A while back I wrote an article for the New York Post about how people just need to put up with my kid on planes. We have to travel, we’re stuck in a tube, and there’s no escape. We travel with our families for fun, for business, and for sad things like funerals. Obnoxious behavior is a part of travel nowadays, and anyone sensitive to it should travel with sound-eliminating headphones, a good book, and a hefty amount of patience.
That is not to say, however, that kids are entitled to behave like monsters or that parents should in any way allow them to do so.
Cut to a diner in Maine, which has been the center of a firestorm this week. A local TV station reports,
The owner of a Maine diner says she’s not sorry for yelling at a 21-month-old child for crying in her restaurant because it got the girl to be quiet.
Darla Neugebauer, owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, is defending her actions after a backlash on social media among people who say they’ll never eat at the restaurant again.
Neugebauer wrote on Facebook that the girl had been crying for more than 40 minutes by the time she slammed her hands on the counter and told the girl to be quiet.
To be clear, the diner owner only did one thing wrong: She yelled at the wrong person. An upset child is not capable of rational thought or reasoning. Her parents, on the other hand, were. They justified their child’s behavior, and their own, by complaining about the amount of time they were left waiting for food, claiming their kid was misbehaving because of hunger.
I have a 21 month old and yes, I understand how sometimes their behavior can sometimes be unruly. When it is due to hunger, you break out the bag o’ tricks. I don’t leave my house without it. When I know I need my daughter to behave, when I know we might not have access to food for an extended period of time (for a toddler that’s about twenty minutes), I bring this:
Do I love packing my entire fridge every time I leave the house? Um, no. Does my child ever scream from hunger in public places? Also, no. I keep a Costco case of Pirate’s Booty in my trunk and several bags of pretzels and Veggie Straws in the front seat, ready to throw in the back or snack on myself.
When the proverbial Pirate’s Booty hits the fan in public, despite my being as prepared as a Girl Scout, I do one thing I cannot do on an airplane: I LEAVE.
My children are wonderful. They are just the best people to ever walk the face of the Earth. I am, obviously, just slightly biased. When they are having a meltdown, however, I would not wish listening to it on anyone, let alone strangers trying to enjoy a meal or work at a restaurant.
When I was a kid, my mother took me everywhere, even places most kids aren’t generally seen. She had one rule: if I started to act like a kid my age, we would leave and the privilege of being taken out to special “grown-up places” would cease. I never had this privilege revoked. Like many parts of my mother’s parenting, I subscribe to the same philosophy. The presence of children is only a problem when they act like children.
Several weeks ago a few of my friends were visiting from out of town. I haven’t been out on the town much since my daughter was born almost two years ago, and especially not since my son was born three months ago. Despite my son’s clingy nature, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to go out to a bar and be a normal human being.
So what did I do? I brought my son.
We went to a fancy bar in Manhattan, him strapped to my chest. When I walked in, the hostess was aghast. I could see the question running through her head, “Can I preemptively kick this crazy woman out?” I told her: “If he makes a peep I am out of here and your waitress will get a very nice tip as an apology.”
As promised, my son didn’t make a peep, and I had a great night out with friends. Had he started kvetching, though, we would have been out of there, just like these parents in Maine should have done.