Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cafe Owners of the World, Unite!

Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe pens a spot-on column today about Doting Indulgent Modern Parents (DIMPIES) that is well worth reading in full:

Our fortunes took an even starker turn a few days later when we stopped at a trendy Charlestown bakery, there to encounter a DIMPIE couple sipping coffee while their daughter played at decibel levels that should carry an OSHA warning. For the first few minutes of our (abbreviated) stay, the little terror staged a loud animal-kingdom Armageddon with her plastic menagerie. That concluded, she proceeded to run a 10K around the table.

Now, so cowed am I by the objections that meet my intermittent efforts to promote better public behavior that I've grown hesitant to urge DIMPIES to discipline their children. Indeed, I've come to understand that the very term fairly reeks of neocolonial parental imperialism.

I can't tell you how many times I have gone into a coffee shop on a Saturday morning, only to have the tranquility shattered by the spawn of a discipline-averse parent.  Though I am not a parent (and will not be for another few years, at least), I do acknowledge that raising children is difficult work and that parents need an occasional escape, too.  Most of them truly deserve it.  I'm not about to begrudge someone a leisurely cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, after all.  I do draw the line though when the parent's temporary abdication of responsibility intrudes on my own little escape from the mundane.  God knows that the three-year-old Exile would never have gotten away with running around a coffee shop for more than one and a half seconds without swift and serious consequences.

Really, though, you do see this sort of thing everywhere: cafes, grocery stores, airplanes, and busses.  And it is unreasonable to expect children, as the colonial Americans did, to act as miniature adults.  Indeed, children will be children.

Parents - some of them, anyway - just need to step up and be parents.

MORE: It occurs to me that an experience from last night is relevant here, if indirectly.  The Lady Exile and I were at Om in Cambridge for a drink after work.  Directly across from us was a family of four: parents and two small children, the older no older than the age of five.  As is her usual practice, Lady E complimented the parents on how well-behaved their children were.  They looked very surprised to hear this, since I imagine it doesn't happen often.  Were the kids angels?  Not exactly.  They weren't perfectly still, nor were they perfectly quiet.  But, on the whole, they didn't disrupt anyone in the surrounding area.  If only they were all taught to act this way in public . . .

Linked to Don Surber.

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Anonymous Cardinal Martini said...

This reminds me of a Florence King column from 1995.

1:25 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

How relevant. I just came back from a morning meeting at a small, non-chain coffee shop in Newton Highlands. While I was talking to a coworker, a mom came in with stroller and a two year old. Then another one, and another one, and another one, until there were 5 two-year olds and 5 yuppie moms. Moms were chatting and drinking coffee. Babies were pounding on the tables and screaming. They sat right next to us, saw we were having a business meeting of sorts, and still they didn't curb their kids.

I'm a mom and I love my kids, but banging on tables and disrupting other people isn't allowed in my family. It's a gorgous day out, meet in the damn park, but not in a coffee shop where 5 strollers take up way too much room, and 5 babies make way too much noise.

2:01 PM  
Blogger scott said...

My better half and I always enjoy when someone said our children were well-bahaved. It was important to us as people should not have the burden of dealing with our children being fussy or impolite and have it ruin their night.

It takes hard work and the most important thing of all--saying no on occassion.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Pigilito said...

There is simply no excuse for children misbehaving in public. It is unfortunate that it has become acceptable for parents to let their kids run wild.

I read a NYT piece in this several months ago that mentioned cafe owners who were demanding that children be quiet and respectful when in the store. Would that more places required children to behave.

Here in Europe things are far better. One still sees mores dogs in cafes/restaurants than children.

Lest anyone think me a childless grouch: I have a 9 and a 4 year old. Both know that when they begin to upset others, its time to leave.

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Part of the problem goes to kids not getting any physical playtime. Parents leaving kids in front of the tv all day, so any chance to 'act up' will be used by a kid.

These kids should be at playgrounds, or back yards climbing trees, not in coffee shops surrounded by caffine.

And you are correct, I don't want any children of my own. I have no tollerance for this behavior and have even disciplined other peoples children in public. "Stop spitting on that lizzard", I forcefully told the nine year old at the zoo. He looked shocked and ran to his mother. She apparently had lost track of him. I wonder if she did so on purpose.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Lyss said...

I agree totally. Back when I worked at a large RX chain in RI I saw it all the time. It was scary to see how many parents would byu thigns for their kids to shut them up. Don't they know that the $0.75 candy bar is only going to get more expensive as they get older?

2:33 PM  

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