I like to consider myself a cool mom… and despite the innate uncoolness of that previous sentence, I really do. I married fairly young at 24 years old and had my first child at 26. So now, at 29, with one foot in my twenties and most of my girlfriends still doing their “Samantha Jones” thing, I like to think that I am still aware of the world outside of my married-with-kids universe. However, an article I recently read on MSNBC has finally forced me to choose sides.
According to the article, the owner of a restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina is raising controversy after posting a sign saying “Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated”. The restaurant’s owner claims that since the sign has been up, the restaurant has seen a noticeable increase in business. Naturally, the article has sparked a great deal of controversy with debates heating up all over the internet. One article on Shine, notes that movement spreads far beyond North Carolina borders. A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York recently banned babies after 5.p.m. As further evidence of the growing anti-kids sentiment, the article points to a group on facebook titled, “Ban Kids From Restaurants!” where it seems extremely bitter individuals lament about how the behavior of children has yet again ruined their peaceful meals. The group has over two-thousand members.
Now, the empathetic side of me understands that there is a certain degree of unspoken etiquette I must practice as a parent. No. I won’t be taking my children to a 9pm six-course meal at a wine bar. Moreover, I have even been known to leave a restaurant early if I think my three year old has a tantrum brewing.
However, what strikes me the most about the ensuing debate is the bizarrely heightened degree of passion from the “movements” supporters. I was stunned at how easily words like “brat” and “bastard” were thrown around. I made the mistake of visiting the facebook page and was disgusted at how easily the sites creator referred to one such disruptive child as a “little sh#tbag” and a “wailing little insect” among other things.
Reading these comments brought back memories of last year’s controversy over the stranger who slapped the crying two year old little girl in Wal-Mart. Remember that? Apparently, the child’s mother wasn’t handling the situation – which seems to be another complaint of these individuals. Bad parents. You know… because the children of good parent’s never have tantrums.
I am being ridiculously sarcastic.
Legal arguments aside, what is it about children that makes these self righteous, grossly misinformed individuals so intolerant? Why is it so socially acceptable to engage in anti-child rhetoric? Why are children who act out and the parents who raise them last on the list to receive a little dose of empathy? What about the group of drunk and belligerent twenty-somethings whose loud and profane antics at their table interrupted my family on our night out? Or teenage girls whose cell phones went off again and again throughout my meal? Or that family at the table beside mine speaking loudly in another language? Or that blind man whose walking cane hit the side of my chair on the way to his table? Or that guy who can’t stop sneezing? Or hey, how about that ugly couple facing me from across the room?
No matter how much courtesy we all exercise, there is a certain amount of discomfort one must expect in public. Unpredictability. Diversity. Strangeness. If you want to eat a meal strictly on your own terms, stay home. Until then, my money is just as green as yours. So if I am at a restaurant at the table across from yours and my kid starts to cry uncontrollably because his chicken nugget fell on the floor and for some reason this means you can no longer enjoy your meal. My advice? Take a bite of your Caesar Salad, quit whining, be a grown up, and suck it up. At least my kid has an excuse. What’s yours?