How annoyed are you by kids crying in restaurants?
Before having kids, I didn’t think much about it. Now, though, these many years later, with my two boys in their teens, “the restaurant test” has become a prism through which I filter my assumptions and prejudices about complete strangers.
It depends on which day and hour of the week you ask me, but here’s a sampling of my thoughts:
“Of course that couple look annoyed at the crying baby two tables over from us. What else would you expect from a pair of selfish DINK’S?” (Double Income, No Kids)
“That is the sound of humanity in all its glory! How can you be bothered by it? My boys will be out of the house one day, and the one day they both WERE away on sleepovers, the place felt like a morgue. More noise, please!”
“Seriously, your baby’s been crying for like two hours, and you’re not gonna take him out of the restaurant and wander the neighborhood until he shuts up? I don’t care if you’re lobster bisque gets cold, what were you thinking bringing a toddler to a nice restaurant?”
“You’re a shit parent. Get control of the situation.”
Where do you fall on the spectrum, and why?
ROGER – I just go with it with a smile (even if it annoys me). As a father of 3 very young girls who tend to be very squirmy and a tad loud at restaurants, I have to be nice, kind, and patient to the other parents with crying or trying kids. Anything less would be massively hypocritical and bad for my parental karma. Cause when I go out, it’s not quiet. At all. So I truly do appreciate all those around me who look over with a knowing smile of love and understanding. But then again, there are very few people around my family’s table since we go to dinner at 4:15pm and lunch at 2:45. Empty!
QUENTIN: I don’t get annoyed as I realize that you really can’t control your baby’s crying. What can do you, right? I try my best to ignore it.
DHH: Our son was NOT a good restaurant patron when he was a baby, despite our best efforts to keep him occupied. Now that he’s 17 and my daughter (who was a perfect angel in restaurants) is 12, whenever I hear a baby or toddler acting out in public, I just lean back, smile, and think, There But For the Grace of God Go I.
IRIS: I can’t recall a time when a baby crying really annoyed me at a restaurant. But there are times when in an enclosed space–like in an airplane where I am utterly amazed at the lungs of children. Just a few days ago, I was on a shuttle at a national park where a child screamed from the back of a bus for an entire bus ride, which was about 20 minutes at a volume that overpowered all other conversations all the way up to the front. As an adult, even if I tried doing that, it wouldn’t be possible without my voice going hoarse after 5 minutes. I usually feel sorry for the parents, who I know are embarrassed. But I have to admit that being trapped in those enclosed spaces with one of those screaming kids can be hellish, and the thought does cross my mind about how much more blissful things would be if we could throw those kids overboard! Also, for any of you who often ride First Class or Business Class sections, what happens when one of those screaming babies are there? Because I think I would want my money back if I paid a whole lot of money for a premium seat but had to sit in front of a piercing set of lungs that can overpower a plane’s jet noise, can go undissipated for hours and make my mind want to explode.
PHILIP: I’m with Iris that I haven’t really experienced this in a restaurant setting. Maybe most of the places I frequent aren’t the type of places that people would bring babies too, but I do remember a flight from London to New York where the baby next to me literally cried the whole time except maybe the last ten minutes. As annoying as that is normally I’d feel sympathetic if the parents were trying to do something about it, but the mother just did not give a fuck. Everyone in the cabin could clearly hear the crying and people even offered to help because she wasn’t willing to try a single thing to try to calm the baby but she just did not give a fuck. At about hour four of this, people started getting pissed and calling her names, but she just did not give a fuck. After we landed, she even had the audacity to announce to the cabin that everyone should remain seated until she de-boarded first because “I have a baby.” Someone called her a bitch and the whole cabin erupted in applause including the flight attendants whom she had been rude to when they offered to help.
ANDERSON: I don’t get annoyed with crying babies in restaurants either because I rarely experience that. If I do, then at least it is not in a confined space like a plane or bus.
And when it is on a plane, I at least have my ipod or the in-flight entertainment. Plus, I can sleep through anything, including earthquakes and the like.
I do feel sorry for the parents, and sometimes when they have their own meltdowns (screaming in frustration at their kids), I get kind of shocked but can sympathize. It sucks, when you are in public and lose control of a situation.
But, I have my own airplane story about a screaming baby as well. Unlike Phil’s situation with the apathetic mother, this woman on my plane from Saigon to Seoul was wailing on her screaming baby. She was speaking Vietnamese and screaming into her baby’s face (who looked barely a year old), “You ungrateful child!”, to “I am going to hit you and teach you a lesson!”, to just “Shut up, you son of a bitch!”
I speak Vietnamese and I was shocked. The Korean businessmen sitting behind her were frazzled too and kept calling the flight attendants. Only one of the attendants spoke Vietnamese (it was a Korean Air flight) and she tried to talk her down. The woman kept screaming at her kid and threatening to hit him that Vietnamese passengers started shout “Calm down, he’s only a baby!” A Vietnamese American family sitting in my row were super concerned and the tween girl in her broken Vietnamese pleaded that she could take the kid and cradle him during the flight. Another tween girl started crying. It was kind of pandemonium and we didn’t even take off yet!
In the end, one of the flight attendants just took the child and took care of him during the entire 2 1/2 hout flight to Seoul, while the frazzled mom just sat in her seat. Obviously, this was breaking protocol and rules and regulations, I am sure.
By the time we landed, the baby was given back to this crazy woman and she was cradling him lovingly and speaking softly into the baby’s ear. It was a complete 180. Passengers were just dumbfounded and didn’t say anything when we deplaned. Just weird or cold stares at the woman leaving with her sleeping kid.
It was surreal. The woman was totally in the wrong but did she just crack and have a meltdown or is she the worst mother in the world?
EMMIE: Wow, that story is pretty amazing. I can’t remember the last time I heard a crying baby in a restaurant. It might have been . . . never. I don’t know what my reaction would be, but I think if the crying went on for more than ten minutes, I’d hope that one of the parents would take him/her outside for a bit of soothing time. Depends on the volume level of the crying too – if it was low level it probably wouldn’t bother me that much.
BEVERLY: Yeah, I am one of those people that absolutely hate crying babies’…. parents. I can’t blame the kid, they’re babies. It’s the parents who can’t control their kids or (worse) act like their kids aren’t bothering someone else, that drive me up the wall. And the debate is pretty hard core here in SF where there is a healthy population of people who chose not to have babies. (Oh, we could get really into it!!!!) But I appreciate the parents who- in a restaurant or a church, etc- who take their kids out of the situation to soothe them. I think that’s smart parenting and very considerate of others. It’s hard when the child is screaming and the parent just lets them. Because inwardly -if I’m in a restaurant- it makes ME want to parent the child but that’s not MY job.
I can’t tell if a parent is GOOD parent or not, but I can often see if a parent is CONSIDERATE or not.
As for Anderson’s woman on the plane: it sounded like SHE was having a meltdown. I’ve seen perfectly awesome people become crazed by their own children. (Then again, she could be massively bi-polar.)