You have driven miles to reach a decent beach. You are lucky enough to find both an umbrella and a deckchair to recline your capital control beaten body. Your freddo espresso arrives soon, refreshingly cold and delicious. The sound of the waves crashing on the beach is music to your ears. Everything seems idyllic so far away from the city.
Until a small yet piercing voice starts drilling your ears: “Mommyyyyyyyyyy !!!!! I want doughnut/ice-cream/orange juice” or “Katerina-Sophia destroyed my sand castle!!!” or “There’s sea-weed here!!!” (how very original) or “Give me the tablet!!!”. Behind her enormous sunglasses, poor mommy responds – also by yelling because who would rather get up… : “Come eat your toast!” or “Constantinos/Alkinoos/Protagoras, give the toy back to Aristea/Maria-Terpsichore/Gudrun-Pelagia!!!” or “Doughnuts aren’t healthy, you’ll have goji berry cake that I made!!!” and the all-time classic “Stop driving me crazy/Just like your father, always messy” and/or “You won’t even let me have a sip of coffee, you little tyrant…”.
Friends who have spent summer working at the beach have assured me that no children are more spoiled, hectic and disrespectful than Greek children (of course, there are always a couple of shinning exceptions). Why is that and, joking aside, what can we do to deal with the situation?
The fact that we are a Mediterranean people with a fiery temperament is not enough to fully account for the situation. There are other reasons:
- From a very young age, children, their needs and whims become the absolute center-point of the house. Parents, incapable of showing the necessary patience in order to maintain a consistent attitude and thus set boundaries for their children, prefer to indulge their every desire to be left in peace. But, this way, children soon learn that they can manipulate their parents for their convenience, without any respect and consideration for anyone other than themselves.
- The financial crisis and the fact that mothers need to work obliges parents to assign part of their children’s upbringing to the grandparents, who usually spoil children even more. As it happens, the more outside interference there is, the harder it is to stick to a stable upbringing plan.
- Quite often, children reproduce the tension of their environment. Truly imitative beings that they are, when seeing their parents live in tension, they learn that human communication can be conducted only through yelling. And the truth is that the current socioeconomic conditions give rise to nothing but tension.
- Especially when on holidays, parents long to relax themselves; ergo they lack even more the patience to explain things to their children and set boundaries.
- Despite a certain widespread belief that claims otherwise, Greek families are anything but civic in essence; usually, they function with their own well-being in mind and this attitude is transmitted to children as a de facto stance in life (the beach is ours and we can do whatever we like, pretty much like the street is ours when we’re driving, etc.).
- Finally, the rising percentage of problematic families (divorce, separation, etc.) further hinders children’s growth; this happens because, combined with working parents’ absence, the situation renders them guilty whenever they attempt to set boundaries and make the buying of conscience with a lenient attitude inevitable.
What can you do to deal with this phenomenon? Until the problem is solved by facing the above mentioned factors (upbringing with boundaries, cultivating respect for others in every aspect of life primarily by setting an example, etc.), for the childless beach-goer who deserves the tranquility of the scenery after a difficult week, here is a brief survival guide:
- Favor beaches with less families (more or less known in your area; think well or ask).
- Favor anti-sos family days and hours (for instance, 10am on a Sunday holds no mercy for you, as Greek children have been awake since 7am – while on weekdays there is no way to get them out of bed to go to school – and their poor parents set off quite early). Towards noon, chances are more in your favor.
- In case none of the above is possible, try to arrive at the beach as early as you can and immediately search for a locus* of deckchairs that lie far from potential hot-spots of uncontrollable, annoying noise (children, dogs, radios, rackets, etc.).
- In the worst case scenario, where a post-modern Bundy family with smartphones and decibels straight out of an Almodovar movie chooses to camp next to you and you are not willing to sound the retreat, we recommend (besides patience and ear-plugs) light reading material in the lines of King Herod’s biography, ostensibly exposed to common view. Also, so-called random phone conversations with an imaginary friend along the lines of “I just came for a swim but I can’t relax around here”, loudly enough to be heard by the “discreet” family next to you. In the rare event that you are asked what the problem is, elementary civil manners impose the following answer: “It’s this umbrella color – totally wrong, don’t you think?”
- As a last resource – but within the boundaries of ethics and dignity – you and your companion can start fondling and/or go topless; in which case, relentless Greek morals will save you as the Bundy family will start packing, while mumbling the familiar tune “There’s no respect anymore”…
A heart-felt good luck.
* locus (term borrowed from geometry): a set of points whose location satisfies or is determined by one or more specified conditions