My niece is kind of angelic (as long as you get to hand her back when she’s being grumpy. Now that she’s in the terrible twos, that’s a lot of the time).
Was at a Turkish restaurant in London- the wonderful Ev– a couple of weeks back, with the wife, the mother-in-law, the sister-in-law, the brother-in-law and the said niece.
What struck me, between courses of excellent food, was just how much energy and time the kid’s parents (and us too, but we’re hardly central) put into her. There’s toys, there’s books, loads of interaction (attention, love etc). They’re coaching her into her pleases and thank yous etc. And that is of course as it should be but isn’t for far far too many kids. (I could insert here various horror stories about ‘parents’ with huge TVs and DVDs while their children live in utter deprivation through a door in the same house). And this is all about the inculcation of a certain habitus.
And the Turkish waiter and waitresses were basically non-violently fighting as to who got to play with her and fuss her. And this of course lead to speculation on non-Anglo societies and their actual love of children (as opposed to mere protestations of love). Barbara Kingsolver has some good essays on this, in one of her books. Example I think from the Canary Islands, if memory serves.
Anyway, I’d love to close out with that great Far Side cartoon of an Alien Family dinner, with all the full grown aliens sitting at one table, their kids at another, with one popping up out of the food and the caption “Mom, Bobby Joe’s playing in the turkey again.” But copyright, kicked off blogspot blah blah. For what it’s worth, it’s on page 16 of the Far Side Gallery 3.