Thursday, August 05, 2010

Wanting desperately to avoid restaurant baby tantrums

Speaking as someone who came out of the womb toilet trained, knowing how to read and write, and perfectly behaved from day one, I've got to say that crying babies in restaurants just drive me a bit mad.

Now, of course, I don't mean a little boohoo or a bit of whining. I don't mean a two-minute fit that is quickly stifled by parents who are on top of their child's behaviour. I don't mean a little bit of sibling rivalry that is normal between tots. "Mom... Billy's breathing on me!" "Mom... Suzy's blinking too loudly!"

I mean a full 100-per-cent first-class meltdown that lasts half an hour. In a restaurant. With a bunch of other people there. Actually, it was a pub, not a restaurant, chosen because a group of adult friends wanted to get together to eat and talk. We thought a pub would be safe. It wasn't.

Now, I really do feel for the young couple whose little girl was doing her best human imitation of Mount Etna, the famous Italian volcano. The crying, the screaming, the whining, the face stained with tears. She was inconsolable and was obviously over-tired. After all, it was well after 7 p.m. and for some reason she was dragged to an adult pub with her parents. Again, I try not to judge, but wow.

It's a times like this that I'd simply like to wiggle my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and have my mother appear next to the screaming kid. Usually, one look from my mother was all it took to make my brother, sister or me quit acting up. More often than not, this was achieved by one of two ways.

First, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about." This was actually quite effective. I don't remember her ever following through, but if you were in the middle of a tantrum or complete toddler meltdown, the last thing you actually wanted was something to make you feel worse.

Or, "Disappear!" This was usually uttered in a hushed tone through tightly pursed lips. Eyes squinted. She had one nerve left and you were standing on it. Now, why such an angelic and perfect child such as me would have required such a reprimand from the woman who gave me life is beyond me.

Like I said, I was born already toilet trained and knowing how to read. What else could a mother ask for? Oh, and did I mention that when my mother changed me, she found a diaper full of $20 bills, not that other yucky stuff that other less classy babies were leaving for their mothers. I mean, really. How uncouth of them. I guess my entrepreneurship gene was dominant even back then.

So, while I couldn't relate to the little girl's frustrated parents in the pub, I did feel sorry for them . . . up to a point.

After a half hour of screaming, though, my nerves wore thin. Being the only person at the table who hadn't raised a baby, though, the others certainly had more compassion than I did. Sure, I've been around kids having a stellar meltdown, but not while in a restaurant. And not for 30 minutes.

Between them, the parents at the table had raised seven children, so were well versed in toddler meltdowns. In fact, I don't even think they heard the squawking going on at the table next to us. Their immunity had been built up after years of raising their own children. They were vaccinated against getting annoyed by tantrums.

I, however, was not vaccinated against this particular condition, so sat there seething - but not right away. But after a half hour of screaming, I mean, come on! I've seen parents take kids having meltdowns out of grocery stores, restaurants and malls before. Maybe these two parents were in desperate need of a night out. Maybe they were just driving through town on their way somewhere. Maybe they were new to town and didn't know anyone to babysit. I understand. I really was trying to have compassion and not let it bother me.

But my nerves were shot after a half hour of screaming, I have to admit. Finally, the mother took her daughter out of the pub and back to the car. Since they'd already ordered their food (why, I don't know... the kid had already been screaming for 10 minutes when they ordered), the father sat there alone and ate while the waiter boxed up mom's meal. I did feel bad for him - honestly - but was relieved by the silence.

But didn't we have the right to a nice meal without a screaming child in our ears? I know that my own friends would have had the baby out the door after five minutes. You can tell when your child is way beyond the point of no return. These parents seemed either desperate to stick it out - much to my chagrin - or didn't have a choice... which is where I tried desperately to find some compassion inside me.

It's a difficult situation. Obviously, we all had the right to be there. Me, my friends, the parents who were tired and frustrated. The baby who was inconsolable. The other diners who were annoyed. It wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone, I'm sure.

There's a part of me that wanted to tell them to take their poor exhausted daughter home and put her to bed. There's a part of me that wanted to simply try to ignore it and let them try to eat their meals.

But there's also that part of me that just wanted to stomp over, tell them, "I'll give you people something to cry about!" and then purse my lips together and hoarsely whisper, "Disappear!"

I think the next time I'll just order take-out.


Julia said...

I'm in the no child camp - I generally answer the question of "do you have children?" with my standard "no,I'm allergic" response.

Seriously though, parents like this annoy me - do the rights of 2 parents and one child who doesn't want to be there trump everyone else in the restaurant who want to enjoy their evening out? It's episodes like this that have caused me and my husband to avoid restaurants when we want to enjoy a special occasion. It is much more enjoyable to cook something special at home and enjoy a nice bottle of wine - we've had too many nice dinners out spoiled by situations like this. I feel sorry for the child who has no control of the situation and the staff who can't get up and leave. (When I was younger I waitressed and remember situations like this).

Sarah Butland said...

As a new mom I'm nervous about taking my son out to various places as I know no one in that place wants to deal with my screaming child. I do also know there are options - a PUB?! never being one of them. With so many places in Moncton to eat there would be no reason to take your child to a pub no matter how good the food.

Don't let this one experience (or, Julia, multiple experiences) ruin your choice of dine in or take out. Have sympathy for the diners, the employees and the child as it's the parents choice to stay or go and they should always choose to go in such a loud situation.

This is said after I went to a restaurant with my son yesterday and he was a gem but going to get his haircut today was louder. It was ok though, it was over in mere minutes and he was giggling again.

Brian Cormier said...

I tried really hard to have sympathy for all parties involved. But in the end, the little girl was the only one with no control over the situation. We could have left. The parents could have left (earlier). I have a lot of patience for kids... but not in an adult pub-style restaurant well into the evening. To be fair, the others at my table were probably much less bothered than I was because they'd been through their own children's tantrums.

Sarah Butland said...

By the way... how overdue was your mother when she had you to be born with so many skills. lol

Still, Brian, a prerequisite of going to a pub or restaurant, but pub especially, should not be having a child who has put you through this experience.