The lovely and talented and extremely smart and funny Bella, over at That Damn Expat, entitled her post today “No Children.” I have kids, and I love kids, and I wholeheartedly agree with Bella’s general premise that parents should not take their kids to "adults only" venues, and with the specific examples she has given. Parents, please read Bella’s post and take her message to heart. She is right!
Bella also has firmly stated her tolerance for kids in venues where kids should be expected, even though she admits she generally is not fond of kids.** She is right about that, too.
So this post is not an attack on Bella. It’s just that reading her post reminded me of some things I need to get off my chest.
I am trying my very best to raise my kids to be polite, respectful, and well-behaved persons. I do not tolerate misbehavior from my kids in public places, but they are not perfect (yet). We have left restaurants, parks, carnivals, and other fun places when the kids would not calm down and behave. But I will not keep my kids locked up in the house until they turn 18. That would be cruel and impractical, and in any event would not be an effective way to teach them how to behave in polite society.
I take my kids to “kid friendly” places, not to “adults only” venues such as bars, fancy restaurants, or any business with a “no kids” sign posted. Occasionally we venture out to a matinee performance of a kid-friendly ballet (the Nutcracker at Christmas time, for example) or symphony performance, so that the kids can learn to appreciate some of the finer things in life, or to a sporting event such as football or basketball or baseball, so that they can experience the excitement of rooting for their home team. We leave if the kids get too tired or squirmy or whiny.
Please, people, show me, and my kids, the same respect that we try to show you. If you are not a “kid friendly” person, please stay away from venues that cater to kids and matinee performances of kid-friendly shows. And if you are in a venue that caters to both kids and adults, please grow up and behave in a “kid friendly” manner. Don’t act like a pouty three year old just because you happen to see / hear my kid whine or cry or otherwise engage in minor misbehavior.
Here are three examples of ridiculous places where I have been the target of the steely "I can't stand your kids and I wish you all would leave or die" glare and/or nasty comments from entitled kid-hating yuppies, when my kids have done nothing, or very little, wrong:
(1) On an airplane. More specifically, we were flying Southwest airlines. If you are familiar with Southwest, you will know that they do not assign seats – you get to pick your own seat from among the available seats when you board the plane. (This is euphemistically known as "festival seating," as if that will make it more fun.) I arrived early so I could be in the first group of boarders, near the front of the line - one of the first to choose a seat. I selected seats about 3 rows back for me and my 3 year old boy. An entitled yuppie boarded after me. There were lots of other seats and only about 6 kids on the plane at that time. She could have sat nearly anywhere (including in the same row but across the aisle) and not been near a child, but she chose to sit directly in front of me, even though she could see that I was sitting next to my 3 year old boy.
My boy was talking excitedly about what he could see outside the window as we waited for the other passengers to board. The entitled yuppie held her pillow in her hand and glared at me hotly for 10 long seconds, then :::sigh::: slammed her head heavily into her pillow. Apparently, she wanted to sleep on this mid-morning flight, even before take-off, after seating herself right in front of me and my kid when the airplane was nearly empty, and she wanted me to make sure my kid stopped talking entirely? For a 5 hour flight?!? WTF?!? She glared several more times as we continued talking while the passengers boarded, and again after the takeoff announcements finished, before closing her eyes again to try to sleep.
I am evil. And passive-aggressive. And competitive. (This is why I am a good lawyer). You should not enter a passive-aggressive contest with me, because I will win. After the takeoff routine and the b***’s final glare, I said loudly to my boy (so she would be sure to hear and know that I understood why she was glaring at me), “OK, hon, we need to be very quiet now, because I think the lady in front of us wants to sleep. So let's read some books, ok?” I then proceeded to read Dr. Seuss books at a moderate volume for the next half hour, and then sang songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “The Alphabet Song” at the same moderate volume with my kid for another half-hour until the snacks arrived (at which point the flight attendants unwittingly joined my passive-aggressive campaign to keep this lady from sleeping). And by “moderate volume” I mean quiet enough not to disturb the passengers behind us (I don’t think they could even hear it), but I leaned forward over the books slightly and talked and sang just loud enough so my voice projected straight into the b***’s ear. Did I mention that I couldn’t carry a tune if you put it in a bucket for me?
The lady next to me complimented me for entertaining my kid so well, and for how quiet and well-behaved he was. (I think she may have been “in” on the game, because she said it pretty loudly). The b*** in front of me turned and glared some more. She huffed and sighed and twisted and turned, and glared again ... and again ... and again (I smiled at her and sang some more), but she did not sleep a wink.
(2) Denny’s near Legoland, at breakfast time. We picked a family restaurant near the park so we could be sure not to annoy anyone. Yeah, right. Ok, my kid should not have bolted and ran toward the restroom; I talked to him about that as soon as I caught him. But hello! It’s Denny’s near Legoland, Mr. Yuppie in a suit who had the nerve to tell me, as I walked by on the way back to my table several minutes later, that I should “learn to control my kid better” so he wouldn’t “disturb people who are talking about important things.” If you are trying to impress your business client (or was that an overnight date? You really *are* the last of the big spenders, aren’t you?), you might try a slightly more... upscale restaurant? ... perhaps one that does not have coloring designs and kid menus printed on the placemats? I am sure that if the restaurant itself did not impress your client / date / boss / employee, your charm and tact must have impressed her when you oh-so- self-righteously addressed the mom of the kid who was “running wild throughout the restaurant.” (And, for the record, both of my kids behaved quite well thereafter, and my little guy did make it to the potty in time to avoid an accident).
(3) DISNEYLAND. Hello?!? Do you hate kids? Do you hate to hear kids whine in public, ever? Hate to hear a kid cry, or see a kid with a snotty nose? Don’t want to hear, “Mommy, I gotta go potty” while you wait in line for a ride? Then simply DON’T GO to Disneyland!!! Are you AT Disneyland and feeling unhappy and/or annoyed about having to listen to kids who are tired and therefore acting whiny and bratty all over the park? In a reprise from Friday’s post, “Here’s yer sign!!”
If you are among the reasonable persons in the world, you will simply not believe this story:
Last spring, we were waiting in the interminable line for the submarine ride at Disneyland in California (featuring scenes from Disney’s “Finding Nemo” movie, a kid favorite). Kids can’t stand to miss this ride, but there is not much for anyone over the age of about 6 to love. The line was an hour long. It was the shortest the line had been while we were there, so we went for it, because my kids really wanted to see Nemo and it was our last day at Disneyland.
Forty-five minutes into the wait, my 4 year old was (understandably) a bit bored and whiny. We were running out of fun games and distractions for him. He had no interest in any more “I spy” games or “20 questions” or anything else we could think of. He did not want any more snacks. He was trying to climb the rocks (it said no climbing; my husband and I were doing our best to enforce that rule, but the enforcement attempts were causing more whining....).
A young (probably early 20's) couple with no kids were in line a bit ahead of us. They glared at the kid and then at us. Repeatedly. Every time my kid said anything, and every time I said, “no climbing.” Ok, I agree it was annoying to listen to him whine. And I’m sure it was annoying to listen to me saying “no climbing” 28 times in 10 minutes. But I have a question for you, oh entitled yuppie brats, in case you are reading this:
What the H@#% were you doing waiting in line for that kiddie ride anyway??!!
And I have some advice for you, too, for when the kids in the line annoy you: GET OUT OF THE DAMN LINE!
You, and others like you, are a huge part of the problem here, people! You are making the line even longer for the little kids, who do not have the patience or temperament to wait in such a long line, yet will cry for weeks if they go to Disneyland and don’t get to see Nemo. So just leave, please!!
Ok, I’ll concede your right to see Nemo too, if that floats your boat, so to speak. But you are NOT, repeat NOT, entitled to so much as glance sideways at my kid if he does something annoying.
Well, ok, maybe if he does something extreme – kicks you in the shins or wipes his nose on your shirt, for example – you could say “hey, little guy, that’s not nice. Please don’t touch me.” Or to the parents, “hey, your little guy seems to think my shins are fun for kicking / my shirt should be used as a tissue; could you please ask him not to do that?” Any normal parent will apologize profusely and offer to pay your cleaning bill.
But if you are in line for a kiddie ride, you should EXPECT to experience kid behavior from the kids in the line. That means you will hear whining and crying occasionally. You will see some kids with runny noses, and some parents who don’t notice right away. Some kids will chew with their mouths open, drool, and spill their snacks and drinks. You may be bumped by the kids in front of you or behind you as they fidget and bounce and spin to try to entertain themselves. (Although you could help by keeping your distance behind us, you know). If the kids are just being kids, and are not directly attacking you or deliberately bothering you, your ONLY appropriate responses are (1) ignore it all; or (2) in a mild, not too overly friendly / creepy way, help those parents to entertain those poor bored kids! (Take option 2 at your own risk, of course).
Holy cow, people, the bottom line is, there has to be someplace I can take my kids for fun and to attempt to teach them to interact in society, without getting glared at! If you don't want to see kids, don't go to Denny's or Disneyland! If you don't want to hear kids on an airplane, even happy kids who are talking politely to their moms, then for goodness’ sake look around before you choose to sit right in front of one!! And if you just can’t stay away from Disney and Denny’s and kids on airplanes, then suck it up and behave decently; don’t be a self-righteous pig.
Ok, that’s my rant for today. I could rant more ... much more ... but I’ll stop here, as this post already has reached epic proportions.
Let me know your thoughts.
** I’ll forgive Bella this minor flaw of not liking kids (not that she needs my forgiveness or permission to feel any way she feels, of course...), since she is so wonderful in so many other ways. I didn’t learn to like kids until I was over 30; she may even have a change of heart.
But then again, she may not. Some people never learn to like kids, and I wholeheartedly defend their right not to like them and to avoid them if they choose, including by frequenting establishments that post signs that say “no kids” and even glaring at people who violate the "no kids" signs or rules. And I applaud the self-awareness, and even bravery in this sometimes rather kid-centered world of ours, of those who know and admit they do not like kids, and I only beg of them that they take all measures necessary to avoid having kids so as not to subject the poor darlings to the horrid experience of having parents who hate them, which, sadly, happens much more often than it should.