Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Noisy Children

This story ran in the New York Times.

It is an interesting discussion item.

Let me preface my thoughts on this subject by stating I am NOT a parent and have never gone through the rigors of raising and disciplining a child. I respect the trama parents have to go through to guide their offspring into proper behavior, but their are tolerable limits to what others must endure.

With that said, this story reminded me of an occasion at a Wendy's fast food restaurant, no longer frequented because of bad service, but I've already covered that.

As I recognize a fast food restaurant is not a 4-star eatery known for it's culinary excellence or ambiance, I ordered my meal from the vast array of selections wrapped in paper, paid the uniformed cashier hoping the order was correct, and carried my plastic tray filled with my greasy lunch to a Formica table that may have been wiped with a dirty rag in the same afternoon.

As I unwrapped my deliciousness meal, I noticed two tables over, two men and several children. The children were squirming and playing with their food, as children do, and the men carried on a conversation.

But, one of the children was screaming! This was not loud talking, it was SCREAMING!! This was SCREAMING as if the child was in pain or being tortured.

I looked around at the few patrons who were also seated and they looked oblivious to the noise. I looked at the manager and other employees who noticed the ruckus, but uncomfortably went on with their duties.

Now, I am a very tolerant person and because of my upbringing, do not get involved in someone else family matters other than to think "that's just kids being kids" and politely wait for them to leave. I've even interacted with children crawling over the back of a booth or crawling around on the floor, but this was different.

I tried to eat, but the SCREAMING continued unabated with the two gentlemen ignoring the behavior or the effect on others.

Something clicked in me.

I stopped attempting to eat, stood up and walked to their table. "Are you OK?" I asked the child in a most direct manner. "Is something wrong?" I asked disdainfully.

The two men looked shocked that I had come over while the SCREAMING increased. "He's just having a tantrum." one of the men calmly said then turned back to their conversation without another comment or apology.

I walked back to my table trying to ingest what had been their response and noticed all the other patrons had left. I hoped my steamy reaction would cause some quieting of the situation, but it did not.

The SCREAMING continued.

I again looked at the manager, hoping he would go over and reinterate what I had tried to convey, but he stood behind the counter cowering.

Normally, due to my etiquette training, I would have wrapped up my food and left the situation, but this time was different.

I was annoyed that my this rude behavior was invading my space and no one else seemed to care. I was not going to ignore this, as I was taught to do, and walked back over to the other table declaring, "If you do not get this child under control, I WILL!" raising my cell phone.

I abruptly turned and walked back to my seat. I was ready to call the police for child cruelty. At this point, I was ready to get the men arrested and the child taken into custody.

The two gentlemen, looked at one another, and I assumed they got the message that this was unacceptable and I was about to act. They gathered the children and quickly left.

Now, there is no moral to this story.

I understand children have to be taught how to behave in public settings. I also understand that parents do not have an on/off button on young enthusiasm.

My only outcome to this situation, which I surprisingly participated in, was as an adult, a parent needs to judge the environment and how others react to their families behavior.

What do you think?


TripleG said...

I don't have enough paper to list the number of times I've endured the same thing.
Even at fine restaurants, and once at a five-star resort: screaming toddlers and babies. Who would bring unsocialized preschool children to places like that?
Haven't been to the grocery once in years without shrieking, screaming and incessant pointless noise.
I can't even begin to describe the behavior I saw, and had to listen to and pick up after, at my last job at the library.

Rus Wornom said...

Maria and I had a favorite restaurant in Hampton for a while only because they had a strict 16 and older policy. It was great -- no screaming, no running around the tables, all civilized.

Cheryl said...

When my kids were small, they understood if their behavior was unacceptable in ANY public place, (and they knew what the acceptable parameters were...I made sure) we would leave and I would DEAL with them privately. I wish other parents would to do the same...