Paraded down the tarmac after a transatlantic flight, three-year old Prince George was in no mood for high fives, low fives or handshakes of any kind.  Unable to negotiate basic contact, our telegenic prime minister, for once, found himself on the wrong side of a photo op.

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When pint-sized media darlings go rogue, anything can happen.

Having dabbled in the craft of ‘family travel journalism’, I know a thing or two about the dark side of using children as a plot device.  Every time I read an account of travelling with youngsters that suggests an inexhaustible supply of good cheer fueled by an insatiable interest in local culture, unfamiliar foods and petting zoos, all I can think is: okay…now tell us what really happened.

Years ago, when I was on assignment for The National Post, Quebec Tourism pulled out all the stops to arrange a dream itinerary for our young family.  It involved black bears in their natural habitat, picturesque calèche rides, and a slow boat down the river of a national park.  At one point, we had an entire museum to ourselves.  The main attraction was a pirate exhibit, where we were greeted by an elaborately costumed swashbuckler who swept us into a perfect replica of a 17th century ship. “Arrrr…do ye like pirates?” he thundered gamely.

“They’re fine,” came our son’s reply.

Ditto when the Fairmont Richelieu’s in-house astronomer retracted the roof of the hotel’s hilltop observatory to reveal a dazzling midnight sky. Do you like constellations and the infinite mysteries of the universe?   

“Meh.”

Our child’s greatest joy came from fishing the nickels and lint out of his pockets to ‘tip’ the VP tourism after she took us on a morning tour of Old Quebec. “Good job. Here’s a little something extra,” he beamed, pressing the gratuity into her palm before you could say mortify.

Of course none of these incriminating anecdotes made it into the actual article, but years later, they are the ones we giggle about and cherish most.

 

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Which is why whenever I catch myself ‘moment making’ – coaxing an adorable pose or clever performance out of an unsuspecting child – I curb the urge.  With kids, the magic isn’t in the script or the art direction.  It’s in the outtakes.

Katherine Gougeon explores social and cultural details that have an outsized ripple effect. Follow her on Twitter @kgougeon