They were fighting and wrestling over a toy dagger. Yep, a dagger. Because that seems like something kids should be playing with at that age, right?

OK, fine, they're not my kids. They're not bothering my kid. So, I decide to hold back judgment and tongue because I notice my son is looking at them quizzically because they are acting like Neanderthals and he wants nothing to do with them. That's my boy.

Rather than let them kill our park buzz, we move to another play structure.

Within minutes, the brothers follow us. And, this time they engage with my son.

Mind you, a good 100 feet away, their clueless mother is paying absolutely zero attention to her sons—she's busy yapping away with her friends.

The younger kid comes up and points his faux dagger at my son, who calls him a scurvy sea dog (thank you Jake and the Neverland Pirates). My son can't be bothered and turns his back to do something else—the puny punk then starts jabbing my son in the back with his dagger. And, like Obama to Syria, this is where I draw the line.

I try hard not to referee every skirmish. I try to let my son work things out for himself.  But, that is NOT happening this time.  So, I pull my son away and make a beeline for the kid's mother. She is oblivious until I'm a few feet away asking her, “Is that kid yours?” When she confirms, I let loose: “You let him bring a DAGGER to the park and he’s HITTING kids with it while you have social hour?? You have got to be kidding me! Get a clue lady!”

She, of course, has nothing to say, grabs her kid and walks away. And, from what I could see said barely a word of discipline. Big shock. Good times, lady.

See, if there was a practical exam for parents to test park behavior for the good of society, she just failed. And, we all would have been spared.

Okay, bear with me for one more rant. Let's go to 30,000 feet.

I recently flew home from London. That is an 11-hour flight. Now, let me just say, I love to fly. I sleep with no problem on a plane whether I’m lucky enough to have the flat bed or I’m upright in coach. I am unphased by noise—earplugs help. And, let's be honest, 11 hours to just relax and read and nap and watch movies is an amazing luxury for any working parent.

Well, except when you sit near two terribly useless parents who have no interest in tending to their kids on said long haul flight.

They were cute kids for the first few minutes. And, then, as soon as their iPads had to be shut down for takeoff all hell broke loose.

We've all had that moment—the airplane meltdown. Before kids I would scowl, now I have the utmost patience for parents struggling with a fussy child. I don't know about you, but I do whatever I can to placate my child on a plane for my sanity and for the sake of those around me.

But, nope, not this couple. They were barely interested in doing anything to silence their children. It was kind of amazing to watch their complete disregard for the fact that they were in a very public place. If I wasn't so irritated by the screaming coming through my earplugs, I would’ve almost admired their chill demeanor.

So, we get in the air…iPads go back on and the kids are good to go for a few hours.

But, then the little girl's iPad battery dies. Really? You're on an 11-hour flight and you don't a) bring a battery case or b) charge the iPad in the seat outlet. No, of course you don't because you're too selfish to think that far ahead and busy watching The Hangover 3 for the 20th time. So, we all endure another round of the little girl screaming bloody murder.

For five hours we have peace and quiet when the entire family falls asleep.  But, then it’s time for the final approach.

Rather than think to get their kids up well before landing so they have time to thaw out, this beauty of a couple has to be poked and prodded by the flight attendants. The little girl screams bloody murder once again because she refuses to sit in her seat for landing.

I just watched the spectacle amazed by the fact that these parents literally did nothing and left it to the flight attendants to coax the girl to sit. She then proceeded to scream. And, I mean, scream…the entire descent.

So, to that couple that was on Virgin 23 from London to Los Angeles the other night, get a clue. Because believe me, you used up all your good airplane karma. Next time I don’t think everyone around you will be as polite as we were.

OK, look, of course I'm not the perfect parent. And, believe me, I get it. I'm right there with you. Being a parent isn’t easy. It's a daily quest for survival and peace.

I'm sure I would probably fail several parts of the non-existent parent exam. I'm the dad who lets his son play on the iPad when we are out to dinner at a restaurant. I'm the dad who probably makes it a buying day at the toy store far more than I make it a non-buying day. And, sure, I probably hover way more than I should. The list goes on.

But at the end of the day, we're all in this together. And we all have room for improvement. So, let’s pay attention to our kids and, come on, get rid of the daggers.

About the Author

Joe LaBracio

Joe LaBracio is a television agent who represents production companies known for creating and producing shows like: Catfish (MTV), The Great Food Truck Race (Food), The American Baking Competition (CBS), Raising McCain (Pivot), Boston's Finest (CNN/TNT). He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Melanie, and his son, Milo.

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