Carousel Conflict

I don’t mean those big merry go rounds you find at travelling fairgrounds. The ones with the giant horses that go up and down which are fun for about twelve seconds before you start to feel nauseous. I mean the teeny tiny kids sized ones you find outside of supermarkets and in malls, meant to placate your kids into thinking the grocery shop or browsing excursion was in any way meant for their own amusement.

We have a couple such rides at our local shops, and R is completely at the right age to find them fascinating. I often see small babies placed on them, with parents looking eagerly at their little nonplussed faces, camera phones at the ready, while the baby in question continues sucking its hand or gazing into the semidistance in total disinterest. The parents-unwilling to admit they just wasted the extortionate sum of money paid, start pulling faces and making noises to elicit the desired smile or giggle. When successful, and photo snapped, they consider the job well done and no doubt head off to develop the photo and frame one of many pictures in every parents home which basically depict a lie. Ruby had so much fun on the merry go round today-just look at her little face!

Slightly older kids have the opposite problem to poor bored Ruby. Too much excitement. When R was about a year, he loved the rides probably even more than he does now. But all that excitement, expressed mainly with clapping and bouncing, meant that he was constantly on the verge of falling out of the mini seats as they went round and round. (Why are they open like that? How much could they possibly save by omitting doors in the design-and surely any saving is offset by lawsuits anyway?) It basically meant I had to dance like a moron around with him as it rotated, holding him up or filling the gap so that he didn’t land on his head every 4 seconds. Fun for R? Maybe. But far too few photo opportunities to prove what a fun mum I am, and certainly no fun for dizzy ol’ me.

I am pretty certain that in a few months time, he will pass the age where he enjoys monotonous music and repetitive motion, and the rides will be boring once again, so I am taking as much advantage as possible of these few enjoyable weeks where I can snap away to my hearts content while he smiles and makes happy noises and presses the buttons and turns the steering wheel correctly and has a whale of a time for about 45 seconds and what can reasonably be called the cost of a small property.

But this precious time is being spoiled for me by the pure evil of The Other Parents.

I can guarantee you that they have a plan. When I get to the shopping mall, they are nowhere to be seen. The aisles are empty of pushchairs, I can hear no whining or pleading in my earshot, and there is certainly no one waiting for or participating in a ride. But they are there. Skulking in the dark corners of the shopping centre, these parents wait until they hear the clink of the pound coins falling into the machine, and then jump out with their toddler, avoiding all eye contact, and placing their kids onto the adjacent seat.

NO. For those unfamiliar with the concept, normally the rides have about 3 seats, which all move together. By putting in my coins, I have paid for all three seats. They are mine. I own them for the next minute. If you want to use one… it is not only polite, but it is only legal to ask me first! And to pay me half of what I have put in for that matter. If I wanted to give your kids a free ride I would have offered. You might say why does it matter, I’m not using all three seats, but I think anyone with a toddler will attest to the fact that they may in fact want to change seats midway, possibly multiple times. All of which is besides the point, it’s the principle, you just haven’t paid for the ride!

Why do I feel so awkward telling them to cough up or get off? I know that it is unfair, and I know that they are trying it on by either avoiding eye contact or giving me those brazen smiles. I also know that if I just summoned up the courage to say “that will be £x please” they would probably all stump up the cash. But it’s just so embarrassing asking actual strangers for their money. And as it is normally quite a small amount, it makes me look like the tightest person ever!

This is becoming one of London’s most heinous parenting crimes. And yet it is an increasingly socially acceptable form of thievery. Well I’m not putting up with it any more. The next parent that carousel-jacks my son is getting asked straight out, to dig deep or move on.

If I can summon up the courage that is.

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Yizkor Etiquette (FYI)

There is a prayer in the Jewish holiday services, to honour the memory of people who are no longer with us. The widespread custom is that it is not said by people who still have both of their parents living. In many communities, those people do not even stay in the synagogue while the prayer is being said.

If I’m honest, I don’t really understand why that latter custom begun in the first place. When prayers are said by other parts of the community that I am not included in, (Men, Kohanim, those in mourning etc) I find it pretty self explanatory just to stand quietly and wait. After all, there is plenty of the prayer which is relevant to everyone, including a prayer for our soldiers and one for the victims of the Holocaust, something we all could benefit from being a part of. Surely it is an odd action in itself to get up and leave the building, basically abandoning everyone with the misfortune of having lost a parent or both.

Superstitious or not, I can however appreciate the reasoning behind it. And if your parents would rather you left the synagogue for those five minutes, or you yourself feel uncomfortable being there, then leave by all means.

But I do have a couple of small requests.

Given that we were standing having a perfectly normal interaction or sometimes even conversation 2 minutes previously, please don’t suddenly act like I have the plague. Yes, you’re being given a reminder that I once lost someone dear to me. I can understand your twinge of awkwardness. But not looking me in the eye? Stumbling over your words? Feeling the need to look apologetic as you leave the room? Bizarre. I do this four times a year, and sometimes it’s harder than other times, but I am in the same mood I was 4 seconds ago, I don’t suddenly need special treatment.

Which brings me to my second issue. The mad scramble for the door. This is different at different places, but in every congregation, there are the people who start gathering their bits and pieces together a good ten minutes before the guy shouts ‘Yizkor.’ They are standing by the door as soon as the Haftorah has finished, and they are pushing past everyone in their way to make it to the coridoor before heaven forbid, someone starts reading from their memorial booklet with them in the vicinity. What are you afraid of? That you might catch my dead parent virus? If its your custom to leave, then leave. In a normal manner. Exactly how you would regularly walk out a door, in a line, at a normal speed. Even if you disagree with me that it’s rude to leave in the first place, it’s certainly not polite to canter out the door virtually shouting silently that we shouldn’t confuse you with one of us.

I’m probably coming across kind of bitter, and it really isn’t that at all. And it certainly isn’t the fault of the people who leave. The custom should never have begun, because it feels to me almost anti what we stand for. Surely the very best part of Judiasm is that we are all accountable and responsible for one another, we share in each others joy and pain and we certainly don’t leave one of our own when we are in need. So where did this custom start, that we should segregate ourselves, even for twenty minutes a year into orphaned and not orphaned? Speaking for myself, and I only say one small portion of the service, it is a very lonely feeling to watch everyone hotfoot it out of the room at arguably one of my most vulnerable times. How must it be for the older members of the community who have so many dearly departed to remember and miss?

I don’t know where it started, and I hope that those who don’t mind either way, would start to make a point by staying in and standing quietly with their prayer books firmly closed. But even if you can’t, or simply don’t want to, I hope you’ll think twice before you push me out the way in your eagerness to leave.