There’s an attitude that I’ve come across a few times over my almost 14 years as a parent. It’s usually conveyed with a rolled eye, an exaggerated sigh and pointed remarks obviously intended to be overheard. You see, some people cannot stand the thought of other people’s children in public places. They just don’t have much time for kids and have zero tolerance for kids doing kid things anywhere near them.
I know some kids are a handful. Some are loud and excitable and yes, some misbehave. Is this really going to be the majority of children, though? Is every kid going to be disruptive for the entire time they are out? I don’t think so. If a child does decide to throw an absolute wobbler at the table next to yours in a cafe, is your eye-rolling, sighing and judgy commentary helpful? Or are you just exacerbating an already painful situation for the parent that is red-faced and trying to calm things down?
A little empathy and tolerance goes quite a long way. I’m also going to go out on a limb here and say that most parents don’t ignore their kids when they behave appallingly in public. They aren’t sipping lattes and scrolling through Facebook, oblivious to their kids staging their own screaming version of Wrestlemania on the cafe floor, bumping into other diners and tripping up the waitstaff. There likely are a few that let kids run rampant and that’s not okay- but it’s also pretty uncommon. If you do see someone apparently ignoring terrible and disruptive behaviour, it’s an idea to have a quiet word with staff who might (hopefully) have a diplomatic way to address the issue.
My friend Christine took her daughter out for a meal recently. She ordered her scrambled eggs and her little one had a great time, in part due to the unique location. They went to Butcher & Farmer at The Tramsheds, Harold Park. I know because she reviewed it on her website. I like seeing where Christine goes because she always finds great places to take kids. This was, however, a huge problem for some readers. They seemed appalled that anyone would take children to this particular venue. Shortly after sharing her review online, negative comments started rolling in. A couple of people thought that her post was the appropriate forum on which to criticise parents who take their children to restaurants.
Open Season on Parents.
Apparently, parents should not bring children to cafes or restaurants because they “ruin the experience” for other diners. In fact, kids just “ruin everything”. Children in public places like this are indicative of “bad parenting” and a lack of “respect” for fellow diners. This venue in particular is a “high-end eatery” and not a “theme park”. Parents that bring children to places like this are essentially sadists who “enjoy making people unhappy”.
I don’t know if it’s just me but even reading back those last couple of sentences leaves me with a sense of unreality. The level of vitriol that was being directed at parents and kids was staggering. And it went on and on.
One man in particular took the cake when it came to denigrating families, claiming his experience at this restaurant was wrecked by children who played in the tram near where he ate. By his own admission, he did nothing about it at the time (like a quiet word with staff, for example) and seemed to have saved up all his pent-up anger to take out on strangers online. Anyone who disagreed with him got accused of bad parenting, rudeness, stupidity, and/or general fuckwittery. It was baffling. The fact that this restaurant has a children’s menu, high chairs and a parent’s room would suggest that children are actively welcomed there- this was totally lost on this guy. He made sure us “breeders” knew that our “spawn” would not be welcomed by him anywhere he was eating.
To be honest, that’s fine by me. Adults like this are not the kinds of people I want influencing my kids. I don’t associate with people who whinge, moan and demand respect yet cannot be respectful themselves.
Going Out & Social Skills.
Talking to Christine about the debacle of a conversation, she had this to say:
How are we supposed to raise adults fit for the adult world if they’re not welcome there to learn the right behaviour? Are adults supposed to vanish from the adult world when they have kids and only inhabit “kid” spaces, unless they’re on their own, for the next 18 years? I mean seriously …. what do these kid-haters expect people to do? Leave their kids in a cage and go out without them? Or never go out again for 18 years?
Children have a right to exist in public spaces. It’s as simple as that. As Christine says, how else will they learn about socially acceptable behaviour unless they are exposed to it? As parents, we have a responsibility to teach them and prepare them to be adults. What better way to do so than by showing them and guiding them through it, wherever possible? This is a view backed by experts. Kids learn by observation and guidance in social situations.
Food writer Kylie from Kidgredients was reading along and just as horrified by the vitriol aimed at parents and kids as the rest of us, even though the concept wasn’t new to her.
It’s a shame some people were never children themselves; apparently they were born as cranky adults and can’t see the value in kids learning, from a young age, how to eat out.
Kids have as much right as anyone to enjoy a meal away from home. It does them good by encouraging them to try new things and helping them hone their social skills. Is it really reasonable to exclude children from certain public spaces to the detriment of their social development? If you think so, perhaps it’s you that is selfish?! We were all kids once, after all. And I promise you, even the most wonderfully behaved child has their moments!
Wanting kids to be kept out of public spaces isn’t a new concept. It’s like the debate over breastfeeding in public. Too many people can’t work out that looking away will solve all their problems without discriminating against the mums and bubs daring to occupy space in public. Or what about the stories of well-meaning parents handing out lollies and earplugs with notes to fellow passengers on airplanes? I think those parents are extremely well intended. However it is sad that they feel the need to preemptively apologise for the existence of their children, in case they commit the dire crime of making a noise.
I try to make sure my kids are well behaved. I am far from unique in this regard. And yet, I have occasionally seen the looks and heard the comments when my family ventures into a restaurant. It’s not a nice feeling. People occasionally stare at us as if the kids will be a problem before they’re even seated. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at ignoring strangers in these situations, but for Christine, the comments opened her eyes to just how unpleasant people can be about families.
I’ve never had anyone say anything to my face, and I always think that my daughter isn’t bothering anyone when we eat out. This has made me think that even when she’s not doing anything wrong, people around us are sitting there hating us and her for being there for no reason other than they she is a child in their adult world.
Some people are perfectly comfortable with their belief that families should be excluded from restaurants and other public spaces. The conversation on Christine’s review perfectly illustrated that. I must have missed the memo that said segregation, intolerance and discrimination were now socially acceptable. Or perhaps they only acceptable concepts when applied to children?
#IBOT @ Kylie Purtell.