The art of being Californian, it seems, is to cultivate a loose-limbed insouciance while secretly working away like a frantic ant.

--Richard Fortey The Earth: An Intimate History

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Rant #4

Still no sign of my bag. I hope it's feeling lonely. I hope it's cold; though, since it has all my winter clothes in it, it probably isn't too cold. Damn.

Today I spent the day doing last minute Christmas shopping with my mom. If something is going to make you want to slit your wrists in a public place, six hours of shopping two days before Christmas will do it. I may or may not have thrown a serious fit in the middle of a department store before resigning myself to the fact I wasn't going to be able to go home before my mom (who had the car) wanted to go. This could be a rant all in itself, but really, it's my own fault I was out there. I could have refused to shop before leaving the house instead of waiting until 4 hours in and having a meltdown.

While we were out shopping, we took a very nice but all-to-short break at a wine and cheese shop. There, a woman brought her very cute and very young son. They proceeded to sit at the table next to us. Where this cute, young child began to howl because mommy wasn't giving him the cookie that she had tauntingly placed directly in his line of sight.

I hate parents who have absolutely no idea of restaurant etiquette. Why must we be subjected to your yowling offspring simply because you've heard it so often you are able to tune it out?

Now I am in no way saying that people shouldn't bring kids to restaurants. How are kids (and parents, I suppose) supposed to learn how to properly behave in public situations? I have been taking my son out to dinner since he was 2 weeks old. And in no way am I saying that parents should be limited to eating out at "kid friendly" restaurants. Those places suck. The only people who eat there are people with children so unruly that they can't be brought to a normal eating establishment, and the food is so bad because the staff assumes you will be so overwhelmed by the screams of tiny people that you won't notice the food is horrible. Or maybe the staff assumes that since parents eat so many cold, overcooked meals because of child drama, they won't notice the swill placed before them at exorbitant prices. My son has always eaten at "nice" places. Place where mommy can have a glass of wine, good food, and a pleasurable dining experience.

Is my son some sort of freakishly amazing and good child? Well, yes he is. But he has also been highly trained.

Here is what you do when you bring a child to a restaurant and he or she begins to screech like a not-so-cute owl: remove the child from the restaurant.

No one there is paying money to listen to that. Even those who have children and either a) didn't bring them or b) have finely trained them to stay quiet will not understand why you are subjecting them to this cacophony of sound. The childless people won't have any clue about why anyone (including you) can tolerate such aural abuse. And those who have kids have either paid good money not to have to listen to them while they are eating or can't figure out why you aren't sucking it up and being an adult about the whole screaming kid thing.

Remove the child. Ignoring it won't make the noise stop. It also won't make people pity your difficult situation and thus tolerate your obnoxious brat. People don't pity. They judge.

And really, it's not the other diner's problem. It's not even your kid's problem. It's yours. You are the rude one.

Yes, I know having a child can suck the very will to live out of you.
Yes, I know that sometimes all you look forward the whole day is the one moment of adult time at a nice restaurant.
Yes, I know that sometimes you can get so tired that you really just don't have the strength or nerve to deal with one. more. thing.

However, (and having experienced all of the above it does break my heart to say this) that's not other people's problem.

We are parents. We chose to breed (okay, some of us didn't actually choose the breeding, but most of us chose the sex that led to the breeding). We chose to keep and raise our babies. It is our thankless and shitty job to deal with it no matter how horrible and soul-draining it can be.

Part of my son's training included leaving a entire meal and (gasp) glass of wine to take him home when he was just plain done. Part of this training including adults eating in shifts while the one adult sat in the car with the non compliant child. My son had to learn how to act like a civilized human in a dining situation. He had to learn that howling and yowling were the exact opposite actions of a civilized human.

I know that tiny people are uncontrollable. Which makes dining with them particularly challenging. I am not asking anyone to control their child (that is impossible). I am just asking you to remove the uncontrolled child from an inappropriate situation. That, we, as parents, have the power to do.

Also, parents need to be smart. Don't put a piece of sugary goodness in front of a young child and then inform him that he can't have it until he eats an (at the moment because the kitchen is still making it) invisible piece of food that won't taste half as good. Kids are no fools. They know that cookies are better than any proper "food." If your tiny person is hungry, come prepared. Bring snacks. Don't expect him to wait for the ordering process, drinks, appetizers, etc . . .

Further, little kids know exactly what that saccharine tone of voice ("now, Timmy, Mommy can't give you the cookie until you eat your mashed grey food") means: absolutely nothing. That voice has absolutely no weight behind it. That voice is not for the child. It is strictly for the benefit of those adults sitting nearby to justify your inability to act as a parent. We are supposed to infer from your tone that you are a progressive parent who explains everything to little Timmy as if he were a reasoning being (He's a toddler. He's not). Also, we are supposed to understand your situation; somehow, be okay with the fact that you are not taking your barn owl child out of the restaurant because he still needs to eat his grey mush.

We don't understand. We don't care.

Kill the voice. Remove the child.

Or if you must eat, go to one of those "kid friendly" restaurants where your kid's yelps will be lost in the sea of noise.

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