Well behaved children welcome. The rest will be made into pies.
I found that wry sign mounted on the outside of a Cape Cod pie shop — a clever reference to the Sing a Song of Sixpence childhood rhyme, only with a sick Jonathan Swift twist — amusing, so I asked my three kids to pose next to it while my husband took a photo.
None of us found the sign offensive as it reflects something of an unstated family rule, minus the baking the kids into the pie business: If you act like a lunatic in public, cause a disturbance, etc., you’ll be removed from the premises by your parents.
And we’ve had to make good on this promise on a number of occasions, like a few years ago when we were enjoying a Cape Cod Bay-side luncheon in Provincetown and one of our overtired boys began to whine as his eyes started welling up and his face turned red. Ticked that I had to leave the scrumptious fresh lobster roll behind on my plate, I marched the kid out of the restaurant and fumed silently in my head while the kid regained his equilibrium on the sidewalk.
When our twins were toddlers and they’d clearly had enough of a different seafood restaurant, also in Provincetown, so much so that my son knocked over the tea light on the table, my husband and I already had our game plan: I’d take the kids to the car where they could make all the noise they wanted, while my husband asked for the food to be placed into take-out containers and settled the bill. But I tell ya, those scallops I’d ordered didn’t taste nearly as good from my passenger side car seat, eaten ice cold out of a Styrofoam container as they did when they were steaming hot on the plate next to my chilled glass of white wine.
But such was the gamble we knew we were taking when we endeavored to bring unpredictable young kids into a restaurant where it’s not kosher to chuck stuff around, holler at the top of one’s voice and laugh at the peculiar sound of one’s farts against the wooden chair. As parents with young children, the onus was on us to make sure that if the kids act like kids–irrational beings with a tenuous ability to control their emotions–we take them outside a restaurant/theater/event until they chill the heck out. That’s kind of what we thought the social compact was…and why getting a reliable babysitter was absolutely essential to parental happiness because romance does not flourish in restaurants with paper placements and crayons while you’re holding your breath and hoping one of your kids doesn’t flip out.
Even now, with my 10-year-old son and nearly 13-year-old twins, I still remind them when we go into stores with ample quantities of breakables that they aren’t to touch stuff or screw around, lest they break something and they have to pay for it out of their allowance. My husband and I recently took the crew out to a chic outdoor Chatham restaurant–our one “nice” meal of our Cape vacation–and I had to keep an eye on the 10-year-old who was cranky and hungry and still had the potential to lose his mind.
That’s why this whole “No Kids Allowed” movement in public venues surprised me at first. Why would we need “No Kids Allowed” signs when old fashioned common sense should be sufficient? Your kid is acting like a heathen? Take him out of wherever you are or don’t bring him there in the first place if you don’t think he can behave. Don’t take small kids to inappropriate films, concerts or performances where not only is the material not suited for them, but their presence will likely upset others. Don’t bring them to fashionable restaurants unless they can behave or unless you’re willing to remove them immediately. Be prepared to keep the kid on a short, figurative leash when shopping in finer retail establishments and don’t let them knock over displays. Pretty basic stuff, right? Didn’t that come in our parenting manuals when we brought these kids home?
But not everybody’s playing by these rules, apparently. Parents aren’t taking their shrieking rugrats out of restaurants when their ear piercing wails are disturbing others. They are indeed bringing young kids to mature films which contain violence and/or sex scenes. They’re letting their kids dump bubble solution onto floors of stores leaving unsuspecting puddles for others to slip in after they’ve manhandled all the merchandise and left it in disarray.
It’s no wonder that my family sometimes gets the evil eye on those occasions when we enter a decent restaurant as the adult patrons, who don’t have kiddos with them, are likely expecting that my children will act like marauders right out of the Game of Thrones. For my husband’s birthday, for example, the children put on their nicest duds and we treated him to a meal at a gourmet restaurant. As we were seated, I noticed anguished looks wash over a couple of senior citizens at the table next to us as they were clearly enjoying an intimate dinner together. However they must’ve been pleasantly surprised that the evening didn’t degenerate into chaos because on their way out, the gentleman patted my husband on the shoulder and told him he had “a lovely family” and that he should be proud.
Since when has the fact that children behave in civilized fashion in public (at home is another matter entirely) become the exception rather than the rule? My husband and I are judicious about where and when we take them out with us, taking a pass on opportunities if we think they’re going to be nightmares. And in instances when they do misbehave, as kids do, we’ll leave wherever we are, even if I have to scarf down my pricey scallop meal in the car from a take-out box. When did that turn out not to be the case with all parents and their kids?