On Screaming Children in Restaurants

Some pancakes are probably worth it [Via Wikimedia Commons]

Some pancakes are probably worth it [Via Wikimedia Commons]

By now, you all have probably heard about the incident at a diner in Portland, Maine where the diner owner screamed at a crying child. Obviously, we have our opinions about it.

Jaya: I forget, have we done something about children in restaurants? Because this is blowing up: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/people-are-congratulating-this-diner-owner-after-she-screame#.gd0RBBab31

Maybe we could pull out the etiquette lessons on both sides here?

Victoria: Oooh wooooow

Jaya: Like, both sides reacted TERRIBLY here.

Victoria: Yeah, this is, like, epically horrible.

Jaya: And I feel like it just makes both sides worse. It makes parents more likely to not react well to criticism, and it makes others less friendly and understanding of weary parents and cranky kids.

Victoria: Yeah, parents definitely need to try to deal with their kids crying. Like, take them outside for a bit or wrap everything up and leave. And for sure a restaurant can ask them, NICELY, to leave if they are disturbing other patrons. But the yelling and swearing is incredibly inappropriate.

Jaya: And buried in the owner’s rant was a good suggestion–have snacks! If your kid is hungry and their food isn’t ready, have some apple slices or whatever.

Victoria: Yeah! Snacks are good. One of MY favorite diners always has a long line and they give snacks to everyone!

Jaya: And yes, if you run the restaurant, ask if the parents can take the child outside or maybe offer the kid a snack yourself. Though I can immediately see parents being like “don’t you think we’re trying?” or “don’t tell me what to do with my kids” because everyone is testy.

Victoria: And like, someplace like a diner- I think you have more leeway- like the kid can cry for a bit and its not that bad. But the finer dining the place is, I think the less time you have to quiet the kid. I was having dinner at Commanders Palace in New Orleans and there was a family with a small child sitting nearby that would not stop crying and the family did nothing. And everyone was FURIOUS. Rightfully so, I think, as it is very much a once-in-a-lifetime type of restaurant for many people.

Jaya: Yes, I think if you see a parent clearly trying to do something and the child just won’t stop, it’s unfortunate but certainly not as bad as parents ignoring the situation. Like at home I am all about being like “fine, cry yourself out, you’re not moving until you eat your peas” but in public there are other people to consider.

Victoria: Yeah, exactly. I am always a million times more sympathetic when I see the parents trying. Or when the restaurant makes special arrangements to put them in an area where the crying is less likely to be a problem- I was at another upscale restaurant that had a smaller dining area in the back and they had put a family with a kid there and it worked great. Of course, that’s not always going to be possible. But I think the more that people are starting to dine out with their children (which i think is great! They learn manners best by practicing), restaurants should put some thought in how to deal with it. Parents should also make an effort to eat at the dinner table with their children at home and enforce good manners as much as possible. Then, kids will be used to sitting still and eating their food and it won’t be such a novel experience at a restaurant.

Jaya: Absolutely. Though then we get into the “should people bring kids to restaurants/bars” thing, which I have mixed feelings about. I think on one hand it’s great to start kids young in knowing how to be around other people and not be the center of attention and manners and whatnot. But I see a lot of parents being like “I’m exhausted and I wanna be out so you’re just gonna have to deal with my kid no matter what they do.” Which, sorry to be so blunt, but you’re the one who had the kid. This is the sacrifice you make.

Victoria: I mean, it should definitely be something you do AFTER you’ve instilled good manners at home and find that they generally act pretty well. And be prepared to leave if they act up. I mean, my parents took me to a fancy restaurant at a winery when I was like, 1, and it was fine and I was well behaved.

Jaya: Haha, of course you were.

Victoria: But they pretty much knew that I was easy going and didn’t act up.

Jaya: I also think the type of restaurant matters. Big open beer gardens, brunch at backyard patios, diners, basically anywhere big and casual is probably better suited for kids. So if you want to go somewhere fancier or intimate or at night, not that you can’t, but it’s going to make it a lot harder.

Victoria : Oh yeah, for sure. And you should work up to that. Start with breakfast at a diner that is usually fast (omg nothing trendy with a 2 hour waitttttt!!) And then lunch somewhere and then you can work up to dinner when you know you can trust that your kid can behave.

Jaya: Hahaha in general avoid 2 hour waits for anything omg.

Victoria: Seriously. I get very cranky waiting 2 hours for brunch so I can’t even imagine how it feels for a toddler.

Jaya: Also it’s brunch! Like, it’s fun, but you can get eggs LITERALLY ANYWHERE. Your trendy Eggs Benedict is not THAT much better than an Eggs Benedict I can get anywhere without a wait. Anyway yeah, I feel like if the parents are clearly trying to calm their kid down we should all be more sympathetic. But if your kid is having a meltdown and nothing helps, part of being a parent is you gotta take care of them before you can have your pancakes.

Victoria: Yes. That is what it comes down to. And if you own a business, you can gently ask people to leave (volunteer to wrap things up for them, rush their check!), but don’t yell and swear at people the first thing! Like, that’s just ridiculous.

Jaya: Yeah! Avoid that if at all possible, though if the parents are being insufferable asshats about it you can escalate as needed.

Victoria: For sure. The key is “escalate as needed”

Don’t start at code red

Jaya: We need etiquette emergency code.



How To Raise A Kid In A City

We're not all like this

We’re not all like this

Excuse me if I seem bitter, but there’s something I need to get off my chest. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, in apartments, sometimes one-bedrooms I shared with a parent. I’m of an age where peers are beginning to have kids, or think about having kids, which always raises the question–do we raise little precious in the big, bad city? Or do we move to the suburbs “for the children”? Of course, living in a non-urban area is a FINE AND GREAT LIFE CHOICE and you should make it if it’s for you. Personally, I’m a fan of being from a city. Both lifestyles also have their perks and drawbacks, and it’s just a matter of what works for you and your family.

Anyway, recently I’ve come across a lot of people who are trying to game the system by raising their children in a big city, but then moving to the suburbs just in time for middle school. Their kid will get to peacock about being a “city kid” while basking in the comfort and societal normalcy of suburban life, and also might have a better chance at getting into a “good” school. Plus, the parents then get to say they were the cool ones who were totally fine with balancing an exciting city life with a baby. There are lots of things that bother me about this, but the main one is that these kids (and their parents) rarely bother to learn apartment etiquette. To them it’s not important. They’re going to be leaving anyway.

We’ve gone over some basics of apartment etiquette, but the main premise that a lot of people can’t wrap their heads around is that even though you have four walls a door, you are not really isolated. As I write this I can hear my neighbor’s dog barking, the guy on the sidewalk shoveling out his driveway, and my upstairs neighbor playing piano. This might sound like torture to some people, but I think it’s good for us to remember we aren’t alone in this world. Your presence and actions affect others.

So if you have a kid in an apartment, for no matter how long, here are some things you should know and start implementing.

  • Do not leave your strollers in the hallway. I know your apartment is small. Everyone’s is. That’s why you shouldn’t have gotten the 30 pound stroller with the shock wheels that won’t fold up in the first place. The hallways are for public use, and save for umbrellas, wet shoes, and mayyybe a trash bag left out at night and taken down first thing in the morning, you should not keep your stuff out there.
  • Understand when it’s time to be quiet. Obviously few parents can help a screaming infant in the middle of the night, and most apartment dwellers are pretty forgiving of noise. We all get that we share walls. But you should teach your kids early and often that hallways are not for screaming, not to jump or pound on floors, and not to practice instruments after a reasonable time at night (or too early in the morning). And for everyone, if you’re having a party or expect to be making a lot of noise past that “reasonable” time, try to give your neighbors a heads up.
  • Be understanding of the noise others make. Ideally, everyone comes to apartment living with a forgiving attitude. We all try our best to be mindful of others, but some things just can’t be helped. I don’t mind the occasional crying infant, because I know shit happens. In the same forgiving vein, parents, do not assume that every noise made was made specifically to disturb your child. I’ve heard of parents shouting at their neighbors for ringing buzzers or making noise when their child is trying to nap, or for throwing a party past their child’s bedtime. Obviously if something is ongoing and extraordinarily loud you have the right to complain, but part of apartment living means you need to make concessions. Also, children are resilient and learn to sleep through noise! It happens all the time.
  • The city is not always kid-friendly. People curse on the street. People are drunk in public. People wear “inappropriate” things. This is true of everywhere, but all the more likely the more heavily concentrated the area. In all likelihood, your kid is going to see some things you think they are too young or too innocent to see. Make peace with this now, or move to a place where it’s easier to shelter them.
  • The subway is not your car. This one goes outside the apartment, but it’s still important. There is a certain efficiency to living that it necessary in a big city, especially when cars are not an option. I see a lot of parents forget about this, and insist on taking up a whole subway bench for their strollers, diaper bags, and whatever entertainment their kids seem to “need.” Once I saw someone set up a playpen on the subway floor. Once again, this is a public space, and space economy needs to be taken into account. Don’t take up more than your allotted number of seats, and if your kid needs entertainment, give them a book, a quiet toy, or an iPad with headphones. Far too many people just let their kids watch movies at full volume and it’s driving me insane.

Plenty of people move to big cities to really have a life there. Those aren’t the people I’m talking about here. Those people care about living in a city, and adapting to what everyday life must look like. I’m talking about the people who say they want to live in a city without understanding that your lifestyle cannot be that of one in the suburbs or in a rural area. Just as I wouldn’t move to a farm and expect a deli to open up around the corner, you should not live in a city and expect the sort of space and privacy country living provides. If you want all the trappings of suburbia, then sorry, that’s where you have to go. We all gotta make sacrifices.

Should I Pay My Friends To Babysit?

7Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

We are the first of our group of friends to have a baby. We’ve gotten lots of casual babysitting offers over the past few months from friends. “I can totally babysit” – that kind of thing. Now that the kid is old enough to be left with someone else for a few hours, I’d like to start cashing in these offers. But do I offer to pay? I don’t want to assume anything. I mean, I would pay a babysitter and these friends would be giving up their time. Maybe a gift instead? “Oh look a bottle of your favorite booze I just happen to have here. Take it.” Please advise!

Favor Flustered

Emily Post and the like are pretty mum on the subjects of babysitting and favors among friends, though we’re guessing they would say never to offer a favor and expect to be paid for it.

Jaya:  I’d think that you can do the ol’ dance of offering to pay, and your friends will probably be like “no don’t worry about it.” Especially if you bring it up in terms of their original offer. Like, “Hey, now that the kid is old enough to be left at home, we’d love to take you up on your generous offer to babysit!”

Victoria: I think if I were offering to do this, it would because a) I want to hang out with a cool baby b) do a nice thing for my friend, so I really wouldn’t WANT anything. It’s actually, I think, considered sort of insulting in some circles to pay friends for babysitting because you aren’t really paying them enough (usually) to recompense for their actual time, so it’s better to just not and let it be a favor that you can repay at another time.

Jaya: That’s true. Unless you’re paying your best friend $15 an hour (or whatever the rate is now) it may not matter. It’s also probably important to note that, since the offer was probably made as a friendly favor to new parents, you shouldn’t take advantage of it. The offer may be a couple-time thing, not a thrice-a-week gig.

Victoria: Yeah, seriously. This is definitely like, once or twice spread out (unless they seem to really really like doing it).

Jaya:  I found some interesting stuff here, where they say that a bottle of wine or a gift card seem like “thank you for a favor” gifts, while cash is an impersonal transaction .

Victoria: Definitely, although if it’s a fairly short amount of time, I don’t think you even need to do that much, just be prepared to do them a favor later. Like maybe under 4 hours?

Jaya: Haha that’s as good an arbitrary amount of time as any.

Victoria: I mean, it seems like dinner and a movie time. But still, a bottle of wine wouldn’t go unappreciated, I’m sure. Or some takeout.

Jaya: Yes! Still do all the other babysitting norms, like leaving money for takeout/emergencies, etc.

Victoria: I think it ties in a lot with the general doing of favors for friends.

Jaya: Absolutely. For instance, I generally do not expect to pay my friends when they cat sit for me, but may leave them a little gift, or ask with the assumption that I will cat sit when they go away. And cats=babies duh.

Victoria: Haha yeah! Exactly. Or sometimes a friend will drive you someplace and you get their lunch, or you borrow their drill to hang your curtains and ummmm you will do something nice for them sometime (thanks Jayaaaaa).

Jaya: Yeah you know you lend a friend your drill and they pay your rent for two months, right Victoria?

Victoria: Hahahaha no.

Jaya: Hmm, what should she do on the off chance a friend demands payment?

Victoria: I guess pay them and then don’t ask them again.

Jaya: I can’t imagine you’d make that offer to a close friend if you want to be paid, but then again people are crazy.

Victoria: This is true.