Yesterday an online discussion about children and their behavior while dining in restaurants caught my attention, the gist of the conversation was that if taught early by their well-mannered and thoughtful parents it was quite possible to create perfectly behaved children whilst dining out. My friend Mark wrote a blog on his positive experiences.
This discussion evoked a very powerful response and I found myself wanting to jump down the screen defending not only myself but all the other parents in my position yelling that it is not always that simple. I am one of those parents belonging to children that invite the stares and misunderstandings and just because a child appears to be ill-mannered or badly behaved does not mean that the parents are always irresponsible.
Of the parents that I know with “highly sensitive” children we are only too aware of the disapproving looks we get when our child has a melt down in public. As a baby and toddler, there are understanding nods and smiles from fellow parents, they are in the club and understand all too well but as these children get older the understanding nods start changing into disapproving glares.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the theory in principle but now having lived it I realize it isn’t always as simple as teaching our children appropriate behaviours and them suddenly responding appropriately. Some children just don’t get it, some children like mine don’t always get the consequences or pick up on the subtle nuances that other “normal” children pick up on. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have our rules but the way we teach them or police them is different. There has to be give and take, some days you need to pick your battles.
My youngest child is easily overstimulated and his senses can lead him in all sorts of directions, he is more interested in his particular want of the moment than any consequences that befall him. It can be very challenging as is trying to find toys/games that will occupy him long enough to sit at the table and be quite. We use many techniques and will resort to using electronic gadgets as this will keep him entertained just long enough to enjoy a meal. Some people may call this bad parenting we call it a necessary distraction.
We would not take him to a Michelin star restaurant as that would be very inappropriate for us we aim for family friendly establishments however sometimes that can simply mean they allow children to be present and are not so friendly at all. Some of these venues don’t really cater for children other than supplying high chairs and at 4 he is just a little too big.
There are times of course when it is totally appropriate to remove a child from a venue so as not to disturb others, funerals, weddings and concerts, just to name a few. We have been known to pack up and scuttle out as fast as humanly possibly remembering to jot down the name in our book of places we can never return and it is also possible to calm a child down discretely so as not to draw unwanted attention. However, there are times when we don’t want to care about other people or whether we are bothering them, when we want to pretend we are normal and eat our meal without interruptions or distractions. So what if the Munchkin is spreading food all over the table or his person, so what if the children are becoming a little rowdy and bordering on being a nuisance. can’t we just have this one moment? We are after all paying customers and we are all human. Why is it okay for the man at the next table to have a tantrum that his meal was late and not for our child to have a tantrum that he can’t have blue ice cream?
For many reasons parents are not always in a position to leave the children with family on a regular basis, a babysitter on top of dinner is often way beyond the budget or the child is too unpredictable to inflict upon the unsuspecting baby sitter. We are all trying to do our best and learn different coping skills and rather than judging people for their lack of parenting skills or unruly behavior I try to be compassionate, perhaps they are simply having a bad day and like me they are merely trying to pretend that they have an otherwise normal existence and they can be like the other perfectly behaved families eating at the other tables.
We might be disturbing your dining experience but you get to go home to your quiet and neat little lives, we have to take our noise home. Is a little compassion and understanding really that much to ask?