Monday, August 29, 2005

Whine dining

When you're in a restaurant and somebody else's kids are misbehaving -- I mean really acting up, making noise, running around, getting in the waiter's way -- what is your first reaction? A) Annoyance that those parents just can't control their children; B) annoyance that the ruckus made by the out-of-control children of those parents might cause your own angel babies to fuss; or C) boundless relief and gratitude that it is somebody else's child this time, and not yours. God be with you, fellow traveler! Have mercy on me next time when it's my child who's a-fussin'.

I guess it's clear that I'm a C), and occasionally a B), but only very rarely an A). Which means I'm probably one of those parents, the kind that the restaurant mentioned in this Blogging Baby post would advise to make alternative dining plans. I don't like to think of myself as a spineless, child-whipped bad parent. I try to keep my kids quiet in restaurants, within reason. I don't bring them to restaurants where they're obviously not welcome. And I try to get them out when they've really met their limits. But you know, my son has fetal alcohol effects, and impulse control is really kind of a nice dream. I try to give him as much slack as I can without completely letting him run wild, but it's a fine line. From where I'm sitting, we're usually just on the OK side of it. From where you're sitting, right behind him when he's jumping on the seat or right in front of him when he's racing down the aisles to the salad bar yelling "Out of my way! Out of my way!" we might appear to be quite decidedly on the other side.

We've gotten glares from time to time, usually from elderly people who grew up in a time when they used to beat kids like mine, or single people who still have big dreams of what great parents they'll be. But people who are parents right now would understand, wouldn't they? Surely we've all been in a position in which our child was acting up in awkward circumstances and we couldn't easily stop it. Haven't we? Haven't we? Maybe not, judging from the comments to the post mentioned above, which tend toward "My child knows how to behave, and if those parents can't be bothered to properly train theirs, they should just never leave the house." Such a lack of camaraderie with one's fellow parents, such superiority, such assuredness! If there's one thing parenting has taught me, it's that assuredness goeth before a fall. I'd like to think that one day I'll see those parents in a restaurant, and their child will have hit a phase in which throwing crackers at other diners is the height of comedy, and they'll be all apologies and scolding, and I'll give them my smuggest, smuggest look. But you know, in the end, I'll probably be glad it's their kid throwing crackers and not mine. And I'll just wind up nodding and sending a little "Hey, thanks!" in their direction.

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