No doubt you have heard about the Portland, ME diner owner who yelled at a whiny toddler in her restaurant after the kid reportedly wouldn’t shut up. (And as if that weren’t bad enough, she then took to FB to go on a profanity-laden tirade against the family, calling the kid a beast and condoning corporal punishment. Yeah, she’s cray-cray). We don’t really know exactly how things went down – it’s more of a she said/they said debate over what really happened. To me, though, it’s pretty clear that no matter what the parents did, this woman is off her rocker. Who yells at a child like that, and in your own place of business?
The weirdest thing about the whole situation? The way some people applauded her action, as if it was something they had been longing to do for a long time. Even after the mom wrote her side of the story in The Washington Post, commenters on the article called her, literally, a “horrible mother.” This leads me to believe one of four things is going on:
1. These people don’t have kids.
2. They had kids a long time ago and don’t remember what it was like.
3. They are blessed with calm, laid-back children.
4. They are cray-cray themselves.
Reading the mom’s account, I found myself relating to her. They were on vacation. They went to a breakfast place for pancakes (a five-star restaurant this was not). It was raining outside. They assumed no one was bothered by their child’s whining since the restaurant was loud in general. They had to wait 40 minute for their pancakes – pancakes! – after they ordered. We have a breakfast place like that near us – always a wait for a table, so we expect that, but the service is always very fast. Our place is so loud you wouldn’t notice if a child was throwing an all-out tantrum, let alone just whining (again, she said/they said about how loud the kid’s cries actually were).
I agree that parents need to set rules for their children and expect them to exhibit good behavior, especially in public. But having a 22-month-old has made me realize that there is only so much you can do to control other people’s actions, even your own children. Parents should do what they can, but kids cry. That’s the bottom line. Kids cry.
Before I had LM I purposefully went to places where children were not welcome. This was not because I didn’t like kids, but because it pained me to see them during my infertility treatments. If I couldn’t have my own, I certainly didn’t want to listen to other people’s kids crying – or even making normal loud kid noises. Once on vacation in the Bahamas we stayed at a resort that was mostly couples but did include some families. At one point, kids started playing in the sand in front of our beachfront room. Sitting on my lounge chair, I just wanted peace and quiet. Why couldn’t those kids go play by their own room, instead of by ours? I made my husband go ask the front desk if there was somewhere else we could sit because they were disturbing me so much – turns out, the kids’ family was only eating at the restaurant and were thankfully leaving soon.
So I get it. I get not wanting to hear the squealing, the whining, the kid-ness.
Then I had a kid.
As the mom from the diner says, it takes a certain amount of compassion from others to raise children. There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children. Sure, I’d like it if LM was like the French kids in Bringing Up Bebe, who behave in restaurants without even a game or iPad to keep them busy. But I’m a first-time mom trying to deal with a very strong-willed toddler. I try not to annoy others, although my threshold for kid noise may be higher than the child-free, since I’ve gotten used to it. I think it’s fine for a restaurant or a hotel to say no kids or no kids under 12 – they are trying to cultivate a certain atmosphere for their guests, who are probably paying a lot of money. But a breakfast place? Sorry, you’re going to get families, some of which might have bratty kids. As another mommy blogger points out, just don’t be a dick – and that goes for both parents and for non-parents.
This all made me think about the recent trend of crying toddlers being removed from airplanes (here’s another example). This is even more bizarre to me – sure, no one wants to sit next to a crying baby (I remember plenty of times boarding a plane, seeing a family and praying they kept walking). But people need to get places on airplanes, you know? What are you supposed to do, not ever travel with a kid? Not gonna happen. Likewise, you could say not to take your kid out to eat, but c’mon, that’s not realistic, especially not on vacation. You gotta eat.
I don’t know where all this anti-toddler backlash is coming from. Some people, like this crazy diner lady or the mean flight attendants, just seem to be mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. They just snapped. One could argue that it’s all the fault of kids today (a complaint that’s been going on for generations). But I think these incidents says more about adult behavior than they do about children’s. Instead of acting in a calm, compassionate way to see what could be done to quiet the child, the adults lashed out. In the case of the diner, should the parents have left sooner? Maybe – and if the owner wanted them to, she could have approached their table and nicely asked them to do so (instead of throwing take-out boxes at them). The impersonal ways we communicate now – social media, email, text – makes it so hard for us to have face-to-face confrontations tactfully. To often, they become passive-aggressive, or just escalate quickly. It’s like we’ve all forgotten our manners.
And this, more than anything else, makes me worried about kids today.
What do you think about crazy diner lady’s behavior?