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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kids: The greatest inconvenience on earth!

A few months ago my family took me for a celebratory birthday dinner. As we showed up, three kids in tow, the countenance of the room literally fell. An older woman dining with her mother and husband went rigid as a corpse, stealing glances at us occasionally and commenting loudly enough for us to hear. I was on guard, as I usually am, about my children behavior, and while my daughter was happily singing music from "The Grinch" at the foot of the table, they weren't being terrible or anything. I couldn't relax because I was too busy policing my children, making sure they weren't offending other diners, but Mrs. Stick Up Her Butt was obviously put out and they left the restaurant.

My husband and I try so hard to instill good manners in our children, especially when we're in the company of other people. But apparently it isn't enough. 

Restaurants are issuing notices: "Adults and teenagers only." So don't even think of stepping foot inside. Apparently the old notion that "children should be seen and not heard" is still very much alive and well, and if your kids dare to make a peep, it must mean that you're a bad parent, not that they're....*gasp* normal kids!

Interestingly enough, we recently dined in a restaurant in another town, wedged between a group of adults and teens and another family with four kids. The family with four was being rather loud, but looking like they were having a good time, which was nice to see. While the din was starting to get to me, I looked around and noticed something interesting: no one was getting uppity, no one was shooting anybody dirty looks or making snide remarks. Where you dine makes a difference: not just the particular restaurant, but maybe even just the geographical area itself. My husband and I have a theory about our area - once you cross the line in one direction, people get snottier and snottier; the other way, and people are more friendly and welcoming. 

One restaurant in Georgia got around a no-smoking ban by banning children from the restaurant. Government policies ostensibly meant to protect children from second-hand smoke are void now if you don't have young patrons to protect, and restaurant owners were upset that the government was telling them what to do. So they directed their ire at parents, and told them what to do: leave your kids at home. Because we all know putting your smokes down for an hour for the sake of the kiddies is just too much to ask, isn't it?

I just read that an airline in Malaysia has decided to ban babies from all first-class flights. They have apparently stopped installing bassinets in the first-class area, and now will relegate families to other areas of the plane. Business class passengers, according to one survey, are "annoyed" at the presence of children and wish to see them gone from their area of the plane during flights, too. (I wonder, if someone took a survey of parents, would they, too, find businessmen and women "annoying?" Probably.) 

Depending on the size of the child, they could be very affected by changes in altitude and pressure within the cabin. They can't chew gum or make their ears pop when it gets to be too much. A scared infant can't express his fear of flying or just take a Valium to overcome the sensation, and might actually get hungry on the flight, too, but can't have peanuts. And if you're nursing - which can both feed and comfort your baby during the flight - well, forget that, you can't do that, either. Just listen to Barbara Walters, who was thankful that her hairdresser separated her from a nursing mom on a flight - the nerve! Make the hairdresser sit next to her, Barbara - she almost makes the nursing mom sound like she has leprosy or something.  

I still remember during one grocery shopping trip hearing an older kid screaming in the shopping cart. He looked old enough to be past the temper tantrum stage, but then again, who knows: there could have been a number of things going on here that could explain his behavior. It was like the Doppler Effect as I went through the store, and one old guy passed me and muttered something under his breath about 'telling that kid to shut up.' It was like he almost expected me to understand because I was a mother who had a kid in her cart, too - like surely I had sympathy for his delicate sensibilities because my kid was behaving so well. I said, "Well, we don't know if there are other issues going on here with that kid. Besides, you should see my other two!" He wasn't sure what to say and just walked away. 

So if you're a parent, apparently the only place you can go out to eat is Chuck E. Cheese. If you're nursing a baby, you must lock yourself in the bathroom or stay home. And if you do have to go out someplace, your kids should always behave like angels and never make any noise. The idea that all children act badly in public or are undisciplined prevails, and when they do behave well, people are almost shocked. While I do get many sympathetic glances from older women who have raised their children, perhaps from some who are in the throes of teenager syndrome who long for the days of blissful babyhood, I'm sure many people are annoyed. When a waitress once complained about us (she didn't realize I could hear her clearly) because our kids colored on the table - sorry lady, but you won't get my business anymore. The guy from Bob Evans, however, who brushes it off with a smile and says, "No problem, we have stuff to take that off, it's easy!" will probably see me again. 

If you have children, this world is not designed for you. Mall aisles are usually too narrow for your big stroller; a double stroller - forget it, you probably won't be able to get in the doorway. No one wants to see you "expose" yourself to nurse a crying baby. They want your kids to shut up and be compliant, and why don't you put them in leiderhosen and tights while you're at it, the picture of perfection like a Norman Rockwell painting. If you happen to want to dine with your family but your baby is going through that "I want to hear myself scream because I'm happpppyyyyy!" phase, you might as well just get back in your car because we don't want to hear it. You are not entitled to be a person with needs and interests, and neither are your children. And if you dare mention wanting more than two - because you already have the perfect family with a boy and a girl, why would you want more?! - then watch the nervous twitches and apoplectic seizures begin! Instead of being a blessing, children are an inconvenience, along with their annoying habits and needs that trump our own. They can't be hungry or tired at odd times, and certainly aren't permitted to express it - only adults can do that (by complaining, exchanging glances and words or just by behaving, in general, like children, ironically). 

What this shows is an amazing lack of empathy that our culture has towards the needs and wants of others, especially children who are unable to express themselves for whatever reason. The goal is to get them weaned, toilet trained and independent as soon as possible: why aren't they weaned from the breast by six months? Why are they still in diapers at age three? They're five now, why aren't they in kindergarten? Never mind if they're just not ready yet; get them on their way to becoming self-sufficient as soon as you can, because kids are just so darned demanding and such a nuisance, aren't they?

The next time someone gives me a hard time, or even looks like they're about to, I'm just going to say, "You didn't just come into the world a grumpy old person - lighten up. You were a kid once, too."

More reading:
Permissive parents: Curb your brats - CNN


TJ said...

The problem is not your kids, nor the children of most responsible parents. The problem is the other parents, and you know who they are. It's not the kids' fault; the parents regularly set these kids up to fail in public.

Example: my husband and I went out to dinner at a very nice ($$$) restaurant with some business associates and were seated at around 8:30PM. Shortly after we arrived, two couples and one toddler were seated nearby. The kid proceeded to whine, scream, and generally make herself unpleasant for the duration of our time in the restaurant. Sorry, those parents should have hired a sitter; that child should have been in her PJs hearing a bedtime story, not out in public, tearful and exhausted.

We dine out on a regular basis with friends and family members who have small children. Most are adept parents, can sense impending meltdown, and either remove the child (sometimes 5 minutes is all it takes) or ask for the check. It's not a big deal. If all parents did this, few would look twice, let alone glare, at children in public venues.

The bad apples have ruined it for everyone, unfortunately.

Teaching-Mommy said...

Oh goodness I feel you on this blog!! One year, on my birthday, my husband took us out for dinner to my fave restaurant. Our youngest was in her 2's....but she was having a decent enough night. When we sat down, there were two older ladies next to us, who immediately huffed, got up and and DEMANDED to be moved.

As to the previous comment, that seems rather rude honestly. You don't know why they were there at could be any reason, not just they were being selfish. And we (as parents) can't always predict a meltdown, while they do give cues, we aren't mind readers!! Why should we (as parents) have to give up a fun family night because one of the children gets cranky? We as a society don't expect you to go home when you are in a bad mood.

Peggy said...

Making silly faces at fussy children sometimes works, but would it work on the grumpy adults?

That is so true about our world not being designed for children. Getting around with children is so hard that it is like having a disability. Everywhere I go, I have to put most of my attention on keeping the four-year-old and the two-year-old on the short leash, while lugging the baby along. It's hardly worth the trouble. Or we can stay home, which isn't designed well for our needs either, and drive each other crazy all day.

I am at serious risk of actually dying of boredom on a playground.

Jessica said...

I have the opinion that in this corner of the world, people are catering to the baby-boomers. When our parents were our age museums were free, family events were planned consistently (and free!), there were family deals, family restaurants, family prices... kids under 12 were usually free... now our world still caters to the baby boomers - who are all in their 50's and 60's and need things to be a little quieter, a little more mundane, a little more "civilized' -plus that age has more $$$. There certainly is no space for unpredictable children. (At least, that's how it feels here in Canada). I know expectations have also changed - when we were kids, "going out" for dinner sometimes meant picnics in the park or driving to the lake for a hot-dog roast - things that occurred outside, where there could be a lot of noise and/or running around after the meal. To expect 'some' kids to sit that long is sometimes a trial (trust me - I had two that were angels and now I have two tyrants - same parents, same parenting tactics, totally different child dynamics... so we don't even attempt going to a nice restaurant now).

Yeah - don't even get me started on how people started treating me with my third and fourth pregnancies --- if you want to hear people's opinions on children being inconveniences... it was interesting to see people's reactions when I told them it was "planned"... LOL

Nicole said...

I have to agree with Teaching-Mommy's comment about the comment above hers. I think that TJ may have missed the whole point of this particular blog post. We don't always know what's going on in others lives and, therefore, find it really easy to be judgmental without all of the facts.

Back in February, my best friend of over 16 years came into town (form across the country) for a very short visit and I hadn't seen her since the February before. Her reasons for the visit wasn't fun, but we couldn't not take the time to at least have dinner together. Well, she and I were able to put aside some time one evening when Imy husband was able to leave work a bit early. Anyway, it was about 8 pm and she had asked me to bring my one year old since she had only seen him in person once when he was a newborn. Well, he got a bit fussy during our dinner and I kept getting glares from a woman having dinner with her husband and CHILD. He wasn't really being loud, just unhappy. Also, while we were at a restaurant, it was a bbq restaurant and NOT one of those "fancy", expensive ones.

We can't be sure of everyone's lives. How about the traveling family who on their way home from a theme park is forced to eat a late dinner with their tired, yet hungry children? It's easy to pretend that we are perfect and so are our children when we are passing our judgments and personal parenting styles onto others, isn't it?

The Deranged Housewife said...

I do think TJ has a point, though. While we often do not know what's going on, I regularly see people out and about with kids in tow and it's like wayyy past bedtime. Bad behavior - whining, crying, etc. ensues and the kid gets in trouble for it, when in reality he needs to be put to bed already. And often I see these adults with friends, sisters, etc. - who might be able to watch that child so you can go shopping. It appears they still want to live their lives like they don't have kids - Hey, it's 9 p.m. - let's go to Walmart! We'll just throw the baby in the bucket seat and away we go! :?

TJ said...

Well, Teaching Mommy and Nicole made my point for me nicely, and it's no wonder Nicole got some dirty looks during her dinner out. While it's not possible to predict a child's behavior, it is the parent's responsibility to MANAGE the behavior in a way that minimizes annoyance to others. Kids don't have to be perfect; it's the parents who are inconsiderate when their kids are "unhappy" and put their needs first.

If you were having an argument with your spouse would you do it in public, or quietly pay the check and leave?

Nicole said...

Ladies, he wasn't "unhappy" the whole time. Just when it was time for our check to arrive and, again, he wasn't being loud, he was just "done" and, frankly, SO WERE WE, but we couldn't leave without paying for our tab. I was just irritated that the lady (who was there with her own kid at the same time, by the way) couldn't mind her own business for the few minutes it took our waitress to bring us our check and change.

I am well-aware of my child's schedule and he was still taking two naps a day at the point and didn't go to bed until 9:30 every night with his bath and bed-time routine starting at 9. I knew that I had about an hour for dinner. And right on cue, close to 9, he was ready. So, we split as soon as we could. My point was that not everyone knows everyone's situation.

Oh, and I should add that he was only "unhappy" because it was getting close to 9 and he wanted his "ninnies" and after I had already gotten an ill look from her because my son had squealed with delight at one point, I knew that I might have made her head explode if I put my toddler on my boob. AND my poor child who was at the expense of my selfishness wouldn't have let his "ninnies" leave without him anyway. Because, at that point, my fourth had even YET to have been away from me EVER. For ANY amount of time.

And he never got into trouble for his behavior from me, because he was a joy up until he was done eating and ready to go. As were we. And I would never punish my child for wanting to breastfeed or being tired.

I am just saying that people shouldn't be summing up my (or anyone else's) whole parental ability from just ONE example.

Me Too said...

Just FYI, I am totally stealing your comment about 'You didnt come in the world grumpy and old, you were a kid once too.'

Because last week my 2 year old a had a breakdown in the grocery store. He wanted to be in a cart, then not in a cart, then pushing the cart, then nowhere near a cart, then. . . well, you get the point. Nothing made him happy. But there were three things I needed - a quick trip - and he was just going to have to cry for the ten minutes to get those things.

And I had that grumpy old man mumbling at me to shut my kid up. The single working woman telling me 'You should take him home. Hes probably tired.' And the checkout people who wouldn't look me in the eye.

Shame on them. My kid is TWO. He's going to throw unreasonable tantrums sometimes and thats just it. And while its not pleasant, well. . . %^it happens.

So thanks for your post. Nice to know Im not alone in this big, bad child-unfriendly world out there.

roddma said...

The difference between when this 40ish woman was growing up and the kids today is DISCIPLINE. Our parents never acted like the whole world owed them for reproducing. Yes they will misbehave but to let it continue just because they are kids is inane. Mental disorders are not really excuses either. We would have never written on public property. It is this kind of entitlement attitude that caused the Jon and Kate Gosselins of today.