Wednesday, May 30, 2007

All Kinds of Crazy

Tonight, I met my friend and twin boys for pizza. I brought along my three children as my husband is currently in another city. To use a cliche, I didn't bat an eye at having five children with only two adults to handle them all.

Five years ago, I figuratively trembled at the thought of three infants at a restaurant with just two adults. My friend's twins were born two weeks before my eldest. Her attitude was that the babies were not going to slow her activities. I wasn't so sure about that, but she seemed confident. I only had one. I could do this, too.

Obviously, when the children were infants, we couldn't enforce certain polite behavior in restaurants. Yet, as the children grew older, we demanded proper behavior of these children. They are now efficient (her boys more so than my girls) at ordering for themselves and behave wonderfully, even if I say so with immense pride.

This evening, we sat near a mother, her two children ages 8 and 10, and a grandfather. Those two children made more noise than our five children combined, and one of mine is just four months shy of two years. I could see my friend's annoyance from my end of the table.

At another restaurant, I watched two three year old boys stand in their chairs during the entire dinner, eating that way. Standing. As a mother, I'm sure that beams of burning light were emitted from my eyes as my children, nicely seated, stared at these two Neanderthals in training. (Some of you may laugh at this as you know that my son sits on our kitchen bar while he eats. He has a legitimate reason: he fell out of the tall bar stools and still harbors fear from that fall. However, I doubt that standing in chairs to eat is the result of a sitting accident. More likely, it is lazy parenting.)

Don't I sound judgmental? Terms such as lazy parent bring all sorts of images to mind. My neighbor called herself a lazy parent just this weekend. However, she wasn't really being lazy. A woman who volunteers to negotiate a table of three five year olds, two three year olds, and two two year olds is not a lazy parent.

Now that I have rambled a bit far from the original bad behavior of others' children, I would ask questions of you.
  1. Do you get annoyed when children misbehave at restaurants?
  2. Do you ask to be seated far from the little beasties?
  3. Do beams of burning light emit from your eyes towards the parents?


Awesome Mom said...

I have very well behaved children (I have had people come up to our table to compliment us) and they have been that way from birth. I was lucky that they were so well behaved at the start, so I am a lot more forgiving of parents of very young kids. I am less so for older kids that misbehave. I emit beams of burning light from my eyes big time. I don't ask to be reseated but my smoldering resentment becomes a black cloud from my head. I think that parents are even less forgiving of obvious misbehavior than any one else.

turtle toes said...

My four children are very well behaved - and I have also had people compliment us on this. John Henry and I decided from the beginning that we wouldn't let the fact that we had children slow us down.

It does bother me to see other children misbehave especially when the parent(s) turn away and pretend that they don't see what is happening.

The one problem we've had lately is that Daisy likes to bring her imaginary friend with her. The last time we were at a restaurant with the friend, the friend (Grace) misbehaved, wouldn't sit in her chair and basically ran all over the restaurant. This really bothered Daisy. Daisy sat in her seat beside me and whispered the play by play of how much trouble Grace was being. We decided to leave Grace at home next time and maybe invite another 'imaginary' friend to dine with us instead!

molly said...

Yes, I get very annoyed at the parents of kids that misbehave. They usually ignore the children until they misbehave and then yell at them.

Kell said...

I can't stand misbehavior at restaurants - I know I don't have kids (although I'm a stepmom now... Isn't that weird?) but I can say confidently that because I've seen parents who are able to inspire good behavior in public, I understand that it is doable.

The other night, Dave and I were in Blockbuster Video - A toddler was upset and crying. Her near-teen dad bent over, tugged at her arm and said, "What is this? Knock it off!!!"

I near-boiled over. What was that? Why couldn't he just pick up his daughter and cradle her until she felt better? Grrr.

wolfbaby said...

Im not sure I know the definetions. My toddlers one 3 and a half and the other almost two don't behave well. they get left at home when I go shopping for this very reason. I tell them if they want to go they have to behave and until they do they can't go. We are having big issues with fits right now. This is one of those times I wish my mom were still here (you understand?) to help me figure things out. I honestly don't know sometimes what I do wrong. I guess Im one of those bad parents... but even I have limits. I don't know that I have beams of light ;) but I do have shocked expressions. I do know that when my children are a certain age.. they will act with manners or well all toys will be taken away and life groundings will be in effect. and no my children are not allowed to stand in there chairs and eat there dinner.. that's just to dangerous. :0.. and an 8 and 10 year old should have more manners then that!!!

Sarabeth said...

Isn't it terrible? All of us moms with well behaved children being annoyed.

Restaurants are one thing--teaching a kid how to eat at a table is something you can do at home. As my cousin believes, practice makes perfect. This woman had her daughter practice looking for eggs around Easter time. The kid is rarely surprised by a situation.

Grocery stores--Oh, Wolfbaby, your kids know that they have you in a bind in a public place. Oh, they know, dearest. Kid logic and reasoning is a interesting study.

Make room in your budget for this book, 1, 2, 3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. There is even a DVD. See if the library has it. GET THIS BOOK.

I have a temper. The 1,2,3 method keeps my temper from being an issue. It puts the decision making on the kid--not you.

If the kid begins a fit in the grocery store, this will work as well.

Here's my real life example: This past Sunday I took all three of the kids to the store. My daughters wanted to push the "shopper in training" carts. I agreed with one stipulation--hit my ankle, your sister's ankle, or any other person's ankle and the carts are gone.

The girls made it through half the store with no ankle crashes. The cracker/cookie aisle was too much. One of them did an ankle crush. What did I do? Left the carts right there after transferring the groceries to my big cart. Because my children have been trained (ugh, bad word, but well, accurate) with the 1,2,3 method, they did not whine about it. My five year old said, "I'll try to do better next time."

I wanted to say, "There is no try. There is only do." She wouldn't have understood the humor.

Not to sound like a know-it-all, but this book is incredibly helpful for those who don't live next door to parents that help. I taught it to my babysitter. I gave my copy to my neighbor. This is the way to go with little children--even those with special needs.

kinkia said...

hi, happy children's day today!!

Wabi said...

My three year old has always been loud, energetic, and dramatic in temperament. Now she behaves quite nicely most of the time when we are out. But when she was younger it was another story. We could only take her to restuarants under very specific circumstances: when she was not tired, when it was a nonrush hour so service would be speedy) and with a bag of crayons, toys, etc. to jeep her from getting too loud and antsy.

Despite my careful planning, there were still many times when DH or I ended up eating alone at the table while the other person was outside the building with our tantrumy or unruly bundle o' joy. I don't think we got the "laser eyes" from other patrons, but only because when she acted up we took her outside immediately.

It was a big drag sometimes, to be the parent outside the restaurant with the yelling kid. It would have been so much easier in some ways to just let her be a hellion and run amok. But, I know that I hate being seated next to people who don't police their kids in restaurants. So we did the best we could to keep her behavior from being the focal point of the room.

dragon knitter said...

ok, i do have a little bit of an exception, as my son is adhd, ocd and odd. that being said, i still have certain expectations. eat with your mouth closed. no loud talking, yelling, screaming, etc. no getting up unless it's necessary (potty breaks, etc). he's almost 13, so things are better, but it still can be hard. particularly since he has an almost 15 year old brother who likes to tweak him.

that being said, i most definitely do 1 & 3. i just give the mother annoyed looks.

i had a friend who went to the post office to use their automated package machine, and had to wait for 2 mothers who were ignoring their little beasts. 2 of them had somehow gotten ahold of one mother's credit card, and were playing with the package machine, continuously swiping her card. they got irritated with the postal worker w ho asked them to contain their children! on top of that, the kids broke the machine. i hate women like that.

Sarabeth said...

I probably should have added that one of the twins has issues that make eating challenging. His eye sight and a sort of diagnosed behavioral issue do make eating out with him interesting. However, like you, Dragon Knitter, his mom has certain standards.

gator87 said...

Hey all,

Being a mom of a child with autism, I have learned to be less judgemental...we just do not know the other persons situation, we can not know, we do not live their lives. I'm probably one of those moms that you all would be burning holes thru....I and my friend took our 2 boys with autism out for is hard, not only do they have autism but they are also hyper on top. I do demand behavior and my son does listen, but when he and his friend are together, it is tough to keep them quiet, they are zooming their trains and making train noises, they are being children. We didn't do any fine dining, just a little diner with a cool train going around the top, they loved it, they had so much fun. Yes, we got the burning holes, so what, let em burn, I don't give a squat as I want my child to be included in as much as the other kids. I have learned to ignore those burning eyes when my child pretends he is a dog and gets down on all fours and barks...he at least is interacting w/people. Please realize that some children are different...we all have to be more tolerant of others. Do you all know that 1 in 94 boys in the US has autism? That is 1% of our day you too will touch a life of someone w/autism, how will you act, will you exclude them because they are loud and obnoxious or include them because that is the way they communicate and realize what beautiful people they are. Please understand and be tolerant everyone and realize that we all don't have "perfect" children and that is ok, they are perfect in our eyes and I will come to blows w/anyone who ever makes my son feel less than perfect. I am pretty sure that you all weren't talking about "this" kind of misbehavior, but autism comes in many shapes and forms, my son was not diagnosed until 4, although I had always known that he was different than neurotypical children, if you met my son today, you would not be able to read his diagnosis, it is hidden. Unlike mental retardation or Down's or those diagnoses, a person with autism can be "normal" looking although socially they are anything but normal, you would not see his autism, you would only see a child misbehaving, having a temper tantrum for no reason. Inside them, there is a huge reason, they feel, see, hear, taste and smell things differently than neurotypical people...those sensory differences cause them to misbehave....for them it is a HUGE reason, my son hated food to touch the outside of his mouth, if he sneezed while he ate, god forbid, the world would end as we know it...imagine that scene in a restaurant. Should I hide our family away because he has outbursts...NO WAY and hopefully as time passes and your lives intersect with people with autism, you too will become a little less judgemental and maybe give those parents the benefit of the doubt that they are good parents and they are trying.

Sarabeth said...

Gator--I can honestly say that if a kid was barking, I would find that cute kid behavior. Bashing trains or cars is one thing. Standing on a chair for an entire meal--well, that's hard to explain away.

You have a valid point about kids with autism. Because I know you personally, I know you wouldn't use your son's diagnosis as an excuse for his behavior. I would hope other parents try at much as you do.

gator87 said...

You would probably find the barking cute up until a certain age and then most, not all would just find it wierd. I do not use his diagnosis as an excuse, I knew you would see my point and realize how hard I do try to "control" his outbursts. I have gotten those burning eyes though from people who don't see what I see in my son. Believe me, if you haven't gotten the burning eyes, you don't understand how painful that can be. They only see his misbehavior as bad parenting, they don't understand that there are things that are different about his brain and that those things make it very difficult for him to behave sometimes. As I said, alot of people seeing my son would not know he had a diagnosis and would not "allow" him a little leeway for his odd/obnoxious/sometimes loud/tantruming fact, just recently wasn't someone kicked off an airplane due to their child's bad behavior. Will that happen to me one day, one day when the day is going all wrong, things I just can't fix and he is having an outburst, will I also get kicked out of wherever and people will cheer....that is what happened to that family. People actually cheered when they were made to leave, the airline got letters in favor of kicking them off....said they had done the exact right thing.

The standing on the chair, you are right hard to explain as that is a dangerous thing to do. How about this one though, one of the things my son is "allowed" to do at school is sit on a big ball and bounce...they have found this actually helps him relax, what if I brought that big ball to the restaurant w/me and let him bounce, do you think people would understand? It is tough...people are quick to judge without knowing what kind of lives others lead. My only hope is that people give the other parent the benefit of the doubt, that they are trying and that maybe yes, they are ignoring the bad behavior because every single day they use about 500 verbal/picture/tactile prompts to try and get the child to do what they are supposed to do and they might get tired...they might want to just eat a meal and not have to prompt their child to behave. Believe me, it gets old, I never thought that I would have to teach my child some of the things that I am teaching him...things that the neurotypical kids just get instinctually. I do get tired and hope for the day that my son "gets it" without me having to teach him. Not to say that I will ever give up...I am in it for the long haul and will do whatever it takes to help him. I love my son, exactly how he is....I just want everyone else to also!! Thanks for understanding, as you can see this is quite a HOT topic in the autism community. Hugs to you and the kiddos...hi to hubby!

Sarabeth said...

Gator--the family that was kicked off the plane was handled correctly. They got the tickets refunded, at least. If my dinner was disrupted by a child's behavior, oh well. It isn't as if the restaurant's business was impeded, just my dinner, which was still digested.

But, a plane being delayed, a plane full of people, because of a child's behavior is much more than a disrupted dinner. She wouldn't take her seat. A drunken adult being belligerent and not sitting in his/her seat would get the same treatment. Is that intolerance of behavioral problems on the part of the airline and the passengers? Or, is it a case of parents not realizing the fear their child may have for a flight? Frankly, neither side comes off as doing the right thing in that particular case.

Do people who have no issues like autism or children with autism spectrum disorders have to be accommodating all the time and in every situation? Not an easy question to answer with a simple yes or no.

It is a needs of the many, needs of the few situation.

Whew! Life is never easy.

Anne said...

Last time we went out to dinner with the kids, there was a 20 something man in the next booth talking very loudly on his cell phone. He was talking to his mother because she was apparently trying to sell the house he was living in. The volume kept gong up and up. My 4 y.o. started to misbehave so I took him out, and gave a dirty look on my way out. In a lot of ways Mr. Cell-phone was more disruptive than my kids ever are. At least when they misbehave we take them out.

Sarabeth said...

It is incumbent upon all us parents to teach our children proper cell phone behavior so that in the future they do not perpetrate the same faux pas.

And, I have been known to ask someone to leave the restaurant or movie theater while on their cell phone.

gator87 said...

I agree it is a tough question to answer and being on the side of the "few", I know my answer but would my answer be different if I had not had a special needs child...I will be honest and say probably so because I would never have understood what I understand now. It is tough to fully relate until you are in that particular life/situation. Lots of gray here....and yes, life is never easy, guess it would be pretty dern boring if it were always easy.

Angela said...

Great post Sarabeth!

I don't have children, but when I go out to a restaurant and kids are misbehaving it doesn't really bother me, unless they're screaming at the top of their lungs or throwing their food on me. ;-)

But my hubby on the other hand, will ask to be moved if we're seated next to children...he won't take his chances, even if they are well behaved. And if we're shopping at the grocery store and there's children milling about, he gets annoyed, and says they're in his way. And this is coming from a guy who just asked me last night when we were going to have a baby!

If I didn't want to go out and eat around kids, I'd go to a nice restaurant with gourmet food (like I did last night), or I'd cook at home. It's a free world and children are just coming into it. What's even worse to me is when I see a parent screaming at their child - now that, gets my attention.

Sue said...

I have only two kids, and they both learned to behave well early on in life in restaurants as well as other public places. I've gotten to the point where I "shake my head" at other children. But at the same time, I take pride in my own, quietly. Sometimes I tell my kids "thanks" for not being like the rowdier, misbehaving kids we see often. I let mine know that parents take pride in good manners.

You mentioned lazy parenting in your post, and I do have to add something to that...I've relocated often, unfortunately when my kids were both toddlers. Every time we moved, my first survival tactic was to find a nice park with a playground so I could unwind with my kids outdoors (weather permitting). Anyway, I couldn't tell you how many times I had young children approach me--Idaho, Texas, and New Mexico cities--and ask, "will you play with me?" I was appalled. Many times, even young kids a little older than mine, didn't have a parent around to play with them. When asked where their parents were, the kids would say something like, "on the phone, over there" (far away); "inside our apartment...over there"; or something similar. This really gets my blood to heat to a boil. That's a really lazy parent, in my view. And it's inexcusable. Okay, sorry, I've gotten off track. My point is that I don't get bothered in restaurants, I become more proud of my own kids. But other areas do annoy me.

Thanks for this post!