As in the rest of life, some children are amazing, and some ARE brats, but anaesthesia and pain doesn't bring out the best in anyone.
I have found that most children wake up with absolutely no idea of where they are, regardless of how much they are warned and educated before hand, and a child's motto is "when in doubt-scream" I tend to remind the parent that it is a similar state to those times when the child wakes up during the night and you can tell by looking in their eyes that they are not awake at all, but rather are in another place far, far away. After a while the child comes too, and if you're lucky, falls into a sleep for a while, and the next time they wake up things are getting better.
Another consolation is that if the anaesthetist has done the job right the child has very little recollection of the whole event-Mum & Dad on the other hand are "blessed" with the memory for ever after, especially if they are responsible for bringing in a healthy, well, child and making the decision for the child to then be in pain (ie T's & A's)-a hard decision to make and live with. (I work in a small private hospital, so most of the children we see are T's & A's)
Also, were you upset by the nurses' reactions, or by the child screaming, which is distressing at the best at times? I have to admit that some children have left me shaking my head in amazement, both the really well behaved ones, and the others! And as to the amount of analgesia given-I have given a little old lady a total of 28mg of morphine IV after a shoulder repair, and she was still talking to me!
So basically, nearly everything that happens in the PACU is normal!