Friday, February 02, 2007

Perpetuating the Stereotype

There are days when I feel I would not be an ideal mother. There are days when small children, particularly small children who are misbehaving or being loud, really bug me to death.

I confessed this to my friend Julie, who has two small boys of her own. Julie told me I am not crazy or weird to feel this way. “Even when you’re a mom,” she explained. “You will still find other people’s children annoying, whiny, and just plain irritating.”

I appreciated her validation beyond words, because I was starting to feel like a rotten person.

The truth of the matter is that I like well-behaved kids. There I said it. I have been in the presence of well-behaved children, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know their unique view on the world.

Now, I know I have no room to talk when it comes to parenting and raising children. I don’t have any, so I speak not from the voice of experience.

I can, however, speak from the voice of a normal person just trying to enjoy a meal out.

Today, my husband took me out for a nice lunch at Olive Garden. We’ve both been super busy this week, so all we wanted to do was sit back, relax, and talk. We were seated in front of a young couple with a young daughter.

If this child had a volume button, it was stuck on LOUD. Her parents made several efforts to shush her, and then (instead of leaving which we all wanted them to do – which would have been the right thing – the polite thing – to do) just gave up and let the child shriek. Here is a replay of the conversation:

“MOMMY!”

“Shh, honey, what?”

“PUT ME DOWN! I WANT DADDY TO HOLD ME!”

“Okay, go around the table to Daddy.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

“I thought you wanted Daddy to hold you.”

“NOOOOOOOOOO! I WANT YOU TO HOLD ME.”

“But I am holding you honey.”

“I WANT DADDY TO HOLD ME!”
(extremely loud grunting as child tries to escape mother’s grasp)

“Honey, come out from under the table.”

“NOOOOOOOOOO, DADDY!”

“Did you just say ‘no’ to Daddy?”

“YESSSSSSSSSS! NOOOOOOOOOO TO DADDY!

“You shouldn’t say ‘no’ to Daddy.”

“NOOOOOOOOO DADDY!

“That’s not being very nice, honey. Come out from under the table, please?

“I WANT YOU TO HOLD ME!”

“Okay, just come out from under the table.”

“OKAY! ICE CREAM NOW!”

“Okay, you can have some ice cram. Miss! Miss! Can we have some ice cream?

“ICE CREAM NOW! ICE CREAM NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!

“Honey, we have to wait for the waitress to come back.”

“NO! NOW!!”


Well, it just went on and on like that. Brett and I could hardly hear ourselves think, let alone talk. And I saw other diners giving them the stink eye. Although they seemed oblivious.

I think the right thing to do would have been to leave once they realized they couldn’t keep their daughter under control. Or, in anticipation, they should have not brought their daughter to a nice place like Olive Garden. They would have been infinitely more comfortable (as would the rest of us) if they’d visited a McDonald’s Play Land instead.

The Olive Garden is a nice place, not just the food and service, also the atmosphere. This, in my opinion, doesn’t mean having to strain over the noise from yelling children, just to hear the dinner specials.

Okay, I get it. Kids don’t always behave. I’m sure I didn’t all the time either, although I’m pretty sure my parents would have put the kibosh on a restaurant scene like that. However, why do I have to pay for parents’ inability to discipline or control their children? I didn’t have the kids. Why am I being punished, you know?

It’s SO frustrating. Mainly because you know what you’re “supposed” to do. You’re supposed to look like, “Oh, gosh! Too bad! Hey, it’s okay. Did somebody miss naptime? They’re just kids being kids. Children are so precious. Gosh, are they CUTE! Please continue to ruin my dinner. It’s okay. It’s not like I paid a lot of money for a relaxing meal with my husband. What’s that, dear? Oh, of course, she can spit macaroni at me! Whatever could be wrong with that?”

When all I do is sit there, building up a good head of steam, wanting to turn around and say “PLEASE CONTROL YOUR CHILD!”

It is so unbelievably unfair.

Anyway, now for some against-the-stereotype casting, shortly after we were seated, another family with a young daughter were seated in front of us. Their daughter was the same age as the mewling little monster behind us. SHE was a perfect angel all throughout the meal. The contrast was so stark I was tempted to go to their table and congratulate THEM on their daughter’s behavior.

I just DO NOT understand how some parents don’t understand the basic rules of politeness. I don’t ruin THEIR meal, so they should have the courtesy NOT to ruin mine (and everyone else in hearing distance).

Huff, Huff….now I feel like the big, bad witch. But it’s the truth.

Still, I guess I’d better watch out for falling houses.

6 comments:

Heidi said...

Ann-Marie,

Don't feel bad about those feelings.I have children, and other people's screaming children drive me nuts!! I confess, my own drive me nuts at times.
We usually reserve Olive Garden for when we go out on a date just the TWO of us, though compared to some ours are pretty mild, which is a HUGE blessing from God.
I agree, if people cannot control their children, they should not go out in public, especially to a restaurant on the scale of Olive Garden which is for nice, relaxing occasions.
I remember working retail and pretty much had to babysit others children because the parents were not watching them run around screaming and climbing all over merchandise. I wanted to tell them, "PLEASE control your child."

October Dawn said...

For the record: there is no such thing as an ideal mother ... but I know what you mean =) I'll tell you one thing...if God ever blesses you with kids, you will be a wonderful mother to them... and if He doesn't, there is no doubt in my mind that you will "mother" someone else somehow. Women are so important in God's big world!

mom2mine said...

Hi,
I, of course, can't help but to comment on this topic. You know me.

I completely agree that that child was out of control and the parents seemilngly couldn't deal with it. I am a parent and can be annoyed by misbehaving children myself. But, I would caution you not to judge too quickly.

we have four great kids who are fairly well behaved. They make us proud often. However, we have been humilated countless times through the years. Restaraunts and stores still make me nervous every time
I enter with children. No matter how well you plan snacks, sleep, or boredom busters you can not avoid all meltdowns at inopportune times. We have spent many meals with one of us eating while the other is outside or in a bathroom with a loud child. Also, there have been times when I have been with the children by myself and when one acts up I can't leave all the other kids at the table to go deal with the one who is acting up. Should I force all the other kids to pack up their meals? Sometimes you just can't control it all.

The one thing that irritated me about this post is the suggestion that if you have children you should only be welcome to dine at restaraunts with playlands. We are obviously not welcome at a place that is meant to be relaxing. We are entitled to a relaxing lunch too. Sometimes we have had a rough week, and sometimes a babysitter isn't a viable option. I know that you are going to say, Oh it is fine as long as your children are well behaved. But I am saying sometimes it doesn't work the way we all plan.

I have been to Olive garden twice with my children and it went well once and I had people thank me for my well behaved children. Once, it didn't go so well. I will try it again, and I hope it goes well again. Should I call and see if you are having lunch there?:)

A "Mother of Two" said...

Okay, here goes: this is what happens when you and your husband had a right to a quiet nice dinner and the family with a loud daughter had a right to be there as well.

Being a parent myself, I am sure the parents were MORTIFIED. But they did not know to act or may not have known what the best thing to do.

When my first son was born, we were terrified that the baby may cry thus we never took him to any restaurant. Then we realized, we cannot live in fear either . Sometimes, he acts well, sometimes he has some bad moments.

Such is life - we will just have to tolerate realizing that we all have a right to be in restaurant - sometimes it is bad timing.

Ann-Marie said...

Tancy,
I had a feeling you might have some thoughts to share. Like I admitted, I don't have any experience with parenting. I don't know what "the other side" feels like.

Of course, parents are entitled to relaxing dinners, but not at the expense of the other 99% of the diners losing THEIR relaxing dinner experience.

Don't get me wrong. I don't actively seek out people with children who are misbehaving to publicly criticize them. It would AMAZE you how many times I keep my mouth shut out of courtesy. It just so happened that this incident happened when I was badly in need of a relaxing dinner - hence, the rather heated rant.

You don't have to call me before you go to the Olive Garden, but if you go, I would love to come with you so we could enjoy a dining experience together! I think the last time we did, it was at a Wendy's after a volleyball game!

Okay, a compromise - I'll try not to be judge and jury next time, okay?

But I MAY get under my own table and start screaming if I can't take it anymore! :-)

mom2mine said...

I would love to have lunch some time Ann marie.

I think it is funny that you figured I might have to comment on this. I havne't changed much over the years either :)

Tancy