29 June, 2008

A wrinkle in a perfect Sunday morning

Location: Cafe Presse
Mood: aggravated

This rant could easily go spinning off in many directions here, so I am going to write this preface in the hope of reminding myself to stay on topic.

Here is the topic: Why do people think that it is completely acceptable for their tiny offspring to invade the personal space of complete strangers in public places?

You can call me a curmudgeon if you wish, but I think this is a reasonable question. You chose to have children. I did not. And there may be lots of reasons why I did not, and it is not necessarily a bad thing that you did decide to have children. But it is a bad thing when you merrily go about your dining experience in peace while your 2.5 year old is bumping into me at the next table and transmitting their Coxsackie virus to me.

It really only pertains to kids of a certain age. Because honestly, once kids get to be about 4 or 5 years old, they usually do not get wildly into others' space because it's around this age that I think they learn about the concept of personal space and why one would not want it invaded. When kids are like 5 or 6 or beyond, they will do the usual "running around the restaurant" thing, and that does not bother me so much. Some people are enraged by that as well, but I just see that as playing, which I am not even sure needs to be controlled. If you take your kids to a completely upscale restaurant, maybe shame on you. But at a coffee shop, or basic restaurant, let the kids run around. Luna and Raven did that, and if they really were like bumping into people's chairs, we would just say "GIRLS! You are not being respectful!" and they realize that is not a desirable behavior, and they will usually at least slightly improve their behavior.

So it is not like I am anti-kid. What I am is anti-parent! :)

When kids are in the just-barely-walking to pre-school stages, they have absolutely no concept of personal space, and they consider all people to be potential curiosities that should be explored. At this point, I think it would really be best if you just keep them in the house for about 3 years, but if you must unleash them on us, you need to control them. And it is clearly not the child's fault. But ignorant parents who just think "Oh... it's okay! He's fine!" really piss me off. Yes, I realize little "Konner" is fine, but what about me? Am I fine? Or am I about to pull out that semi-automatic handgun that I carry (legally) in my backpack, and perform some population control?

As we speak, little "Tighler" is in the process of rearranging the chairs at my table while the group of adults who own him are just smiling and occasionally glancing his way just to make sure he does not put any silverware in the electrical outlets.

I guess I am a bad human being though because I don't see the beauty of this incredibly adventurous period in early-childhood development. I shouldn't complain. He hasn't actually touched me, or removed any items from my table yet, so this isn't as bad as it could be.

Now little "Jaykhubhe" has knocked the silverware and salt shakers off the adjacent empty table and finally this causes mom to stand up and invite him back over to the table. So it's good to see that she has some boundaries. I guess the threshold is "anything that might cause the service staff to become annoyed with us". But fuck the other customers.

It might be getting to be about time for me to get out of here, because he is now under the bench, crawling under me, and there is a reasonably high probability that he will touch me. Yes! He has now officially touched me, and some part of his back side was damp when he touched me. Probably a wet diaper. Nice.

I am going to head home and wash myself with sodium hydroxide.


  1. Inman Wheelright30 June, 2008 09:39

    Here's the reality of being the parent of a 2-year-old. You can either:

    (A) never go out in public, but then your kid is never, ever going to learn how to fart silently in the elevator.
    (B) go out in public with your 2yo and keep them on a tight leash; this involves lots of parental yelling and retaliatory tantrums.
    (C) go out in public and only reign them in when they are totally out of control; often this is the only viable solution, as you, the parent, are too worn down to police every microaction of your toddler.

    Sorry, as a parent there is only so much you can do without stifling your kid so much that they come out funny. Some parents have what I like to call 'free range' kids, which do tend to roam a bit too far and wide. Each parent has to make the determination as to what is right based on child temperament and parental energy level, plus a host of other, lesser considerations.

    Of course, if you just want to be left alone with your Sunday am routine, the presence of kids can be annoying. Rest assured that the parents are aware, are at least just as annoyed (you ignore bad behavior to make it less fun to do), and are probably also embarrassed but powerless to effect a more harmonious outcome (yelling doesn't seem to make things come out any smoother, and corporal punishment has been out of style for more than 20 years).


  2. All of your points are obviously valid. And I realize that part of childhood development involves socialization. And I also realize that if every time a kid tests boundaries, they get chastised, then it is going to lead to serious repercussions later. However, I do think that when people are dining, it is not okay to let one's child actually physically touch these people, or their table.

  3. Inman Wheelright30 June, 2008 10:43

    When a child gets too close, you might try growling at the child, or, if that doesn't work, start asking them about whether or not they like kittens, or candy, or any of the other obvious lures that pedophiles use. That will get the parents into gear in short order.

  4. I'm all for A at all times. Since people chose to breed and to give up any semblance of their own lives, they really shouldn't intrude on mine. I chose not to have kids, so why am I supposed to give up my personal space because they made a different choice?

    Having spoken my shameful intolerance aloud, I will say that I try to choose the least kid friendly places I can think of to avoid parents and their spawn.