Well, the headline says it all. I should be ashamed of myself, right? But hear me out.
We were out for a late lunch, just the three of us: hubby, bubby and I. We were at the local Chinese restaurant, which constantly has children roaming around, despite their overpriced – but-oh-so-delicous – special fried rice. Apart from our regular family breakfasts on weekends, it was a rare meal out for us. And why is that? Because we refuse to go out for a meal when missy is grumpy, or in need of a sleep, or just isn’t in the right head space to sit quietly for up to an hour while we gorge on beers and szechuan fish.
Now, before I launch into my tale, I know that sometimes a baby gets grumpy. You can’t predict these things. Sometimes they will lose their shit when a glass of water is looking at them the wrong way. That’s OK. We’ve all been there. What I found myself committing the cardinal sin of fellow parent judging for was the reaction of said parents when the tantrum kicked off.
Let me set the scene. It was new years’ day, about 3pm, and many people had crept out of bed for the restaurant’s fabulous yum cha deal. What better way to spend your hangover than with fried bits of pork and prawns and salty soy sauce? Headaches abound, and large groups of people were gathered to commiserate together (we were in the minority in that we were in bed by 10pm the night before, after sharing a bottle of champers – when did life become so … civilised?). A family of four were eating together, with their little miss, about 1, sitting in the pram. Then, all hell broke loose and the screaming began. Now, this wasn’t the type of screaming I’m used to, this was coming from somewhere deep within. This kid had some amazing lung power. It was incredible. As a parent, I managed to get through about 10 minutes of it without it bothering me to any great extent.
In that 10 minutes, the parents did nothing. Nothing. After this, people nearby began to block their ears and complain. It was a fascinating study to watch how people reacted to this situation, it really was. I could see people actively complaining to each other, others throw dirty looks at the family (I felt sorry for them). At this point the baby was finally removed from the confines of the pram, but the scene was set, and the screaming continued. Even I started to notice now, as our own Missy started to whimper (very quietly, I might add) at the girls’ cry. Then, a woman next to the foursome said to her friend, quite loudly – we were across the room from them, “it’s new years’ day, there are a lot of people with headaches in here, you know”. That did not sway the parents as they tried calmly to give the baby some fried rice, while she threw herself back, red faced and screaming. I have to admit, I admire their calm, because at this stage I would be stressing. No, I lie, at this stage either myself or my husband would be outside with missy getting her to chill out, and we would have been for 20 minutes. How does it get to this?
I recall, pre-children, being annoyed at parents who brought their screaming child to a five-star restaurant. The kid screamed throughout my entire overpriced meal, ruining the moment for me. Then, I became a parent. I became a little more tolerant. After all, we like to eat too. Then again, our little girl is used to eating out, she knows how to behave. And if she doesn’t? We leave! It doesn’t matter if we wanted a second coffee, it doesn’t matter if we have to cancel our order and it doesn’t matter if we leave our half-eaten food. We leave. It doesn’t happen often, but we recognise that there’s a way to behave in public. Do I blame the child? Absolutely not. The kid is trying to tell their parents something (probably something along the lines of, ‘get me out of here, I do not want to be here, why have you dragged me here when I just want to sleep?’, and they just need someone to listen.
So, there’s my confession. Judge me as you will, but I ask you: should we sympathise with every single parent, or acknowledge that there are some things that are a bridge too far? The parents had my sympathy for 10 minutes, but after sitting through that screaming for most of my meal, even my generous amounts of compassion for parents had been exhausted.
Nah, we shouldn’t sympathise with every parent because quite frankly ain’t nobody got time for that! This post gave me pause because my son has autism and one of his self stimulating activities is screaming, at the top of his lungs, continuously. I avoid eating out with him at ‘proper’ restaurants because it’s not fun for me stressing about him disturbing people but yesterday we were on a train and he started up. I tried all the mummy tricks – raisins, moving him etc but ultimately there was nothing I could do. I just had to find a way to be at peace with the fact that he was ruining ten minutes of those peoples journey. I do think that life would be easier for people with special circumstances if those that COULD be more accommodating did their best to do so, for example my son and I are physically fit so we will always offer a disabled seat or space to someone who appears to need it, that way people might be less inclined to see parents in general as seat hoggers.
That’s a very valid point. And you’re right, I think it unfair for people to immediately rise to anger and judgements in those situations. Everyone has a threshold, and unfortunately mine was crossed. I still wonder if I was being unfair, especially after reading a wonderful article about someone in the same situation, who later discovered that the parent was teaching the child tantrums don’t result in getting your way — but I don’t think that’s what was happening here.