I’ve been posting indignantly off and on about mothers who feel they have a “right” to breastfeed their infants (and their toddlers) as conspicuously as possible in restaurants and other public places with no regard for the feelings of others. Now comes another parental “right”: the right to let your children behave as noisilyand ill-manneredly as possible with no regard for the feelings of others. Both “rights” are most loudly claimed by affluent upscale bohemian mothers in trendy urban neighborhoods>
The New York Times reports on what happened when Dan McCauley posted this sign in his Chicago cafe A Taste of Heaven:
“Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven.”
All parental hell broke loose.
“[M]any neighborhood mothers took umbrage at the implied criticism of how they handle their children. Soon, whispers of a boycott passed among the playgroups in this North Side hamlet, once an outpost of edgy artists and hip gay couples but now a hot real estate market for young professional families shunning the suburbs.
“‘I love people who don’t have children who tell you how to parent,’ said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. ‘I’d love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day….
“After a dozen years at one site, McCauley moved A Taste of Heaven six blocks away in May 2004, to a busy corner on Clark Street. The clientele is whiter, wealthier and louder, he said. Teachers and writers seeking afternoon refuge were drowned out not just by children running amok but also by oblivious cell phone chatterers.
“Children were climbing the cafe’s poles. A couple were blithely reading the newspaper while their daughter lay on the floor blocking the line for coffee. When the family whose children were running across the room to flail themselves against the display cases left after his admonishment, McCauley recalled, the restaurant erupted in applause.”
The NYT continues:
“Here in Chicago, parents have denounced Toast, a popular Lincoln Park breakfast spot, as unwelcoming since a note about using inside voices appeared on the menu six months ago. The owner of John’s Place established a separate ‘family-friendly’ room a year ago, only to face parental threats of lawsuits. When a retail clerk in Andersonville asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, ‘the neighborhood set him straight real fast,’ said Mary Ann Smith, the area’s alderwoman.”
Fortunately, the blogosphere shows a little more common sense than the upmarket parents who refuse to enforce good manners for fear of stifling the wee ones’ creativity.
From Ace of Spades:
“Thus we see what happens when self-esteem triumphs over good manners. Don’t you dare criticize behavior, you’ll injure Little Johnny’s self-image! Lord knows, we need more untethered self-esteem in children and less genuine reason to feel good about themselves, right?”
From Number 2 Pencil:
“Because, as we all know, children cannot be expected to learn inside voices, and breast-feeding women cannot be expected to consider the comfort level of anyone else around them. These kinds of comments are so insulting to parents who DO control their kids and DO teach them manners and DO take the feelings of everyone else into account. I, for one, make sure to compliment every parent who does a great job of keeping their kids occupied on plane trips. I know that can’t be easy.”
And from James Lileks, recounting a pre-Thanksgiving shopping trip with his 4-year-old daughter:
“[A]t the grocery store, Gnat took some foil turkeys off the end-cap by the register, and arranged three on the floor in a barnyard hoedown.
“‘Please don’t play with those,” said the young female clerk, in a not-child-friendly voice. I could not believe it. She spoke to my child in that way. She gave stern instructions without a sugary inflection to MY CHILD, who was only expressing her creativity. Well. Well! Well I never. I summoned all the snoot I could find and vowed NEVER to shop there again.
“Just kidding. Gnat put them back, said Sorry, and looked abashed. ‘Listen to the lady,’ I said. ‘They’re not toys, and we don’t want to damage the chocolate.'”
I expect mail nontheless from many a parent outraged that any stranger would dare reprimand their kids.