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."
Permissive parents: Curb your brats - CNN
Permissive parents: Curb your brats - CNN