Monday, July 27, 2015

Phases & Stages

There's been a lot of press in the past week discussing the Maine diner owner who yelled at a misbehaving toddler in her restaurant. Various versions of the story have been all over social media with both the restauranteur and the toddler's mother self rightously defending their actions. There have been conversations of who is right and who is wrong, how children shouldn't be brought to restaurants and how they have just as much right to be there as anyone else. There are those who say that the customer is always right and others who say parents need to control their children and teach them to not disturb others. There are always at least two sides to any story so the reality probably lies some where in between what we are all hearing. On this one though, I'm siding with the diner owner since the mother's self righteous excuse for not removing her crying toddler from the situation--the child was hungry, they had waited too long for the food, the busy diner was already noisy so her child's noise didn't contribute to the din, it was raining outside--just strikes me as whiny and annoying. And I say this as a parent who on more than one occasion has left my food uneaten in order to remove my screaming child from a situation.  But this whole issue makes me think of larger issue--that of the various stages and phases we all go through in our lives and how these changes require us to change and adapt our own behaviors as our circumstances change.

I know that I love the idea of enjoying a long leisurely meal that someone else has cooked for me. And prior to having a child Sunday brunches and over priced dinners at hip restaurants were a regular part of my lifestyle. But now, I recognize that such events simply aren't practical. Do I miss them? Absolutely but they just aren't in the cards right now. The same thing goes for impromptu invitations, sleeping in on weekends and forgoing making dinner because I'm not hungry. When you have children, everything changes and as adults, we simply can't put out wants and desires ahead of those of our children. At least that is how I feel but I know others will disagree with me.

But as this now infamous Maine incident demonstrates, not all parents change their habits when children enter the picture. Rather than growing up and accepting that their circumstances have changed, they continue to live as they always have. They may continue to eat  where they want and go where they please without giving a thought to others. The phrase "child appropriate" never crosses their minds because in their mind, everything is child appropriate. Or even worse, they assume the attitude that their children can do no wrong and that others must simply deal with their (good or bad) behavior. Its enough, well, to make even the most patient person loose their cool.

Would I love to visit art museums when we are in foreign cities? Yes, but I realize that Sidney would be happier visiting a park or a zoo so we limit the museum to a quick morning visit and dedicate the afternoon to an outdoor, kid friendly venue. The same goes for hotels and inns; on-site playgrounds let us know that the littlest of visitors are also welcome. Not having a babysitter means skipping an event or one of us going alone rather than taking Sidney with us to an event to which he wasn't invited. We eat in nice restaurants but go for lunch or when they first open with the hopes of beating the crowds. Sidney is now at the age when this doesn't matte as much but we are still conscious of wait times, whether the menu includes foods he will eat and whether or not it is an environment we can all be comfortable in. If the answer is no to any of these issues, we reconsider. And if at any time the behavior at our table begins to interfere with the enjoyment of others, we immediately remove ourselves from the situation. No one need to tell us to leave and we certainly don't allow actions to bother those around us.

Life moves in cycles and this is simply the stage we are in now. Our time for staying in quaint, antique filled inns, lounging in cafes over steaming lattes or late night visits to wine bars will come again. In the mean time we're discovering that zoos, parks and interactive museums have a lot to offer visitors of all ages. Restaurants that are welcoming to children can serve really good food without the stuffy pretenses found in more formal establishments. But most importantly, we need to enjoy the phase we are in because all too soon it will be gone.

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