By Hayley Doyle
Let’s face it. Whenever there’s a family party, it’s not unusual for our kids to hog the limelight. Whether it’s their birthday and they’ll damn well cry-if-they-want-to or if it’s great-granny’s Big 100, a pre-schooler is sure to grab the most attention. And more often than not, it’s not all about their cuteness.
So when Queen Elizabeth II’s four year-old grandson, Prince Louis, stole the show by pulling funny faces at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations, every parent across the globe breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was refreshing, so different from the poised waving and serene smiles, and I couldn’t help but enjoy a good giggle. I could completely relate when his mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, spoke to him calmly, possibly giving him a mild telling off or the old “just five more minutes, sweetheart,” trick. The little boy didn’t seem impressed with whatever she said and again, I felt her pain. With the world’s eye on her, she was just being a mum, doing what she could. A bit like me in the queue at Tesco on a busy Saturday morning… And I mean, I get it. From both sides. Mama needed to have a word with her kid, and kid was bored and restless.
It was no surprise when images and videos of this rare royal display splattered the internet. The little prince’s antics went viral. And although there has been praise for his behaviour, with many stating that finally, a Royal child acts like any other kid his age, there has also been widespread discussion about whether he’s actually just a spoilt brat.
And it’s all ridiculous.
Prince Louis is four. Four! Really, it’s all been blown out of proportion on so many levels. I’d like to say, hmm, was this perhaps a slow news day? But the day after the Queen’s Jubilee? A glimmer of happiness within a world falling apart? Slow news days don’t exist in this current era, sadly.
According to Marie Claire, an insider was reported to have said that Prince Louis’ behaviour was typical of a third child. This put-‘em-in-a-box sort of talk is nonsense. I have two small children and both of them have their (many, many) moments of getting bored, messing around, unable to sit still, you name it. Depending on what day it is, what mood they’re in, or whether it’s a flippin’ full moon, my kids randomly take it in turns of being impossible, or - I say with gritted teeth - do it together. Combing their hair or helping them into their pyjamas are simple tasks that should take 20 seconds but can - I swear - take 20 minutes. So by making the excuse that little Prince Louis is like this because he’s the third “wild child”, is that implying that his older siblings, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, never behaved this way? Okay, so the public might never have witnessed it (or the media chose not to show us), but kids are kids. Ask them to sit still and ants will find a way into their pants.
Then, Mike Tindall, former rugby player now married to Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara, came out with another “excuse” for Prince Louis. Apparently there were lots of sweets going around behind the scenes and the little lad was on a complete sugar high. But again, why did this need to make it into the press? Kids eat sweets. Especially at parties. Is this to suggest that when kids haven’t had a dose of sugar, they’re expected to be as good as gold? And such an excuse is also telling the world that Prince Louis isn’t usually like this. Like, what? Oh, badly behaved. Ugh. Like the sprogs of commoners.
The media has displayed a mixed response. Most coverage has welcomed Prince Louis’ lively personality, but controversial broadcaster, Mike Parry, started shaming Wills and Kate on British TV, saying that this “disruptive behaviour” was a consequence of poor parenting style. The general public have submitted their own comments too, with many saying the little boy was “out of control”, “disrespectful,” and “rude,” and that “he shows no respect to his parents”. Even a self-appointed loving grandmother of seven recommended that Prince Louis be “whipped” to teach him how to act in public. What’s worse, many people agreed and liked. Dear, oh dear. How dare a four year-old child not behave like a programmed robot. How dare he not find parades and speeches as much fun as soft play or Peppa Pig. I mean, jeez, how inconvenient.
I imagine Wills and Kate were under pressure to give out some sort of formal apology for their son, after the comments flooded in. It’s like when you meet your parent-pals at the park and your kid sulks about not wanting to give another kid their scooter back. You text them later, during that short evening lull once bedtime has kicked in and your little one has finally conked out, with a cheery, self-deprecating apology and hope that they fully, fully understand. That they’ve been there. So the Royal parents turned to Twitter. After tweeting about how wonderful the celebrations were and thanking all involved, they ended with a nod to their son, saying, “We all had an incredible time… Especially Louis” followed by the shifty side-eye emoji, which usually means something along the lines of, oops or awkward! Clearly, their way of saying, yep, our kid was a pain in the bum today, but he’s a kid. Swings and roundabouts. And hey, we wouldn’t have him any other way.
The reply tweets were mostly positive. Understanding. Happy.
But many were awful…
“At what point do we go from ‘wow, what a relatable toddler moment’ to ‘wow, you have no control of your children?’ Because that video is (cringe emoji).”
“I just think an expert of early years would have a better understanding of which events your four year old could handle and which events he can’t. And maybe an understanding of how to control them a bit in public.”
“There’s a whole gap between robotic and straight up badly behaved.”
“What’s cute now isn’t cute as a teen. Parents have a short window to create the parent child bond. Meaning parents need to set boundaries n stick to them.”
And so on…
Parent shaming is cruel. It’s the lowest of the low. Princess or peasant, every parent is just trying their best. Every parent has their own battles. You can’t choose your children. You can’t control every single thing they do. Parenting is all about improvisation, thinking on the spot. Children are living so deeply in the moment, such present creatures, and is this such a bad thing? Adults are worrying left, right and centre about the before and after, whereas children are just responding to right now. It’s our job as parents and carers to steer them into safety, which includes giving them space to express who they are.
I adore my kids so much that even the tips of my toenails ache with love! To me, they’re perfect, but god, do they have their moments. I spend my everything - my awake and my (broken) sleep - constantly wondering if I’m doing the right thing by them. Could I be a better parent? Give them more? Maybe give them less? Am I helping or hindering them to become the very best versions of themselves? Surely there’s something I’m missing, something I should be doing? But this is just part of the package. The second you become a parent, these questions rear their head. And they stick around forever.
Then, there are days when my husband and I look at each other and think, they’re alright, aren’t they? The kids. They’re good. Happy. Just playing nice and reeling off dinosaur facts and eating their pasta and sleeping through the night. Ish. Yeah, they do our heads in now and then - snatching, spilling, selective hearing - but they’re alright…
…And BAM. In a Mary Poppins SNAP, the wind changes dramatically and one of the kids suddenly goes nuts. I cannot describe it other than heughaghrrreuarggh…which is basically just a bunch of noises to sound out my frustration. We blame ourselves, too. What have we done wrong? Is it the routine; does it need a giant shake-up? Have we missed a serious problem? Googling makes it worse.
Whatever phase Prince Louis is going through, overall, I thought he was great at the Jubilee. He was perfectly four. Just, four. If my eyes hadn’t been drawn to the horrible comments, I would have forgotten about that moment of silliness on TV and never given it a second thought. Certainly not written a whole article. To be honest, the comments made me feel quite sick. Another example of too many opinions being vomited and too much energy wasted on judgement. So children should be seen and not heard? What’s next; bring back the cane?
While it’s important to teach children kindness and respect, we also want them to feel free to be their true selves. So let kids be kids. And leave parents alone. We’re all human. And if anybody’s proved that lately, it’s His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge.