Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Banning The Brat. A Rant.

I kinda promised myself that I wasn't going to get into social commentary using this blog, because I hate that every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an opinion about EVERYTHING. I know I can get preachy, and trust me, I do not need another soapbox.

Unfortunately, this is killing me. I just watched my PVR'd episode of Dr. Phil's 'Brat Ban', about airlines banning children, or wait staff asking parents with screaming kids to leave restaurants, and I feel like I have to say something. Seriously- it's bubbling up behind my lips (or my fingers, I guess) and if it doesn't come out, my brain will explode.

It's so simple.


Aaaaaaaah. I feel better now.

Seriously. There was a woman on the show who complained that she was asked to leave a public library because her child was 'cooing' too loudly. Had the noise actually been a loud 'coo', it STILL would have been disruptive, but they played some audio of the sound this kid makes when he's happy, and it is NOT a coo. It is a scream. You know the screamy noise a one year old makes when they're just learning they have a voice? That godawful, earsplitting, MOTHER of a screech? No wonder the library asked her to leave. (Interestingly, it seems this woman then threw a raging temper tantrum about it and was arrested and banned forever from that particular library. Perhaps the whole family could do with some behavior modification.)

I don't know about you guys, but I remember when we were growing up, every time mom took us to the library, she told us on our way in the door to be quiet. And we were. When did 'Sssh' cease to be the standard for a library? Did the rules change and I didn't get the memo? This is why I take my kids (and the dayhome kids) to the library at VERY specific times. We go when everyone is well rested and no one is having a hard day. We sit together to read, and if the kids make too much noise after I have asked them once to speak quietly, we leave. No threats, no tantrums, no embarrassment. Simple as that. I was in the library the day before yesterday with a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and 2- 1 year olds. We were there for 30 minutes (which is about as long as they can handle), and everyone behaved beautifully. When I started to notice that everyone was getting a little tired of the outing, I, AS THE RESPONSIBLE ADULT IN THE GROUP, made the decision that it was time to go. I did not let the kids dictate whether we were staying or going, or humor them and wait so long that they became angry, overtired, and disruptive. Why? Because it's rude. Because whatever the kids are doing is MY responsibility, not the problem of everyone else in the building. And because I want to raise adults who accept the consequences for their own behavior, not overgrown children who will eventually blame society for their crimes.

Some restaurants are now banning children under the age of 6, or have a zero tolerance policy for screaming children.

ABOUT FREAKING TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's not a difficult concept. If you are unable to teach your child table manners or how to behave acceptably while in a restaurant, you need to take them somewhere more suited to their skill level. Again- not hard. If your kid can't sit still, shoves food in double handfuls into their mouths, or still screams at the dinner table (and at various times, I have had children who do all those things, sometimes all at once), DOWNGRADE. Take them to the McDonald's Playland. Take them to Chuck E. Cheese. But do not take them to La Caille On The Bow or Pasquale's or Japanese Village and assume that the diners surrounding you appreciate the dulcet tones of your budding soprano. They do not. If I am going to pay $35 for my appetizer, you can bet your ass that your screeching child has ruined my evening, and the evenings of everyone else around you.

It's hard to teach kids to behave. I have taken my kids out of more restaurants than I can remember actually being in. I have eaten ribs alone in Tony Roma's while Jason walked around the parking lot with a 2 year old in the throes of a meltdown. He has watched a movie by himself because Isaiah was screaming and I left the theater. I have repeated the words "Please take your elbows off the table" until I am blue in the face. Every time my children speak, I expect to hear 'please' or 'thank you' follow it. (And trust me- teaching gratitude to a teenager will NOT make you age gracefully.) I have spent every minute of my parenting life trying to teach my children how to behave appropriately in as many situations as may arise in their lifetimes. I KNOW it's possible to teach a 2 year old to wipe their face and ask "May I please be excused?" when they leave the dinner table. I have taught it to my kids, and I have taught it to my dayhome kids. Kids are smart. They understand what is expected of them, and are more than happy to do it. If you do not expect kindness, courtesy, and good manners, they will give you exactly that.

Here's the payoff.

The number one compliment I get about my children??? How polite they are.

I can take my teenagers to a fancy restaurant, and they can handle themselves like champs. There may be some discussion about dessert forks vs. salad forks, but I can trust that they will put their napkins in their laps and not knock over the stemware reaching across the table for the salt. (No- I do not expect this from the little ones. I know my limits. And theirs.)

That movie Jason watched alone? The manager was so impressed when he saw me sitting alone in the lobby with my sobbing infant (we figured he'd nap through the movie, but alas, we were mistaken), that he refunded both our tickets, gave us 2 free passes for the next time we went, and a $20 gift certificate for the concession. (That alone should tell you how rarely people with crying babies actually leave a movie theater.)

When our group of friends went to Disneyland in 2004, we had with us a 10 year old, three 8 year olds, and two 5 year olds. On an Alaskan Airlines flight on the way back, the attendant came over to us and asked if we were Canadian. We were a little confused, but told him yes, we were. And he smiled and said "I could tell. Your kids are all so polite and well behaved. I just wanted to thank you for making it such an enjoyable flight."

Holy crap. Really? Cause we all thought our kids were out of control. Honestly- we had just spent seven days in the happiest place on earth and they were coming down from a WICKED sugar high. We figured they had used up every last ounce of good behavior in them. The six of us adults beamed all the way home. We smiled for weeks. And it took MONTHS for my mom to stop having to hear the story every time I called her.

And last November, when Jamie and Shawn and Jason and I and the kids went to Banff for the weekend, we had dinner at the Grizzly House (you know that awesome fondue restaurant?). The concept here is boiling oil. It's fondue. Everything is hot. There are signs posted EVERYWHERE asking that you keep your children seated so they don't get their faces burned off.

We timed the dinner well. I made sure 6 month old Eva was just beginning a nap when we got there, and we made sure the other kids weren't overly hungry on arrival, because fondue, by nature, is a long-ass meal.

The expressions on the faces of our two waiters when we walked in with our baby, (who, by the way, will not get to go this year, as she will be a toddler and therefore unable to cope with a two-hour-long, burning hot meal- see how it works????), our 5 year old, and our gaggle of pre-teens and teenagers was priceless. We had just ruined their day (and quite possibly their entire weekend, depending upon how badly it went). We sat down with the kids and let them order away. Some of them felt more comfortable with beef, chicken, buffalo or venison, and the more adventurous ones tried shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich and frog's legs. No one complained about the cheese fondue that was heavily flavored with Kirsch- they simply tried it, and if they didn't like it, went on to something else. They were polite to the waiters, stayed in their seats, and avoided using the phrase "Ewww! GROSS!!!!” At the end of the evening, both waiters came up and thanked us for defying their expectations and complimented the kids on their beautiful manners. (We doubled their already generous tip.)

Who doesn't want to hear that about their children??? Wouldn't you rather have service people (and, having been one for years, be assured they are a crusty bunch with very little goodwill) exclaim over how beautifully your children have comported themselves, rather than have everyone in a 50 foot radius glaring in your direction and using you as an example in their next rant about 'kids today'?

Let's recap. It’s not the kids who are the problem. It's us.

As parents, we are tasked with teaching our children to become respectable, productive members of society. Adults who throw food, loudly monopolize conversations, belch, slurp, interrupt others and can't sit still are generally assumed to be either drunk or from Wetaskawin. Neither of these things is something you want people to think about your offspring.

Would you want your child to be left off the guest list for parties, or have no one to sit across from at lunch? Do you want people to give your kid that vacant smile (we've all used it!) when they interrupt a conversation to talk about themselves for the umpteenth time? To suddenly realize that they have no social life because they are rude and unpleasant to be around? This is what happens to people who lack basic manners and social skills. Why doom your child to that sort of existence? Don't you want your kids to get everything they can out of life?

SOMEONE has to teach our children how to become adults. For those lazy parents who can't be bothered to say no, it seems as though the choice is finally being taken out of their hands.

Thank God.

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