You know how you see people with children acting the fool (the parents, not the children) and you mentally go *tsk tsk*? I thought that would go away once I had children and knew the difficulty and degradation of parenting. In fact, it gets worse, because now you know what they are doing is ludicrous and futile.
Mother Magoo, Baby Flails-a-lot, and I were in line at the grocery store watching a particularly sorry spectacle. This poor man, older hippie type with two tweens in tow said, "Come over here and stand right here!" He gesticulated angrily at the space in the aisle next to him.The kids, boy and a girl, weren't doing anything egregious. The younger boy was wandering in the line behind them. The older girl, all of four feet away, was standing on our side of aisle, watching people.
The man repeated himself. A couple of times. Then he started saying, "I'm giving you very clear instructions!" This was the point at which I thought Mother Magoo would lose it. Clearly, the problem was the children's comprehension! My god, if only they understood what you were saying, all would be well! I could see the thought bubble forming above Mother Magoo's head, "You, sir, are an idiot." At this point, I just got embarrassed for him and studied the check-out lane tabloids like they held the secrets of the universe.
Eventually, the boy trotted over to where he was "supposed to be" and started touching the candy bars. Not opening them or rubbing them against his face or anything, just poking and prodding. The man, too preoccupied with his (losing) war of wills his daughter, didn't notice. The daughter had moved until she was within two feet of him, unobstructed line of sight, but she wasn't moving any closer. So he changed tactics and began passive-aggressive variations of "I can't believe you" and shaking his head in incredulity of her badness, like she was supposed to then feel guilty and hop to. The daughter wasn't having it. She just stared at him.
Suddenly, he noticed the boy touching the candy bars. He snatched the child up into his arms but the kid was unprepared and crashed into his shoulder and then burst into tears. At which point, the man explained that his very clear instructions included the unspoken proviso to not touch anything. Obviously. The girl, meanwhile, oozed away until she was another foot from them. She pretended she didn't know them, but kept them in her line of sight. He staggered out the door holding a bag of groceries, a sniffling child and a still silent child who had drifted back to his side once their checkout was complete.
On the drive home I told Mother Magoo that if I ever became so senile I thought Tween Flails-a-lot would follow my instructions due to their clarity and logic, she had my permission to shoot me in the face. Baby Flails-a-lot is a toddler and even she understands exactly when I want her to not be someplace. Good Lord, She Who Must Be Obeyed knows that and she has the brain of a walnut. If they are bored or not too interested in what they are doing, they listen. If not, not.
I'm in charge of boundary enforcement, because I'm the damn parent. I don't leave it up to their sense of shame and guilt to do my job. And I'm happy to say nether of them is impressed by passive-aggressive bullshit and I hope they never will be.