The Internet is in a tizzy again. People are taking sides and throwing stones. Gawker media is having a freaking hate orgy.
Last Saturday, a family on vacation wandered into a little diner in Maine for breakfast. It was pouring rain outside. The diner was crowded. The couple and their nearly two-year-old daughter were all hungry. They ordered 3 pancakes for the baby and sat about talking with each other while waiting for the food to arrive. They waited. And waited. And then the inevitable happened: that baby started to cry.
This is where it gets murky. Maybe the baby cried for 40 minutes waiting for her pancakes. Maybe she only cried for 10. Maybe the parents did everything they could do to calm her down. Maybe they left the pancakes in the middle of the table, out of her increasingly frustrated reach. Maybe the owner asked the parents to remove the crying child. Maybe she just tossed to-go boxes at them and promptly lost her mind. In any event, this next part is clear. Let’s hear it from the owner herself:
What happened here? Well, anyone who has been a parent for more than fifteen minutes can tell you. That lady lost her shit. We know because we’ve been there.
It’s no accident that people talk about rage “boiling”. It bubbles up from somewhere in your belly; you can feel it climbing the edges of your pot, the heat filling up your chest, the warmth spreading to your cheeks, the tight hot sensation in your throat. Then BAM! It bubbles over and out of your mouth and your whole body is shaking with the vibration of that rolling boil.
Why? Why does this happen? Because parenting is hard work. Duh. It can be exhausting and relentless and utterly unappreciated. And we are human beings who only learn new skills, like patience, through practice. You want to be a patient person? Go have yourself a half-dozen kids. Oh, you’ll screw up a billion times, but eventually you’ll get there. You’ll get all the practice you can handle. What’s to keep you from staying stuck with the perpetual short fuse? The look on your child’s face when you blow it.
Darla Neugebauer, that diner’s owner, said that when she got up in that baby’s face, pointing and yelling, the baby shut up. And I’m sure she did. For about ten seconds, just long enough to take in a very deep, surprised breath, and erupt in an earth-shattering, terrified, there-is-no-safe-place-in-the-world, forsake-all-hope-ye-who-enter-here, primal scream. The baby’s parents said their daughter cried “harder”, but anyone who’s ever yelled at their toddler knows what they really meant.
There is absolutely no doubt that children crying in public places are annoying – even infuriating. If you think it’s bad from across the restaurant, or three rows back on the plane, you should try it at ground zero. There are definitely parents who don’t handle it well, or at all. And that’s frustrating, but it’s mostly sad. Because the child who can be ignored while throwing a 40 minute tantrum in a diner, can be so much more easily ignored while sitting at home playing alone. Furthermore, the child who isn’t taught by her parents what appropriate behavior looks like, grows up to be an adult who still doesn’t know. That child might grow up to post things like this on her business’s Facebook page:
absolutely right, and you know it crazy, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of woman that I’d want to represent my cause, even if my cause was the utterly impossible, but so very tantalizing worldwide abolition of crying toddlers.
Before people go making Darla Neugebauer the spokesperson for pissed off diners everywhere, I’d like to suggest they look around for someone who’s doing something to make the situation better, not worse. Or, better yet, lets take a crack at it ourselves. Start by assuming that those parents in the next booth are in a level of hell much deeper than the one you find yourself in. Maybe they are just ignorant breeders, overpopulating the earth and ruining your brunch, but I’ll bet money they didn’t know they were getting into this. Right now, they’re feeling pretty duped too.
Next, consider for a moment that they didn’t intentionally drag a poorly behaved, hungry and exhausted child out into public in order to torture you. I promise, they wish they were at home
alone with their sweet darling where they could gently lose their shit correct the embarrassing behavior in private, or at the very least, hide their head under a pillow. If you see a screaming baby in a public place, I bet dollars to donuts those parents are trapped there. Maybe they are on their way to bury a parent (it happened to me), maybe they’re waiting on a tow-truck (ditto), maybe it’s pouring outside and a 40 minute wait for pancakes is the only game in town. Assume good intentions. So much of life would be easier if we’d only tattoo this on our clenched fists.
If there’s nothing to be done, if you just can’t stand it any longer, if you’re outraged because your children never acted that way in public/you knew better than to have children/you just got fired by the man who is sleeping with your wife, talk to the parents. Don’t scream at the baby. After all, as inconvenient for everyone as a toddler tantrum is, it’s age appropriate.
That’s what two-year-olds do.
What’s your excuse?