The view from down here

Open letter to parents of loud-ass children

May 26, 2008

Children should be seen and not heard.

Remember that? Nobody says it anymore. That's because the rules have changed. It used to be that eating out at a restaurant was such a rare, exclusive thing that to bring a baby would be as unheard of as sitting down to dine next to a rhinoceros.

But we all eat out more. Our lifestyles are changing, and families spend more money per table per hour than my wife and I do. I get that.

But where is the line? How much child noise is acceptable these days? It's somewhere between sleeping quietly and screaming non-stop, but is there even a thought these days about when child noise in public crosses a line? And what should be done about it if you won't quite your children?

We had lunch today in a near empty restaurant. For some unknown, unknowable reason, we were seated next to small family with an infant. Empty booths everywhere, but we're right next to the Swiss Family Bothersom. We had the occasional two to three minute span of quite, but for the rest of it was crying, fussing, whimpering - constant baby noise.

I know that when you are at home listening to your precious ones scream all day, that a bit of whimpering and crying before bottle time is practically invisible to you, but when I'm trying to have an adult conversation three feet away it's intrusive and an abuse of my tolerance.

When they start screaming, fussing, crying, and you just sit there and ignore it, or tell it unsuccessfully to hush, you're abusing not only my patience and my ears, but you are abusing and taking advantage of civilized society.

Tell me, if your child is screaming in my ear, why should I not turn around and scream back at you, "Shut that god damned thing up!" The answer is that I'm old enough to know better. I'm an adult and I know it's wrong to cause a disturbance like that.

Well you are also an adult, and you should not have to be told that we don't give a damn about your family planning decisions, and we should not have to put up with the fact that you're too inconsiderate to get a baby-sitter, stay home, or leave the baby in the car next to your yipping dog that barks at every person and falling leaf in sight.

When did it become acceptable to let your braying bohemian brats spoil everyone's space around you, but to comment on it, to suggest that you cork the damn thing somehow, is to be the rude one?

Where's the line? How much of your noise pollution should I be expected to tolerate? How many times am I supposed to listen to you tell the ill mannered man child, "Shh honey," before its okay for me to lean over an tell you, "Listen you boneheaded broad, that's not working, and the screaming hasn't stopped." Or is the new rule that there is no limit, and you get to inflict any level of disturbance because you decided to breed?

But maybe you are beyond hope. If you are too wrapped up in baby to know what a nuisance you are, maybe the waitress, or manager, or usher, or librarian needs to start reminding you to shut the hell up or get the hell out.

Your baby is not above the rules, and some of us are getting sick and tired of anything goes. We'll tolerate a little fussing, or maybe the occasional outburst, but only if we see you get up and take it away, but we're getting tired of being forced to sit in your transplanted living room, listening to your loud-ass kids.

Be offended all you want, but if you don't know right from wrong, someone's going to tell you, and it might be me. Neither of wants that, so here's some ideas:

  • Don't take your babies to the movies - ever.
  • Don't take your children to a restaurant unless there's a prize in the box and a playground in the lobby. It wasn't my choice for you to have that baby, so maybe you're the one who should stay home until you can teach the little raccoon some table manners. Oh, and here's an afterthought. Try actually teaching some table manners.
  • If your kid cries or can't be still, get up and take care of it. This is a restaurant not a playground.
  • If it's after nine o'clock, why the hell isn't the poor kid in bed?
  • Just because I'm not saying anything doesn't mean you're not being rude.
  • When I do say something, suck it up and at least try to pretend that you understand how much of an inconsiderate jerk you have been.
  • There's no such thing as a little crying. Either it's crying or not. If it is, you are being just as rude as if I stood up and started singing Blue Suede Shoes at your table.
  • Don't hide behind your children. If they are annoying, smelly, noisy, and in the way, that means that you are annoying, smelly, noisy and and in the way.

There is still a line, even if we are letting you cross it. But do us all a favor and see the line before we have to make an issue of it.

Copyright 2008 Daniel LaFavers