This morning I noticed Mack drinking from a sippy cup that wasn't his and realized a buddy left it at a play group I hosted a million years ago, which prompted me to get on Facebook to send a message to the moms, which forced me to read every single new post since I checked it last night, and that caused me to come across a new article written by a mom on NPN. Whatevs, you know I don't need an excuse to stalk people on FB. Anyway, this post was about the rules with noisy toddlers, which I just HAD to read since my last post was about almost exactly the same thing -- tolerance and noisy children.
Hers was specifically about restaurants, and she concluded that moms need to take their screaming children out immediately while other restaurant patrons could also be a little more tolerant. She mentioned a restaurant in Pennsylvania called McDain's, which recently banned all children under 6 because "Their volume can't be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers."
Okay, I can understand that. Sometimes I also want to go to a nice, quiet restaurant and actually have a conversation with my husband or a friend. I'm not offended by that at all. But the restaurant also commented, "their endless screams at public dinner tables are the height of being impolite and selfish."
Hmmmm . . . they are the height of being impolite and selfish.
This makes me giggle. Well, of course they are at the height of being impolite and selfish. That's what toddlers are. They don't know the ways of society and don't give a rip about what others think of them. But was it wise for the restaurant to make that statement? And if the parents are allowing the little ones to stay at a table in a public place while they are endlessly screaming, well then that is another problem. I should know because it JUST happened to me a couple of nights ago.
I spent one night at my parents' home this week, and my dad took us to his favorite restaurant, Catfish Hotel, so we could get our fill on all things deep-fried (yummmmmm). Mimi didn't get the best nap that day, but I truly thought she would be fine once we got there. It's a very kid-friendly restaurant, and she has always been able to find another little buddy to look out the window with. Near the end of the meal she had a bit of a melt-down when I wouldn't allow her to run around like a chicken with her head cut off. I know, I'm such a mean mom. But the truth was that she was tired and had very little control over her actions, and I knew this. So I stuffed one last hushpuppy in my mouth and got her out of there as quickly as possible. It wasn't her fault. It was mine. Of course I took the opportunity to explain why we don't act like headless chickens in public places, but she didn't get punished.
I did get some looks from other tables while I was rushing her out of the place, but 95% of them were also parents or grandparents who were thinking, "oh, that poor thing." The other 5% can just go eat at McDain's in Pennsylvania.
It also happened a few weeks ago at a local Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, which happens to be the most kid-friendly neighborhood in the city. And it was about 5:30PM, which is when only families with toddlers and senior citizens go to restaurants. The other parents don't mind, and the seniors can't hear. It works out well for everyone. Anyway, we were with other families and three toddlers squealed at the same time, which most of us thought was kind of funny (well, probably because we had several pitchers of margaritas by this point), BUT out of the corner of my eye I saw that one table of two forty-something-year-old women gawking and complaining to their waiter. Great.
So the manager came over and the concerned expression on her face completely melted when she saw our table. She let us know another table complained, but our children are so little and they seemed to be having so much fun. Then she winked and said that she just wanted to make sure that table saw her come over and say something, and then she brought crayons.
. . . the height of being impolite and selfish . . .
One reason this statement makes me giggle is that the children have done nothing wrong. Crying and being noisy isn't a sin. It isn't evil. But this restaurant has stated that it is "selfish," which is indeed not a good thing to be. I assume what they mean is that the parents are being selfish. The parents have selfishly gotten themselves and their toddlers bathed and in nice clothes. They selfishly packed snacks and crayons and Magnadoodles along with diapers and wipes and an extra change of clothes and plastic utensils and bibs and a bazillion other things into a ginormous diaper bag instead of bringing a stylish little purse. These same selfish parents then struggled with the little ones to get on their shoes and coats and then wrestled them into car seats. They selfishly waited on a table and quickly moved away all the glasses and sharp utensils so their children wouldn't knock them over or throw them across the room. The selfish moms balanced nursing a baby under a gigantic cover while helping her husband shovel chicken nuggets and peas in a picky toddler's mouth to keep her quiet. Then they selfishly pack away most of their dinner into styrofoam containers because the little ones have reached their melting point. How. Freaking. Selfish.
Yes, there are those parents whose only action with fussy ones in public is to yell at them to make them stop yelling, which we all know never works. But more times than not the majority of parents are the ones I described above. They just want to have a nice evening out with their family because they know that the benefits are worth the risk. It is worth all the trouble it takes to get my family out of the house. I try my best to make sure that no one is sleepy or starving or needs to potty or get a clean diaper. I try to pack my bags with all the essentials. We call ahead for early reservations and ask for a table in the back when available. And if all goes as planned, we get a good meal that we don't have to prepare or clean up and my children show us the best time. They usually dance at the table to the music, joke with the waiters, and say really, really funny things to the people sitting around us. The risk is SO worth it. They are the most interesting and best dinner dates Clint and I have ever had.
So go eat at McDain's and other places banning children. Sit in peace and quiet and turn your nose up at anything louder than the terrible elevator music I'm sure they'll be playing. Don't take the risk of being tickled beyond belief at the funny things that toddlers do in restaurants. Having children isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend to people who are even the slightest bit unsure of it. But you want to see how selfish you are? Then have a kid. I never realized what a narcissist I was until Mimi came along. I used to wake up early and take FOREVER to get ready to go anywhere -- to work, to dinner, to the grocery store. I would piddle and watch TV and pluck my eyebrows and chat on the phone and check my e-mail. I would clean out a closet and then mess it up again looking for just the right outfit for lying around the house and watching reality TV. I could spend all day shopping for the perfect socks or downloading new music.
But I never had enough time to get anything done. Ha. Ha ha ha ha. I was so stupid and selfish. I wanted to have children so badly, but I never knew how badly I needed these children. Clint and I are smarter and stronger and closer to God than we've ever been or ever would have been if we didn't have children. They taught us so much about life that we owe it to them to give it all we have. Which means taking them out in public places to have fun -- and to show them how to politely have fun in public places. To teach them everything we know by spending lots of quality time with them. To feed them healthy food and make sure they get plenty of exercise. To teach them to be kind and selfless and patient -- and these especially we must teach by example, which isn't always easy.
The past couple of weeks of traveling and eating in restaurants and staying at several other homes and sharing space with people of all ages has been GREAT for all of us. Not always easy but it has given Clint and me the best opportunities to teach them all of these things (and to learn more ourselves). If we never took the risk, then how would each of us learn and grow? We wouldn't.
So the crazy point I'm trying to make is this -- I hate it for those who don't take the risk to include children. I'm not mad at the restaurants and other places that ban children. Whatevs -- they're trying to make good business decisions. But I'm mad at the attitudes of those who ban children. Who don't see their importance. Who don't want to listen to their noise. Who push them away constantly for a quiet, peaceful moment. Please don't miss the opportunities you have with your little ones. The opportunities to make sure they have fun and are learning to be just as cool as you are. If you don't like how they're behaving, then show them how to do it correctly. We all learn best from examples.
Something about lots of families getting out to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus (the key here being BABY) has made me think a lot of attitudes toward little ones. Even if you think Jesus was just a complete nutcase who claimed to be the son of God, you can't argue with the example he set for mankind. He was kind to EVERYONE -- a dirty tax collector, a hooker by a well, dirty sick folks with no insurance, and noisy, fussy little children. They probably had boogers in their nose and sticky hands, and Jesus was so cool that he asked them to come to him even though the snooty adults told them to go away. He knew that those little ones were important. He knew the importance of putting others first.
I've always loved this Proverb, ". . .refresh others and you will be refreshed . . ."
I pray I never forget that.
And that I never have to eat at McDain's.