Planning for outings with children
Several weeks ago I was watching a riveting Flamenco performance in Seville, Spain. Ooo la la! It was magnificent. Two rows behind me, a 6 year old, sitting on his Dad’s lap, started to have a loud, spirited conversation with his father! I turned around and gave his Dad a pointed look. His father didn’t even ask the child to stop talking. A few minutes later, his volume increasing, my wife turned and asked him to be quiet with a sharp tone. She was getting annoyed. A woman nearby hissed—“He’s just a kid!” But what about all of the adults who were trying to enjoy the show? Didn’t we have the right to enjoy a performance we had paid for?
Of course it wasn’t the youngster’s fault. He was just being a child--but what about the Dad? Isn’t he responsible to insure that his child doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of others? At what point does a parent take his child out of the auditorium? Knowing his youngster, should he have brought the child at all?
How many times have you been at a restaurant when a young child was disturbing other dinners? I have gone to many performances where young children had trouble sitting still, but didn’t interfere with the performance. Their parents knew that their kids could handle the length of the show without making noise, even if they it was a challenge for them. But other times, I have witnessed children be disruptive and annoying.
The important question—What are the responsibilities of parents to the larger community and what rights do children have?
These issues are not always black and white. Clearly a crying child on an airplane cannot be escorted off! I always feel sorry for the poor parents who are trying to soothe a screaming toddler who is disturbing everyone within 10 rows of him. I have seen single parents handling three young children on long haul flights. I have only compassion for them. I always try to give a helping hand when I can.
Certainly as parents of young children we are naturally partial to the needs and challenges of our kids. We are used to their voices, screams, and cries. We are sympathetic to the challenges of a 6 year trying to sit still! Sometimes we are torn between our own needs (like actually finishing a meal at a restaurant!), lack of available babysitters or money to pay them, our child’s struggles, and our concern with the comfort of others. It may be easy to convince ourselves that our seat mates should be more “tolerant”.
My youngest daughter was a spirited child, who thought that a restaurant meal should last four minutes. Then she was bored and restless. She wasn’t shy about letting us know she was done. My wife and I spent many restaurant meals eating in shifts, while the other parent hung out in the parking lot with our little one. I understood the allure of “fast food”! My older daughter could sit through a 2-hour play in rapt attention. They were just different kids.
Here are some possible guidelines for parents:
Be realistic. Hope springs eternal. Maybe today, 2-year old Jon will be able to handle Anthony’s with the whole family. Nice idea, but how likely is that? Trying to get a little guy to behave in a nice restaurant may be more disruptive to other diners than going to a family style restaurant filled with children.
Be prepared and plan ahead. Don’t expect to have a long sit down meal with a toddler on hand. It is okay to eat in shifts, but discuss how to handle these issues well before walking into the restaurant. If Joey is really tired and cranky today, perhaps it’s a good idea to change plans and eat at home. Be flexible.
Be considerate. Even at an early age, it’s important to model considerate, polite and community minded behavior to our children. It’s not okay to disturb others! This is more important than going to a performance or going out to eat. We want our kids to grow up to be considerate adults.
What do you think? Share your experiences!