On Saturday night Mike and I went to dinner to one of our favorite local eateries. It’s a pretty cool joint, locally owned, local ingredients, great chef, not just some guys hired off the street to fry up some fries. It’s not swanky or posh, but maybe a bit hipster, but I forgive them for that. The food is delicious.
I had run next door to a consignment shop when I saw a pair of purple Converse from the window. I snatched them up and returned to the restaurant to find Mike seated at a table for four behind a family of five. As soon as I sat down I knew it our dining experience was going to entertaining at least.
The range of kids at the table seemed to go from 4-years to 14-years. All girls. Mom and dad seemed to be in their 40s, so not really the kind of folks I’d expected to be saying things like, “I want you to pay special attention. This is an important lesson.” I usually hear that coming from my younger peers, not people my own age or older.
What bothered me about that family and about other families like this is that everything is a lesson. A former boss made everything her child did into a life-lesson. In our college town we see a lot of this life-lesson parenting when we’re out and about. Parents with one baby slung tightly to the mother as if to imitate the safety of the womb (albeit, those things do look comfortable and every baby I’ve seen in one of those slings is always fast asleep). Dad is usually wearing his skinny jeans and his thick black rimmed glasses, holding the hand of one child and effectively ignoring it at the same time, and mom is hipster verging on hippy verging on Yuppie. Style is what style does, so more power to ’em.
It bothers me so much when the life-lessons distract me from having a meal with my husband. Maybe there should be different sections in restaurants for those with kids and without, with life-lessons and without. As soon as I sat down I heard the father say to one of the girls, “Now, girls, you’re talking in too loud a voice. When we’re in a restaurant we speak quietly in low voices.”
Okay, that’s not such a bad life-lesson to learn for kids. I hate that kid who is screaming and then the mom screams back and pretty soon I realize I’ve made the fatal mistake of walking into McDonald’s.
From there on out it was very “hushed” tones, although they were loud enough that we could clearly hear everything they were saying and constant demands for the children to be even more quiet. By the time I heard, “Now I want you to pay attention. It is important that you always use a straw when you drink at a restaurant” I realized that I could not just sit there, I had to rebel!
Whenever I’m faced with people like this I immediately feel this need to do the exact opposite of what they are trying to teach their children. The first time I realized I did this was when I lived in Pennsylvania and my cousin’s then 11-year-old daughter wanted to wear some danglely earrings. Nothing too long, just a little lady bug dangling from the post of the earring, very innocent and cute for an 11-year-old. When Little Cousin was told she could not, Little Cousin deftly pointed out that I wore not only dangling earrings but I also had three piercings in one ear. At which Mother Cousin said, “Wendi is a good girl but she’s done a very bad thing (piercing my ear multiple times)”. Since then its been my goal, nay, my life’s passion to alert kids every where that you DO NOT have to put a straw in your glass at a restaurant and that that is certainly NOT a very important life-lesson!
Whenever I get a text on my phone my alert is the cute little girl from “Despicable Me” shouting, “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!!! I’M GONNA DIE!!!!” My rebel self turned my ringer on (I always turn it off in the restaurant) and up full volume. Then I started texting Mike so he would have to text me back. (I can’t embed videos for some reason but here’s the link to Agnes exclaiming what we always exclaim to our own Fluffy Jane.)
The first time “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!” screamed out of my phone the family table grew quiet until the middle child said, “Who was that? What voice was that? Where did it come from?!” When no one answered her questions, she asked louder. I know, I’m horrible. The dad, of course had to tell her that in a restaurant we keep our voices low. I kind of snickered. When “SHE’S SO FLUFFY!” went out a second time it was ignored. Huh.
The rest of the time I tried very hard not to swear, at least not in my regular volume voice, just in case, and drank from my glass directly and chewed ice. Mike had a bit of a chuckle himself because we did not put away our iPad once dinner was served. In fact, we kept on playing Carcassone (which is the reason I did my best not to swear at him, he was beating the shit out of me!) It just seems like we hear life-lessons everywhere we go and I wonder if the kids are ever allowed to just be kids. I understand that parents need to discipline their kids, and I’m all for that. After working three years at Wal-Mart I know what undisciplined is – parents and kids alike! But does everything have to be a life-lesson? Cant’ you just go out for dinner? Does the newborn (this was at another restaurant) really understand that if you tell him that you will take him outside if he gurgles and makes newborn baby noises one more time that it’s not a good thing? (That one was so ridiculous. The dad kept saying, “Do you need me to take you outside? Do you want me to take you outside?” while the baby’s unfocused newborn eyes looked around as he gurgled and acted like a newborn baby should.)
I don’t know why I do this. Maybe because my parents were pretty strict while I was growing up or something along those lines. The line I heard over and over as a kid was, “what would the neighbors think?!” To which I always wanted to respond, “Well if you don’t say anything they won’t know thus they can’t think about it”. I think I might have said that once but totally under my breath. There’s only so much wrath an only child can get away with. (I love you, mom.)