This summer has not been good to parents with young children. Small children were band from restaurants, movie theaters, even grocery stores. It reminded me of how a few summers ago, it seemed like every week a toddler was booted from a plane.
I remember talking to a guy once, and the conversation turned to small children in public as we watched a mother struggle with a 18 month old who had it in the restaurant. The guy made a disapproving noise.
The guy: Well, obviously the kid shouldn’t be here.
Me: It’s a family restaurant. The mom’s doing the best she can.
The guy: It’s rude to the rest of us.
Me: God, you’re a jack@ss.
This summer I had the same talk with my brothers who have no children.
The Friendly Giant: I don’t pay 12 bucks to watch a film to have a screaming baby in it.
Me: Sometimes it can’t be helped. But if they want to ban children then they should ban them after a certain hour like 9pm, not all day.
The Face: But if I want to see a R movie at 6, I shouldn’t have to worry about noisy toddlers.
Me: Some parents don’t see the harm in taking small kids to adult movies, but I do. But what of children’s movies. We often take the boys to children’s movies at 6.
The Face: That’s different.
Me: Not according to these movie theaters. Parents are only allowed to take children under 6 to certain movies on certain days. And what about infants? I had to take Tornado A with me to see some movies.
The Friendly Giant: You could’ve left him with Mom and Dad.
Me: He was breastfeeding every two hours. No, I couldn’t.
But I get it. I do. I was a cashier for a couple of years at a home improvement store. I’ve seen my share of tantrums. But the annoying ones were children too old to have them and did it to get some item. The sad thing is it almost always worked. No wonder a ten-year old threw a tantrum in the line; his dad bought him the mini-flashlight to shut the kid up.
Yet that wasn’t the case with every family, with every child.
When we were on our mini-vacation, we stayed at a resort that had a couple of restaurants that served free meals for kids with a purchase of an adult meal. Excellent. One morning we took our kids down to the restaurant to feed them. It was a bit upscale, but they had crayons and high chairs. Two other families were already sitting down in the dining room. One family had two girls around the ages of Tornado S and Tornado E with grandparents in tow. The other family had a boy and a girl about the ages of Tornado E and Tornado S. Sure all the kids were a little loud, but they were happy.
Then came in the third family. Two teenage boys and a two-year old boy. The moment they sat down, the two-year old started to fuss. He didn’t want to be in the high chair. He didn’t want to eat. He wanted his mother’s full, undivided attention. I knew that whine. If not taken care of, it would develop into something much, much worse.
Not even five minutes later, the two-year old was throwing a huge tantrum, screaming “no, no, no,” throwing crayons and silverware. When he got bored with saying “no,” he would let out a scream. When the waitress came to take their drink order, the mother placed her hand over the toddler’s mouth, trying to quiet him down so she could hear and speak with the waitress.
The other moms (including myself) shot glances at the other mom. We pulled the reigns tighter on our own offspring. Because, we all know, one loose cannon shakes the whole bunch. For their part, the other seven children did well, scarfing up their breakfasts and telling tales.
Their father: (in a stage whisper so that I could hear but it wouldn’t carry) See, this is why establishments are banning small children.
Me: (in the same volume) Look around. Out of four families, only one has a child that’s misbehaving and the parent isn’t doing anything about it. Why should the rest of us be punished for that mom’s mistake?
Their father: It’s rude.
Me: No kidding. And we have dealt with these issues in public. But I like to remind you that we have taken Tornado E and Tornado S to very fancy restaurants that required a dress code. We would never have done it if it wasn’t for friends insisting to go there. But the boys were fine. We were told by other people who taking children to restaurants is how you teach them to behave in a restaurant.
Their father: Our kids are just better behaved.
Me: True. But we worked on that. And I agree. The mom is lazy. I would understand if she had small children she didn’t want to leave alone, but she has older boys.
Their father: And it’s still (pause) rude.
Me: Screw rude. She’s making her life harder by not dealing with this. And what is that kid learning? I’ve had to deal with meltdowns in public. People are more forgiving when you’re trying to deal with it.
Their father: Meltdowns should be dealt with severely, and the child should be removed from public immediately.
Me: Sometimes it’s not possible. If one of the boys decides to throw a tantrum in the grocery store, I can’t leave. I have to finish shopping, so I deal with the tantrum and ignore any dirty looks. Parenting is hard. But you have to parent.
Their father: (glances over at the mom) I’m glad our boys don’t act like that.
Me: Maybe we should praise them more.
Their father: Good point. (talking in a slightly loud normal voice) Boys, I’m proud of how well you are sitting and eating. You’re doing a great job.
Me: See, we’ll get this parenting thing down eventually.