Don’t make your problems mine.
Last month, I suffered through a miserable lunch at a local restaurant, a place where I usually dine and know the owner well. The food and service was fine, but I happened to sit near a young mother and her one year old with a healthy set of lungs. The mother was accompanied by a friend to chat with and catch-up.
While they talked, they paid little attention to the one year old in the high stool who was entertaining himself. Every now and then, the toddler would let loose with an ear-piercing shriek, something I think would drive dolphins away for twenty miles near the restaurant. As my back was to them, I was unprepared for the first shriek which caused me to drop my cutlery. When I turned to look, the mother apologized for the sound, but continued talking with her friend.
The second blast caused me to bolt from the restaurant. Realizing I was irritated, the mother made a snide remark to me, “I suppose you never had kids.” I replied I did, the big difference though was I knew how to parent, she obviously did not. The debate went downhill from there. I promised myself I would not eat there again if they were present.
The real loser in this situation was the owner of the restaurant as the rest of the patrons were doubtlessly offended by the noise, but that wasn’t her concern.
I posted my displeasure on my Facebook page and was surprised how many people came out in my support. I had evidently touched a nerve.
One person said, “kids will be kids.” Maybe, but “parents have to be parents” as well. Back in the day when my kids were toddlers and fussed in a restaurant, I took them outside and sat in the car with them. The hum of the engine would put them to sleep. So I missed a few meals; so what. I would rather do that then upset the other patrons.
Another person pointed out it was the restaurant’s responsibility to handle the problem; telling the parents to either tend to the child or leave. I have talked with the restaurant owner about this on several occasions over the years. Most of the time, it is an awkward situation for him to handle diplomatically. Then again, there are instances where it has become necessary for him to boot out the offending parents and kid, but this is rare.
The point is, the parent was perfectly content to pass her problem along to the other patrons. Her problem became ours, which is obviously inconsiderate of her. I recognize her need to relax and talk to friends, but her first responsibility was to the child, second to the people around her, and third to herself. Her priorities were just the reverse though.
She claimed since the child was only a year old, there was nothing she could do. Frankly, she didn’t even try. I contended she simply didn’t want to address the problem, or failed to see it as a problem at all. In other words, she was totally oblivious to the situation. Sadly, such people may know how to reproduce, but they certainly do not know how to parent. They will inevitably raise another generation of narcissistic people.
Babies can also be annoying on airplane trips, particularly if parents do not tend to them. Passengers will be patient up to a point, but if the parents drop the ball, they will likely let the parents know of their displeasure.
There are, of course, parents who are sensitive to the needs of both their child and fellow passengers. A friend told me of a recent flight where he had to sit next to a crying baby. The mother was smart though, and placed the following card on the seats around them prior to the trip:
“Hello! My name is Charlotte and I am 8 months old. This is my first flight and I’ll try to be on my best behavior. I think my Mom is more nervous than I am, so she made a goodie bag for you. Have a great flight!”
The passengers were delighted by the card and goodie bag. In return, they gladly helped the mother tend to the baby. Smart, very smart.
Being a parent means you have to assume certain responsibilities. However, we now live in a time where people are more concerned with entitlements than with responsibility. I contend we shouldn’t pass our problems on to others. Most people have enough trouble of their own. Perhaps the biggest thing I learned from this experience, and the comments made by my Facebook friends, is to take the parents to task and voice your displeasure. It’s not the child’s fault, but somebody has to give the parents a wake-up call.
Keep the Faith!