After a morning of errands on my day off, I decided to treat myself to a quiet lunch at a local spot, known for its homemade soups and salads. Armed with a new book, I got in line, placed and received my order, and then settled into a booth.
And then they appeared: Mom, Dad, and two youngsters, one of whom was whining. Not a good sign, but optimistically I turned my attention to the good read and bowl of gazpacho in front of me.
But like a pesky mosquito, the child’s sniveling, punctuated with cries of “No! NO! I don’t want that!” buzzed the restaurant and finally landed, right in a nearby booth. Now hopelessly distracted, I was obliged to play “Endure the Unruly Child.”
Is it my imagination, or have our communities become rife with tantrum-tossing little monsters and their parents, who do not or cannot properly and appropriately intervene?
I believe that parents should remove their poorly behaved children from public places.
Before you peg me as a Kid Hater let me assure you that I am not. I have a couple of kids of my own. They’re grown now, and comport themselves admirably in public. But they were not, in their early years, Angels Of Perfect Behavior.
My daughter was, briefly, a public menace. She possessed a loud and strident voice. She hid in racks of clothes in department stores. Once, upon receiving a restaurant meal she didn’t like, she threatened to vomit it onto her plate. And she did. She was the very definition of a public pain-in-the-butt. The remedy: Until she was old enough to reason with, listen, and behave, I didn’t take her where she would annoy people.
If we attempted a family dinner at a restaurant and she became disruptive, she would be removed from the room. It was our responsibility not to inflict this dinner-wrecker on the innocents at nearby tables. And I expected that when the time came, I would receive the same courtesy.
That courtesy, however, is not evident. Parents of difficult children suddenly become hearing-impaired. Now, if I can hear their wailing child, why can’t they?
Most do what these parents did: they talked to each other, they stared into space, they ignored the whiner. That is, until the mother jumped up, grabbed her spawn by the arm, and started hissing at him through clenched teeth. It worked. He stopped whimpering. But it made him cry. Real loud.
With gazpacho roiling in my stomach, I glared at them, though they never noticed. I finally stood, picked up my book, and left. I thought about saying something sarcastic like, “You are such a lovely family,” or something offensive like, “I have some duct tape here in my purse if you’ve run out.” More than likely, I would have snapped, howling, “REMOVE YOUR CHILD FROM THIS RESTAURANT! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO ENJOY A PEACEFUL LUNCH?”
But they probably would have thought I was rude.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.