Although my maternal instincts are as strong as ever, my patience levels have tended to drop when children are around; the lack of it is more for the parents than the children. My attempt to 'look away' when kids get themselves into precarious situation, as their parents are no where to be seen, has not proved successful. My sharp intake of breath, accompanied by a squeal, has usually alerted the child to my existence, which has, in turn, halted them for long enough to see my disapproving look (which I suppose could be interpreted as mean) and sent them running back to their oblivious parents. Although I am a great believer in kids learning by their mistakes, restaurants are not always the best place to help their education, as everyone else becomes part of the experiment. I stand here, today, upon my proverbial soapbox.
A couple of weeks ago, Dana and I went to lunch at a very old, traditional diner. The patrons' average age was that of Methuselah, and we felt particularly young, despite Dana ordering from the 'senior's menu'. A large party entered shortly after we ordered, which lowered the age average considerably, with seven adults, and eight children. As the only tables available were booths, or around the sides, they sat the adults in the corner, and the kids on the back wall. Big mistake! Putting the children in the corner would have been a better choice. Putting the children in the corner, with their hands on their heads, would have been a better choice! (I have no idea whether this is still a method used by parents, or teachers, but when we misbehaved at school, 'the corner' was today's equivalent of the 'naughty step', and our hands were placed on our heads, with arms as straight as they could be.) Leaving them in the car would have been perfect. Fortunately, the children did not leave the table area. They didn't sit at the table, but sat on, and under it, with one child laying down, dangling his legs over the back of the chair. Suddenly, a female member of the adult party walked over and dragged the boy, by the collar, to a sitting position, then pulled one of the girls up, from the floor, to the seat. 'You are not my mom!', the female child exclaimed, to which the woman replied, 'I don't care, you are not sitting properly'. The standing ovation with shouts of 'Bravo', may have been an overkill, but I was delighted that someone had taken the situation into hand. Unfortunately, the woman's mother (they were clones!) did not share my enthusiasm, and reprimanded her daughter. The younger woman, who was quite heavily pregnant, showed what over active hormones could produce, and silenced grandma rather swiftly. A standing ovation with shouts of, 'Encore', may have been an overkill!
Fortunately, for me, and perhaps most other's in the restaurant, we left before the Brady bunch received their food, much of which, if their drinks were to go by, probably did not reach their mouths.
After the weekend, I was relaying the story to anyone who was interested, in the office, when a delightful pre-schooler ran up to our front door. At first, mum and dad were nowhere to be seen. However, they too meandered up on to the porch; the same porch that has rather large 'No Trespassing' signs posted, and watched as their child swung on the gate, that is at the bottom of the stairs leading to our landlord's office. I didn't move from my seat, and chose to see how long they were prepared to let him ride on the metal bars. Bored with swinging on the gate, he started to slam it against the post, presumably to see how long it would take before it fell off its hinges. Mum and dad stood and watched, with the odd word of negativity being thrown in the general direction of his ears. With the gate showing no signs of breaking, he chose to play with the flap on our letter box. My usual method for dealing with such matters, is to go over and make monster like sounding noises, or put something cold and nasty in the slot to discourage them, but my own immature (but effective) plans were thwarted as a much better (in my opinion) method was achieved. His hand was stuck. I didn't realise this at first, as the screams were not dissimilar to those of joy, which had been deafening me just moments earlier, when he was using the porch as his own adventure playground. It was when they got higher, and the breaths in between got longer, that his parents chose to take notice. I didn't see whether medical attention was needed, but he was dragged away from the offending box very quickly thereafter.
I have, attempted, in the past, to 'play nice', and politely point out that perhaps the front of our office is not a suitable area for gymnastics practice. Usually, my efforts have been met with disdain and varying replies, all of which translate to, 'mind your own business'. Reminding them that as they are on my property, it was my business, has often led to references that have included mention of a maternal parent.
Remembering an occasion, years ago, when Samantha and I travelled back to Texas, should have been enough of a lesson to mind my own business. A young woman, with a toddler in tow, sat in the aisle seat. Samantha, reluctantly, but sympathetically, gave up the seat, as the excuse of having to 'get up every five minutes with the baby will disturb you' was given. As soon as her seatbelt was fastened, however, she fell asleep, leaving the 'baby' to run up and down the gangway, as fast as his unstable legs could carry him. Fearing an accident in the making, I tried to signal to the lad to come and sit down. My concern was that he would get under the feet of the stewards, which he did. The sharp end of the tongue of a flight attendant was directed, firstly at Samantha, and then at me. Feeling slightly embarrassed at her mistake, the hostess woke the mother, and vented her anger in no uncertain terms. 'But I am very tired, and have another long flight', was not considered a worthy excuse, and to add insult to the injury, the drowsy passenger, turned her head, closed her eyes, and fell again into unconsciousness. I don't think my arms or legs could have taken the accidental bumps that ensued, to make sure that sleep was not an option.
Many times I have decided to turn over a new leaf, and not concern myself as to the welfare of minors, but I fall back into old habits very fast. The choice of restaurant for mother's day, last weekend, was probably not the best place to try again, and ignore all volatile situations, as in the middle of the courtyard, there stands a fountain, and we chose to sit, outside, in the courtyard, and were directed to the table next to the fountain. Every child that accompanied their mother wanted to get wet. However, watching each child fall headlong into the water was apparently extremely irresponsible, as every parent, who responded to the gurgling cries, came over and looked at me, shaking their head, as if somehow I should have stopped the disaster and once again the 'mother' phrase was used. Responsibility, it would appear belongs to those who care to watch. Why did I feel guilty?
Reasoning with her kid was never an option for my mother, and a 'swift backhander', was very effective. Dana remembers his father spanking him, then asking his mother, 'what did he do wrong today?' Judgmental as I may sound, I do not think it is alright for young ones to scream all the way through a movie, because they should be able to 'express themselves'. Patronising as it may seem to some, I have been thanked profusely for expressing my delight and gratitude to parents of well behaved kids, when we have sat next to them in restaurants. If ever my children misbehaved in a public place, they would be hauled out of the area and were warned of impending expulsion, a threat which they knew would be carried out; hence the infrequency. Threatening to remove a child loses its strength after a dozen times, and means even less when said, yet again, as I remove the broccoli missile from my hair, as it is catapulted across the room from someone who is young enough to eat from the 'free' menu. It does not cause me to think his (or her) behaviour is 'so cute'.
However, the world continues to turn, and it is time for me to hand over my soapbox to the next person. Sunday evening will be spent with adults. No doubt we will attempt to put the world to rights, and if that fails, play childish pranks on each other, but our behaviour will be acceptable! I shall attempt to be more lighthearted when I write....another story.