Recently, at a wedding… as I was sat at the table full of children (hopefully not due to being mistaken for one of them), I couldn’t help but think to myself ‘Wow! Aren’t these children well behaved!?’. One of them even shared their mushed-up avacado with me. OK, she couldn’t talk yet and was strapped tightly into a high chair, but still… Mmmm, avacado.
The wedding breakfast began at about 3pm and we seemed to make it through 3 entire courses without much fuss. Some of them looked even cuter with food smeared around their faces. We had the occasional worrying knife-grab and some unintentional foody hair-pulling, but survived any serious limb-loss.
Before I knew it, the meal was over and the clock struck 5. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, avacado-girl started to cry. Not just a little blubber, but a definite wail. It was as if someone had punched her directly in the stomach, and I can assure you that Rick was sat safely at the other end of the table.
A young boy on a table across the room suddenly started taking his clothes off, much to his father’s horror: “Put your shirt back on, now!” his dad shouted, as he ran to push his sister off her chair, before climbing onto the knees of strangers. Avacado-girl was now fully interrupting the speeches and her mum had to carry her outside.
Another young girl behind me began to shake her beaker around, splashing people at our table. Her mum apologised and tried to remove the beaker from her hands, but that led to familiar blood-curdling screams from the child and some kind of high-chair tantrum. Her mum lifted her out and set her down on the floor, hoping some freedom would calm her down, this actually seemed to work quite well… at first! Then, to the dismay of the entire room, she crawled straight over to the head table, pulling herself up with table cloth (full of cutlery and cake). Within minutes all children seemed to have been evacuated from the venue.
“What is happening?” I asked a lady behind me, who was still wiping juice from her new dress. “Arsenic Hour.” she replied. I nodded and whipped out my phone to Google what she meant.
Arsenic hour summarises an hour of the day between work/school hours and dinnertime. Usually around 5pm. This is the hour that both parents and children are tired from their day and hungry for their dinner.
During this hour, children are more likely to ‘play up’ out of frustration (I imagine trying to behave-well at a wedding all day is quite tiring, too) and parents are more likely to let them get away with it, while preparing dinner, winding down and avoiding caffeine so that they will hopefully get more sleep than the previous 200 nights. It makes complete sense.
This is the time to avoid children, people! Particularly when they’re under 12 months, apparently.
(The title ‘Arsenic Hour’ is said to be a play on the words of a poem called ‘The Children’s Hour‘ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. One that I had not read before. Much more playful than misbehavioural… but a lovely poem even so!)