Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are Those Your Children?

Are parents actually grasping the meaning of being a "parent"? 

Hotels and restaurants now have criteria for how children conduct themselves in their environs, and many a mother and father are seemingly happy to dump their ill-mannered brood on someone else to straighten them out. 
Etiquette experts are now enrolled in doing the parents' job for them—a truly sad state of affairs. It used to be understood that parenting doesn't mean babysitting, it means raising another generation that will have to interact with the world around them, so they better be taught how to behave. 

As I continued to read this article by Matt Richtel, I became angry and depressed. 
These etiquette experts say that new approaches are needed because parents no longer have the stomach, time or know-how to play bad cop and teach manners. Dinnertime has become a free-for-all in many households, with packed family schedules, the television on in the background and a modern-day belief of many parents that they should simply let children be children. 
The piece explains the duh-concept that since children are not taught to behave at home, obviously they will misbehave in public. Ergo, parents should (double-duh) teach manners all the time.

A specific restaurant that is mentioned, which has kid-friendly nights, still expects (nay, demands) proper behavior from children as well as the parents' supervision. 
Mr. Kowal himself (an owner of the restaurant) can sometimes come across as hurried and even brusque. He has been known to scold parents, too. He once reprimanded a woman for talking on her phone and ignoring her son, who was yelling loudly. The woman was offended and told Mr. Kowal she wouldn’t be going back. He responded that that was her choice, and the people at nearby tables applauded. 
I was thinking of a recent outing (not my idea) to an elegant-ish restaurant with my sister and her children. The two small girls, aged 4 and 3/4 (she was quite insistent on that clarification) and 3, began to fidget the moment we were seated. The elder cannot stand to be in shoes for long, and I had to surreptitiously strip her feet beneath the table. Then they both began to kvetch (in an undertone) that they wanted to go home.

Trying to savor my cream of mushroom soup (which I have to say, was mostly blissful cream), I was instead attempting to placate one while my sister was occupied with the other. The bowl of fettuccine alfredo ordered for them was packed up, after the younger spat out her initial mouthful.

The two never raised their voices, nor did they disturb the other diners. But they were unhappy. To an adult, eating out is a treat; to a child, to sit glued to a chair and deal with cutlery is a burden.

I think the problem is that adults don't have the imagination to remember what gave them joy as children. They take children out to eat, thinking they are providing a treat, when most kiddies would rather be at home with something from the microwave, munching in their pajamas. Wouldn't they prefer if the price of their dinner was put towards a Toys R Us foray?

"Let children be children"—I heartily concur. But I translate that differently: Don't expect more from them than they can provide. Teach them how to behave, but don't put them in a situation that would overtax their developing self-control (like expecting them to be quiet for three hours in shul) unless it is absolutely necessary. 

Therefore, if a parent cannot guarantee civilized comportment from their offspring, don't take them out to eat.  

Don't feel like making supper (although I find making a quick soup to be much easier, cheaper, and healthier than any other option)? There is always take-out. Want a change of scenery? Rather get that sweet high-schooler from next door to babysit for a couple of hours (with a frozen pizza in the oven) and have a restful evening with the hubbie, when finishing a sentence and enjoying the meal are both possible.           


The Beckster said...

Agreed! Great article.

Anonymous said...

complete agreement.

Princess Lea said...

Phew. I thought I was going to be chased down by an angry mob . . .

Lost and Found said...

Amen. Great post.