Trying to Eat in Peace

I think it’s one of the mysteries of parenting that, as our kids grow up, we forget all the headaches associated with rearing young children.

One of those headaches slapped me full force Saturday.

I’d spent a pretty uncomfortable hour or so in Mass — thanks, in part, to whiny, fidgety, coughing children around me. With my nerves already frayed, I felt the need to relax over a nice dinner out.

Mom and I went to a local Mexican restaurant, were seated, and awaiting our order when I noticed escalating noises from the booth behind us.

I peered around and immediately located the source of the noise.

A young mom and dad, accompanied by grandma, were trying to entertain two little children, both obviously under the age of four or five.

And they weren’t succeeding.

The boy (the older one) was chattering loudly about anything and everything, in an effort (I suppose) to keep the adults’ attention focused on him, not his sister.

The girl (a toddler in a high chair) was squealing in protest, banging on the table, and trying to get more attention for herself.

I thought they’d ease up when their food arrived.

But I thought wrong.

The noise only escalated.

Perhaps the kids didn’t really want tacos and such. Perhaps they’d have preferred McDonald’s.

Maybe the parents hadn’t really wanted to take them out. Maybe they couldn’t find a sitter.

But it seems to me that the adults out-numbered the kids, and somebody should have done a better job disciplining. Maintaining order. And quiet.

Not drill sergeant order. But consideration of other diners.

I realize that’s a tall order nowadays, but it saddens me to think these children one day will be in school, where they will be expected to behave.

And if home is a free-for-all, what will school be like?

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27 thoughts on “Trying to Eat in Peace

  1. It scares me what school will be like, or what the world will be like in a few years, for that matter. My daughter and her boyfriend took his young cousins to the local zoo yesterday. They encountered a mother who peppered her conversations with curse words. And she was speaking with her own young daughter! It seems that where behavior is concerned, the line between acceptable and not is becoming very blurry.

  2. Seems like we (who have no kids) always get seated next to a family with at least two unhappy ones. I agree…when we were little we didn’t go to restaurants…and if we had, we NEVER would have acted like the kids I see out now days. Shows my age I guess.

    • One has to wonder what waiters are thinking about when they seat restaurant guests. I mean, who doesn’t like cute, well-behaved kids; sadly, some of these children are neither cute nor well-behaved! And merely going to a different restaurant would hardly help. I think the key is instilling discipline in them, but as someone already pointed out, sometimes it’s the parents who needed disciplining, ha!

  3. If we look at some of our schools today, it’s not hard to find the homes that already are free-for-alls.

    And let’s face it – many of the so-called adults who are raising these kids aren’t much better. Take a look at the comment sections of any of the political blogs, for example. Of course there are going to be disagreements, different points of view, strongly held beliefs. But my goodness! Ridicule, name-calling, vulgarity and so on abound.

    I know – fuddy-duddy me. But the fact is that discipline is different than punishment, and it has to be consistent from a child’s youngest days.

    Of course, I’m of the generation that remembers a time when going out to eat with the adults was truly a big deal. You knew you’d better behave, or it would be a good long while before you got to go again. Yet, we still had fun.

    • I wouldn’t call you a fuddy-duddy; I think you were a conscientious, caring mom who recognized the importance of discipline in a child’s life. Without it, how can we be trusted to do the right thing, to delay gratification, to be the kind of person who stops at a stop sign whether anything is coming or not? I’ve heard of families who take their half-dozen kids to a restaurant and everybody has a good time and nobody disturbs other patrons — what a delight!

  4. It saddens me that you didn’t give the peace you needed and deserved at mass or dinner. I’m sorry that happened.
    My aunt use to tell parents of unruly children after mass… ” I have three children and understand parenting can be a challenge, and I know you will understand that I wait all week for this hour of prayer and devotion. Please allow me my peace.” Some parents got huffy, some over apologized, some were genuinely sorry. In any case her pew at church was almost always child free. One funny side note. At church dinners and picnics kids flocked to her as she played games with them and sat them in her lap. The kids would fight over who sat next to her while parents usually kept their distance.

    • Your aunt sounds like a treasure — it’s a rare individual who can criticize without coming off as cantankerous and critical! The kids eager to sit next to her just goes to show that most of us truly want and need boundaries, whether we admit it or not.

  5. I’m sorry peace was elusive for you. It’s frustrating when that’s what you need and something (someone) gets in the way.

    Children in restaurants (or anywhere in public, really) can be a challenge. I’ve been on both sides of this fence – annoyed by children noise polluting my space, and as the parent responsible for children who are doing everything they can to drive me nuts.

    My older son was always well-behaved in restaurants (maybe not-so-much on one or two occasions). It was great. Then my younger son came along. Absolute terror. Often, we had to ask the server to box up our dinner before it was even served. We quit going to restaurants until he was about three-and-a-half.

    I’m not sure that the toddlerhood behavior will translate to school age behavior, I guess that depends on how diligently parents work to encourage positive behavior. I would agree that effort needs to be made early on to train children in desirable behaviors. I’m so glad my kids are past the “I-have-to-be-occupied-every-second-or-I-will-throw-a-major-fit” phase :)

    • Thankfully, Domer knew how to behave — and did! He saved his tantrums for home. Perhaps he took to heart my threats that, if he acted up, he wouldn’t be trusted out in public!

      These kids’ bad behavior might have been a rare thing — let’s just say it was, giving them the benefit of the doubt — but when other nearby patrons don’t hear a single warning or chastisement, my guess is the parents were clueless. And grandma was just as guilty.

      I’m with you — asking the waiter to box up the dinner and take it home would have been a relief to those of us subjected to such antics!

  6. It is frustrating when all you want is peace, been there…sorry it wasn’t a peasant dinner for you. Some parents really try while others think their kids should be allowed to do whatever they want, including climbing over the tables; been to dinner with those people and not planning on doing it again!

    • You’ve got to love it when the little ones peer over the back of the booth and stare you down, huh?! Looking back, perhaps WE should have been the ones to ask to be seated elsewhere. Not that that excuses their behavior!

  7. I had six kids and you would have enjoyed eating around them. I didn’t play that kind of behaviour!!! Parenting in not for chickens. Either you pay now or pay later with bad acting kids!!!

    • Tanya, you’ve hit the nail on its head — “pay now or pay later.” My son’s father was one of six kids, and he used to tell me how they’d go into restaurants, the waiter’s eyes would pop (fearing the worst, I guess), and how other patrons would later tell his parents how well-behaved the kids were. Just goes to show that it IS possible — you’re proof of that! Oh, it’s so true, parenting isn’t for sissies!

  8. Yeah, Debbie, I never understood taking kids out to a restaurant. They don’t like it. Other adults don’t like it – especially when they’re acting out. And parents, I don’t think – like it. Why? Why do it? I was at a restaurant lately where a mother and her 4 year old daughter and grandmother were eating lunch and the 4 year old was running up and down the aisle, screaming just to scream. it was so disruptive. Frankly, it bothered me that no one running the establishment asked them to leave. I’d have been more concerned with my patrons. But finally, an older gentleman seated right behind me got up, walked back to them, and covered his ears, asking them to leave because the little girl was hurting his ears. They left. The rest of us were left wondering, “what is wrong with some people?” At least the guy did it with tact and induced some sympathy. I’d have said something down the lines of, “Please take your brat and go home!’

    • One kind of expects kids to run wild in a place like McDonald’s, which often has an entire room specially designed for them to play in. BUT, usually there are doors to that room, so other diners don’t have to be subjected to the din! I suppose the “fault” can be placed on many shoulders — the parents, for optimistically hoping that this time their kids will behave; the kids, for failing to see they’re disrupting others; and the restaurant, for oftentimes offering “free kids’ meals” as a way to entice parents to dine out!

  9. Ugh, Debbie, it’s so annoying, isn’t it? But then I feel sorry for the parents because I think they know, but sometimes don’t know what to do. You and I might think they should stay home. It’s why they created “takeout” after all. But maybe it was a special occasion? Who knows? Bottom line, it is annoying. Just like it’s annoying on a plane. That might be worse, as there’s no escape hatch. ;)

    • Definitely, it’s more annoying on a plane — like when they keep kicking the back of your seat! Or grabbing hold of the top of your seat and peering over at you! I’ve said it before, my Sheltie is way more better behaved than a lot of humans!

  10. Debbie, there’s something I notice in Italy: when kids go out to a restaurant, they’re SO sweet and well behaved. I don’t know how the parents do it, but obviously, they’re doing something right. (Parents let the kids take a doll along, or a gameboy, usually, but they expect them to be quiet and not interrupt the adults.)

    • YES!! My son has accompanied me to church ever since he was a week old, and he’s always behaved. Of course, I took things along to “entertain” him — Cheerios, picture books, etc. While that might be distracting to the adults, it’s more distracting (in my opinion) to have kids acting up. I guess that’s the way my Italian mama raised me, too! Parents here could use some of that Old World wisdom!

    • At least you were smart enough (and considerate enough) to leave, Kim! Better to inconvenience one family than hundreds more. Sorry you had to be inconvenienced, but I’m sure your little ones eventually grew up and learned to behave!

  11. Debbie, I love your honesty. I love how you call it like you see it. I think we should all be more like you! A month ago or so, the Significant Other and I had dinner at a very nice restaurant–nothing too upper scale mind you, but it wasn’t too shabby either. I had dressed up (finally!) and he had gone through the trouble of wearing dress shoes, all in preparation for spending some quality couple time. Imagine our dismay when we were seated next to a couple with four kids who took to running around our table chasing each other. Short of asking the parents to harness their wild things, we asked to be moved to another part of the restaurant where we wouldn’t have to contend with such tomfoolery. ha! I think it’s hilarious that it’s not till your own children our grown that you realize what a pain in the rear end children can be sometimes! And I won’t apologize for asking to be moved because the way I figure, if I’m spending money on a meal, I want to eat in peace and to be able to have pleasant dinner conversation with my partner without having to scream. I’m sure you will agree! :)

    • Bella, I LOVE how you handled this! I truly wish I’d been able to stifle my “niceness” and just ask for what was right. I noticed there were several couples seated nearby — who looked as if they were out for a “couples-only” evening — and they, too, must have been miffed at the din! You and S.O. are wise people. I don’t know why waiters won’t seat all the families with loud kids in one area and everybody else in another (oh, yes, I do — they’d probably lose whichever server was assigned to that madhouse, ha!)

      • bwhahaha! That’s true! But really, I told the Significant Other the same thing–why in the world isn’t there a “family area” where families with kids can sit together? Misery loves company so at least they’d be together and leave the rest of us to our dinner! ha! :)

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