Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Baby Banshees

Last night, The Boyfriend and I were having dinner at the local Pizza Hut. Yes, on Valentine's Day, we were dining at Pizza Hut- largely because I was too tired to cook and because my paycheck doesn't post until around midnight. That $10 large pizza was calling my name when I got out of work.

Unfortunately, they'd been swamped. There were only two servers working, one of whom had been there since they opened and was in none too good of a mood (keep in mind that I put myself through grad school while waiting tables). Ahead of us, waiting to be seated, was a family of six, including a toddler- whose mother I recognized as one of our library dilletantes. We ended up in a booth right behind them.

About ten seconds later, a straw wrapper ended up in my hair. The toddler, a child of about two, gurgled happily to signify how pleased she was with herself. None of the adults apologized for the projectile or corrected the child for throwing it.

I am not one of those who believes that young children should be kept at home all the time. I also recognize that they are human beings and therefore prone to random behavioral 'moments' for which young children should be excused. I don't have children so I don't have to experience this firsthand from the parental perspective and I'm a pretty reasonable person, but this flew all over me because nobody bothered to apologize. Nobody said to the little girl, "It's not nice to throw things at people." They all laughed and chattered about how "cute" it was that she'd lobbed a wad of paper into a stranger's hair.

It's not cute. It's not funny. It shouldn't be encouraged. That's what a small child perceives when you laugh at that kind of behavior. I'm not advocating snapping her out of the high chair and busting her behind, but saying, "You shouldn't do that," and not effectively praising that behavior would be nice. She's learning that it's okay to be disrespectful of others. Just because you might behave like a redneck heathen doesn't mean that your relatively pretty little daughter should, too. It just makes all of you look like a bunch of boors.

The Boyfriend began timing the intervals in the child's screaming bouts. He's a social worker, so he observes behavior pretty closely; at one point, he leaned over and asked me for the time, then predicted that she'd go off again in about ten minutes. He'd discovered that whenever the adults at the table turned their attention to their own conversation and away from doting on the child, the toddler would begin to pound the table and shriek. Sure enough, nine minutes later, the wailing resumed.

I'd had a long day, and her shrill cries cut through my brain like a knife. The mother finally got tired of it herself and bribed the child into silence with soda crackers. By then, I was about to claw my eyes out. Have you ever knocked the alarm clock off in the floor and had to listen to the piercing sound of it for far too long? It was that kind of sound.

Parents, I know that you love your little child. I know that children will be children. When your child deliberately engages in attention-seeking behavior that disrupts everyone else's experience in a public space, though, would it be so hard to make an effort to quiet and/or correct him or her? Please. Pretty, pretty please...

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