Kids in public

Angry kid.jpg


By Leah the Nosher

I was sitting in the Panera in Latham Farms doing work for class. I sought the air conditioned sanctuary of free WiFi and a predictably decent, cooling yogurt-berry smoothie. I buckled down to the task of wading through academic articles, having deposited children with grandparents and dispatched husband to work.

The three year old bouncing around the room, running up and down the aisles chasing imaginary aliens, was totally killing my buzz.

I took a deep breath. I said nothing. I tried to remember how much I value those two seconds of quiet at a table when my child is jumping up and down on something that is not me. But there was this niggling voice in the back of my head whispering, "I drove across two county lines and a river and cashed in a favor with my parents, so that I could sit here and get work done. Please, please, please, corral your kid."

Where do we draw the line as parents and as members of a greater community? Where is the line between "children should be seen and not heard" and "children should be see and heard with zero restrictions on the glory that is all forms of childhood and parenting?" How do we remember that one person's adorable is another person's obnoxious?

You see, in Panera, I didn't want to be that adult. The one who gives me a glare and lectures me on how I should start spanking my 1 ½ year old when she is melting down in Price Chopper. The one who stage whispers, "I certainly had better control over my child than that," when my 4 year old is dancing in front of the dressing room mirror in Target, rather than instantaneously heeding the call to come. The one who gives a disapproving look, gasps, and scoffs when I nurse my child in a restaurant, any restaurant, anywhere in the Capital District.

Yes, I am that nursing mom who doesn't cover. No, you can't see my nipple, or anything else but the back of my child's head when I'm nursing. You could imagine that there is nipple with a breast attached to it while watching happily kicking toddler feet if you were so inclined, but I figure that's your own head and your own business.

Anyway. I digress. Let's flip this around.

I have a general love of, "it takes a village," and a sincere wish for my child to be accepted as a child vs. a mini-adult in the restaurant, in the sanctuary of our house of worship, on the Lawn at SPAC. However, if my child is screaming in despair in a quiet place, if she is running around like a banshee in a restaurant, doing downward dog in the middle of the altar, crashing a motorized car into your lawn chair during the ballet, I'm going to do my utmost to step up and remove her from the situation. In my brain, to not do so would be negligent parenting.

But those are examples of what my standards of good parenting look like. My personal standards also include not indulging the tantrum in the Price Chopper by giving it attention or acquiescing to the request. I prefer to stay in the store, to finish picking up the dinner ingredients we need for tonight, and then head out to the parking lot. I also hold dear the standard that 4 year olds get to dance in front of mirrors in Target, the standard that imagination is awesome, and the choice that I'd generally rather coerce than control my child. Note the emphasis on "my".

As to restaurant behavior, I'm running on the assumption that if you'd rather be eating without kids present, you would have chosen a restaurant without a children's menu.

And I'm going to nurse my kid on demand.
Sorry about that. I'm running on the assumption that whatever the setting, you would rather I did that than let her scream.

Here's the catch: if you think I should be removing myself to the bathroom or my car to nurse, if you think that my nursing discreetly while showing less skin that the women at your table in V necks is not enough, well, then we're just not going to agree on much anyway. So, why should I care what you think in the first place?

So, that is the essential question: why do we, as parents, care what others think?

And this is the essential answer: because sometimes one of us gets an hour or two kid free to get some work done in the Air Conditioned Sanctuary of Free WiFi that is the Panera in Latham Farms, and we want to be supportive of that notion.

This is what I propose: I hereby declare that I shall assume each and every parent is doing the best they can with what they've got.

I promise that I shall not bring my children into restaurants after 7 pm. In addition, anytime it looks like my child is inclined to have a tantrum in the grocery store, just so you'll feel a little better, I promise to put a big sign on her head, saying, "She has a fever and we're picking up her medication; we'll be out of your hair in just a minute." If I bring my child to SPAC, she shall have no toys that make noise, she will ask only adorable questions about the ballet's plot, and if she does need to run around, we'll bring her up by the Beer Tents.

I shall, however, nurse wherever I damn well please in accordance with the rights afforded me by New York State. I do promise not to judge you for being aghast, if you promise not to judge me for being a mammal.

I promise to take a deep breath and to keep my assumptions to myself.

We'll all promise to assume everyone, each one of us, is doing the best we can with what we've got, as we grit out teeth as the toddler wails on the airplane taking off from Albany International, repeating silently to ourselves, "It take a village, it takes a village."

Leah the Nosher writes and is the mother of two angelic little girls who never do anything untoward in public, ever.

More Leah on the Soapbox:
+Pioneer Market and the gentrification of the Collar City

Photo: Flickr user mdanys


"It takes a village."

I love how this only applies to people tolerating your kid. I mean, if child rearing is really a collective effort, why can't I approach your child and calmly explain why their wonderful, imaginative dance moves are really irritating? I think most parents would find this completely presumptuous and offensive. Yet, everyone else must tolerate your special snowflake because, "it takes a village!".

Of course, this collective mentality only applies to child rearing for some reason. If someone takes your parking spot, or has an unruly dog, or commits any other number of tolerable, but inconsiderate actions few people would deny your right to say something.

In general should people be nicer to each other? Probably. Should you carefully consider whether the confrontation of approaching anyone doing anything annoying will be worth the trouble? Of course, and most everyone does. But children shouldn't get a special pass when it comes to being obnoxious, just because it's their natural state. Your kid is your problem. If it becomes my problem, I reserve the right to say something. Because really, it doesn't take a village. It just takes a couple engaged parents who aren't blind to the fact that your kid's "adorable questions" about the ballet aren't actually all that adorable.

"This is what I propose: I hereby declare that I shall assume each and every parent is doing the best they can with what they've got."

Well said!

When my children are behaving in a way I really wish they wouldn't in public, I always seem to be having this internal battle over doing what I know is right for us, or what I know the people around us want me to do. Oftentimes the two do not coincide, so I'm always hoping people understand that I am doing the best I can.

Here's to tolerance and understanding on both sides of the table - parents being considerate of others, and other being considerate of parents!

It wasn't always thus. While there was so much about '50s- and 60s-style parenting (see Mad Men) that of course is unacceptable today, many of us who grew up in that era wouldn't have dreamed of acting out -- and up -- in public. There was much more of a sense that parents were in charge and in control. That's been lost in recent years perhaps in the drive to attain the state of perfect parenting. Children sense when they have the upper hand and take full advantage. Can't blame them!

A British writer, I forget who, once wrote about "America's terrifying children." Children running wild in public (and in other people's homes) is primarily an American phenomenon. I've yet to see children in other countries act this way on a regular basis.

And Leah, I don't want to have to bear witness to your parenting style while I'm also trying to do my grocery shopping in relative peace.

"This is what I propose: I hereby declare that I shall assume each and every parent is doing the best they can with what they've got."

B.S. I have experienced plenty of parents who just give up on disciplining their children and give those who are being annoyed a wan smile as if to say "What can I do?" Here's what you can do, set rules and follow through with them. Children are constantly pushing boundaries, that's what they do. Why? They push because that's what teaches them how to live in this world. Part of being a parent is teaching those boundaries so that your children grow up to be someone that other people can bear and can tolerate being around.

If you want tolerance of your children's behavior, then I want tolerance when I say something to your child about their behavior, and hence YOUR inability to regulate that behavior.

If you want me, as someone who is never going to have children, to help pay for your child's education, then be responsible for educating your child. I don't think that's too much to ask.

It Panera, not a library.

it's a bit unrealistic to think that because people want a child-free dining experience, they should go to restaurants that don't have a children's menu. Most restaurants have a kid's menu (much to my dismay--since when can't kids just eat a smaller portion of the adult menu and not chicken fingers? but that's a soapbox for another Sunday), or at least the restaurants in *my* price point. Kid's menu's are not an identifier that the restaurant is child friendly, per se; it seems like something that restaurateurs have offered to accommodate parents who insist on taking their children to restaurants regardless of time spent waiting for meals, food offered etc. How about I can go to eat where I want, at what time I want, and children behave or their parents take them out of the restaurant? How about less shrugging and "whattya gonna do" on parents' behalf (to echo Jeff) and more teaching children manners, expectations etc. It can be done, since I'm sure lots of us were raised that just takes a lot of work and is exhausting.

and in no way would I equate breast feeding a child on the same level as a child behaving badly. A child's obnoxious behavior is the parent's problem; a person being offended by public breast feeding has their own problems!

As the mother of small children myself I really wanted to sympathize with you, Leah. But letting your kid impose their tantrum on everyone in the grocery store so that you can select some choice dinner ingredients teaches them that its O.K. to subject other people to unnecessary unpleasantness, as long as you get what you want.

The civil option is to get the screamer out of the store, eat some cereal for supper and accompany it with discussion about why there isn't a nicer meal. Then try again the next day.

That said, to speak more generally: all kids, even ones who behave well most of the time, are going to have their moments. There is no way of knowing if the rude children we all encounter are habitual offenders or are having a one-off for some perfectly understandable reason. And I don't think it matters. What matters is how we handle it, both as parents and bystanders.

People of all ages can be noisy, rude, loathsome beasts. Still, as adults it is up to us to keep the party polite. Speaking rudely or in a derogatory manner invalidates the grievance being aired and sets a lousy example. What "it takes a village" means to me is that instead of modeling our own offensive behavior to match someone else's, we provide an example of civilized behavior by treating other people as we would like to be treated. That doesn't mean always keeping quiet, but it does mean using polite words and tone in speaking up.

I myself am not always perfect at this, but its worth a shot and better yet, its free.

I think the point Leah is trying to make is that HER child is HER child, not yours, and how she raises HER child is HER choice. I am sick to death of Mommies being so judgmental of everyone else. We need to support each other, and I for one agree that children need not to be catered to, but to learn how to control themselves in public through trial and error. That's the reason so many people are so poorly behaved today- they were catered and kowtowed too as children- everyone was given a trophy.. blah blah etc etc. Rock on, Leah. I completely agree with you.

Going to public places means going to public places. If you don't want to encounter other people and all the wonderful and awful things that come with them, stay at home. You people are talking about being annoyed, or inconvenienced. The child isn't pulling a knife on you.

@Julia - When you're in a semi-public place like Price Chopper, though you might not want to "bear witness" to my parenting style, being around parenting styles we don't agree with is part of being a member of this 'village.' When we picture the 50's and 60's with nostalgia, we are thinking of a time when only the majority culture was seen and tolerated both in public and in the media. There was also greater use of physical punishment as a means of exerting control, including in schools. As you suggested, parents did have greater control of their children, but once that control was broken, the 50's and 60's dissolved into the 70s. The past is never as unclouded as we imagine it.

@Jeff - I am always glad to hear someone who is "never going to have children" offer parenting advice. Please feel free to stop paying your school taxes if that will make you feel better.

@M - I love it when my children are compared to parking spots and unruly dogs. And when people carrying grudges from previous posts actually read my writing before commenting on it.

@But... - Exactly. And I work better with a little noise than in complete silence. Which is why I held my tongue.

@Rebecca - "lots of us were raised that way" - You're right. Many of us were. But we, as adults, often have trouble controlling our own "manners" or conforming to societal "expectations," while simultaneously existing as the definition of more adult-like behavior. How many times have you had a meal at a restaurant disturbed by a bachelor/bachelorette party who had three drinks too many, or a couple having an argument, or simply rude service from the waitstaff? I feel that we place developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. For example, a lot of folks' sticking point in the article seems to be my response to tantrums in the grocery store. When a 1 or 2 year old is having a tantrum, that's not a case of bad manners - it's a case of not enough sleep or an earache or hunger or any number of other things. We as the viewing public have no way of knowing the reason or even the age of the child. Hence, the grain of salt. And thanks for supporting NIP!

@Elizabeth - "...we provide an example...That doesn't always mean keeping quiet"- I couldn't agree with you more. What is your response to tantrums when you have a cart full of groceries (including the milk for the cereal at home) and you are shopping on your own with your children? Actually asking, as that is usually the predicament I find myself in. As I implied in my article, I know I don't have all the answers as a parent, and that my standards are mine. Therefore, before responding to a situation with some else's child, I think about how I feel when someone critiques my child in public. Because of that feeling, I choose my words and their timing carefully when intervening, and the circumstances need to be pretty extreme. True story: the last time I intervened in another's parenting was to stare down a father verbally beating a mother in front of their children at BJ's, holding up my phone.

@Karen and Rachel - Rock on, indeed. Enough tearing each other down and enough tearing ourselves down. We're not always getting it right, but we're doing our damn best.

p.s. A word on "developmentally appropriate behavior:" some children have different abilities than others, carrying diagnoses, IEPs and EIPs. These don't always show themselves at first glance. My job as a member of the 'village' is to remember I don't know everything about every child, the same way I don't know everything about every adult.

I completely agree with Karen's comment. I couldn't have said it better. With three young daughters, we do experience an internal battle regarding family expectations versus our society's expectations. Nice article, Leah!

I feel like you all are chasing this mythical beast, a misbehaving, out of control child whose parents are shrugging and smiling at it all. I really don't recall ever seeing this play out.

What I do see more often than I like is the parent who is riding their child hard. The one who threatens, curses and otherwise berates their child in public for small breaches in behavior. This is what upsets me, this is what ruins a nice meal out or a trip to a grocery store.

For the record, I have two small children. I let them frolic in the store, so long as they are being gentle to property and friendly to others. They giggle, they shriek. And yes, we occasionally dare to let them eat in public. We do the best we can to balance everyone's needs. I expect that if we were handling any of these situations badly, one of you might approach us - or at the very least alert a manager. Hasn't happened yet.

You may have seen me at the AOA birthday party earlier this year. I was the one wearing my baby on my back. The staff didn't bother to proof her at the bar, but they did pause to oogle.

My long rambly point is this: every location dictates behavior. If you think I'm harshing your mellow, say something to me or the manager. Or leave if you want - money does speak.

Leah: Thanks for the lecture about the '50s and '60s. You missed my point. And btw, I was never hit by my parents or in school.

I posted this earlier to Leah & she asked I post it to the article. I didn't do it here earlier b/c I don't know others who'd post here nor did I care to have their feedback.

"I can't list a whole lot of instances where I've been annoyed by kids in public. Maybe I am more forgiving?! But I do have a laundry list of complaints about other adults ... adults who talk so loud at other tables that I can't hear my own thoughts, adults who lower their seats on planes so that they are in my lap, adults who drive intentionally slow b/c they know I want to go fast, adults who walk the entire width of the sidewalk so that others are forced onto the grass, adults who smoke around kids, adults who don't hold the door open for others, adults who have a problem w/ me dancing in the mirrors at Target ...."

As a later side note here, I will say that we shouldn't feel that we can correct anything about people we don't know. We don't know the circumstances or the mental state of those involved ... it can be unwarranted & dangerous. I try my hardest to avoid conflict b/c you never know who's carrying a gun (figuratively & literally)!

Some parents can have a whole lot more control than they exercise when their children are acting out in public. Too often, it seems like there are a number of parents that want to be the "friend" and are worried about their child liking them, rather than acting as an authority figure and/or model for good behavior.

And when a child is screaming in the grocery store & there is no one else with you to take her/him to the car... I know that the acceptable response for me is to head for the checkout. While it may mean that others have to deal with the screaming for a few more minutes, it does show that I'm on the way out and actively trying to address the unpleasant situation. When the kiddo gets cranky/tired or is misbehaving, it's a sign that it's probably time for Mom & Dad to head home.


The other day, after some difficulties, all I wanted was the peace and quiet of the produce section of Price Chopper. As I was lovingly inspecting my arugula, my sense of calm and relaxation was disturbed by a mother with her screaming child (I presume it was the mother, she could have been the nanny, or the spinster aunt). HOW DARE THEY DISTURB MY COMMERCIAL TRANSACTION IN PUBLIC WITH THE "NORMAL" BEHAVIOR OF YOUNG CHILDREN?

I was shocked.

I go to the supermarket to get away from everything, as well as to enjoy the air conditioning and this is my time, where I am not dad, or anyone else apart from being anonymous consumer? I just need the time to myself.

So, I am asking you...especially the parents of the dreaded supermarket screamers, can I have a couple of minutes to fondle produce in peace?

(And go ahead, say it if you want...I know that if I wanted to be alone in my shopping, I should just go t downtown Troy to the Co-op...)

As the father of two boys (8 & 4), I've bumped into this a lot. Sometimes, my older son will be tired from walking so much. ("So much" being defined as once through Target and now we're headed to BJ's.) Sometimes, they'll have been couped up in the house too much due to bad weather. Sometimes, they're just feeling particularly rambunctious.

No matter what the case, I do my best to keep their behavior in line. I don't mind if they act like kids so long as they 1) aren't too noisy (e.g. yelling) and 2) don't create a safety hazard (e.g. running around/away from me).

If they show that they can't follow the rules, then there are consequences. If my wife is with me then I'll take the boys to the car so she can finish the shopping in peace. If my wife isn't with me, then I'll do my best to keep the boys in line and will finish our chores as quickly as possible. Then the boys will be sent to their rooms and punished (no TV, video games or other items that they enjoy).

I haven't had a parent come up to me and tell me how awful a father I am because my boys aren't 100% well-behaved all the time. However, I have been in situations where I felt eyes glaring at me when the boys misbehaved. This could just be my imagination. Maybe they were really thinking "it's nice to see a dad be involved and telling his boys to behave themselves."

I would hope that people would give the benefit of the doubt if they see a parent trying to keep their kids in line and not immediately assume that the parent lets their kids run rampant with no consequences.

As a father of an energetic and sensitive 4 year old boy, I understand this situation - to some extent. I won't comment on the child rearing issues but do have a lot to say on the choice of space and your expectations.

As other readers have said, Panera 'doth not a library make'. Its an 'apples and oranges' comparison; and even at a library, you need to have a strategy ready in order to be disturbance-free to get your work done. Aside from my son, I also work F/T during day and then hit the library at night for a little study time towards my MBA in a tightly compressed time frame, so I know the deal. Quiet rooms are my 1st choice and headphones are next in line. If you can't drop out, then by all means you may need to tune out.

Abby, you are one lucky duck if you haven't seen that "mythical beast" of an out of control child while parents shrug and smile at it all. I invite you to come to my place of work: a hair salon, with sharp corners, slippery floors and costly equipment, and witness, in person, the number of children who allowed by parents to run around, spin our (expensive) hydraulic chairs, help themselves to pencils, etc. in the drawers at our reception desk, shout, barge into our tiny staff kitchen, and knock over art sculptures (all events pathetically true) ...all while the parent(s) blithely continue getting their service done, while the other busy employees try and corral the kids. We welcome WELL BEHAVED kids at our place, but from what I've seen, *those* are the "mythical beasts"!

Leah, I think it's short-sighted to stand on the "it takes a village" podium and then dismiss those who choose not to have children with a handwave.

They're part of your village too.

The rest of this is interesting reading, thanks folks (especially for the civility).

"A British writer, I forget who, once wrote about "America's terrifying children." Children running wild in public (and in other people's homes) is primarily an American phenomenon. I've yet to see children in other countries act this way on a regular basis."

Um, it seems as though I've recently seen some pretty dramatic news footage of British youth running wild in public.

True Panera story: I was sitting at a booth in when a sticky faced child came over & sat beside me. His mother came scurrying over with that "isn't he cute, kids are so full of surprises" smirk on her face I looked at him & rather sternly said "you need to go back to your family. This is my table." She told me to "relax".

What?? Um,... I'd say the more or less the same thing to any weird-o adult who plopped next to me. Probably more sternly like "hey jerk, I'm happily alone right now.. Wanna get lost?"

I distinctly remember being a child, walking to the library with my grandmother & being told "now when we get there, you whisper, no talking out loud, no running,"

& heck, I remember on the way to my grandparents house, my mother telling me, "Poppy doesn't like noise. You can either sit on the couch quietly or go outside and play."

The difference between wild kids & a bachelorette party is that the children are still under the jurisdiction of their parents!

I was raised knowing that Mommy and Daddy love me & think I'm cute and funny (although lately I have to remind them of that..), but the rest of the world doesn't want to deal with my crap.

My parents taught me that when you're in public you are expected to behave a certain way (& sometimes the rules changed, Red Robin is not Sunday Mass) & as long as I was their responsibility, if I did not behave, I would be removed or punished. The expectations were established beforehand. Last I checked that was called parenting!

Bratty Panera kid hopefully learned 2 things from me that day:
1. It comes across as creepy when you sit with strangers in restaurants without asking.
2. There are people in the world who might not think the world of you. In fact, you really aren't that special at all.

control your kid.

@Rebecca: I leave my children at home when I get my hair cut. There's no possible way for me to parent them when I'm held hostage in a chair with sharp scissors near my head.

That said, it sounds like your salon has a management problem. If you "welcome well behaved children," why are your employees providing babysitting? You're totally within your rights to ask folks to manage their kids or ask them to leave. If you don't enforce your policy, what's the point of having it?

This is getting interesting- I think we do indeed need to address the PARENTS who are acting badly as well here. It seems to me that I am seeing more and more parents who are using public places as a type of baby sitter- letting their children run wild in playgrounds/play areas of stores/malls. I have seen children stealing other children's toys, throwing sand on other children, pushing other children, and so forth---- meanwhile, the parent is talking or playing on their cell phone and not paying any attention to the child! I do believe that if the child is school aged you don't need to be watching them every second- however, you should at least glance up once in a while and attempt to actively parent should your child be doing something inconsiderate/rude/actively dangerous. And for younger children, more attention needs to be paid in general! I think this is a MUCH more important topic than whether or not someone's child has a completely understandable, age appropriate meltdown at the grocery store- which by the way, the parent has the right to treat and actively parent as they see fit!

Obviously, parents should work to control kids so they do not disturb others, but businesses sure could help. Our old hair salon did nothing, and trips there were awful. Our new salon has one drawer with toys, a couple of kids magazines, and a couch for kids...presto-magico...same parent, same kids but now we have fun.

I generally do not like to eat out with my kids, I admit, they can be rough in the restaurant and I usually remove them....but Sake on New Scotland is a different story. The staff greets the kids, they make little chopsticks for them, bring out the edamame right away...same parents, same kids, but at Sake we have fun.

I have to laugh at parenting advise from people who aren't parents. Before I had kids, I too thought I had it all figured out - yea right. Just for the record - to all the parents whose kids are acting up in the grocery store, etc. - you need to know that it doesn't bother me in the least.

For the record, my kids are 6 and 8.

I think there are some places where it's fine to take your kids -grocery shopping, Target, houses of worship, "family" restaurants - this is how they learn about their world and what is expected in terms of behaving out in public.

That being said, there other places small kids simply DO NOT belong. Ever. It steams my veggies when parents bring their kids to hair salons/spas, upscale bistros or trendy adults-only restaurants, R-rated films, etc., and then wonder why other patrons glare at them when their spawn run around or make noise or cry simply because they are bored.

And don't give me any BS about "I couldn't get a sitter" - if you couldn't get a sitter, go to Applebee's instead of Jack's Oyster House, or change the date/time for your pedicure.

One thing I never would have believed BK (Before Kids) is that sometimes you can chastise your kids and shush them and give them the Death Glare in public to get them to behave...and they just don't give a tinker's damn. They are either overtired, or wrapped up in their own silliness, or twanging on your last nerve like it's a banjo string just to see how much stress you'll take.

Some days you can bend low and say, "We talked about how to behave before we came in here, and you are not doing the right thing," and they will say "Sorry" and start flying straight. And then there are days when you try to correct them and they glance at you with a mixture of pity and amusement and keep tearing up the turf. We parents then need to judge whether to quickly finish up business or just get the hell out of the store/restaurant/mall while the getting is good.

I don't mind a three-year-old having a blow-out in Wal-Mart, especially when Mom has a full cart of merchandise and a baby in a sling. Mom is just trying to get food for the cubs and make it home before the other child loses it, and when we see something like this it's better karma for all if we give the tired parent a smile, or make a silly face to distract the upset kid.

However, if said child is acting like this when my husband and I are out for our anniversary dinner at a bistro that has linen tablecloths instead of paper placements with crayons, that's when I reserve the right to hand out dirty looks.

@ Barold: Really? I have to give birth to know what manners are & have a vague idea of how to convey those manners to another human?

I understand that babies/toddlers/children cry for no reason sometimes. & I know no one purposely brings a screaming human out to try to grab groceries. I get it.

But for crying out loud (hahaha), there's a big difference between that & allowing your child to be a brat.

I understand you cannot watch them every second. I understand that they're easily distracted. But as a parent, when you notice dancing aisle child blocking somone's way you simply say, "hey, hon, you have pay attention & stay out of people's way."

How hard is that?? Don't you apologize & move when you're the aisle blocker? Aren't parents supposed to teach their kids social norms?

I get that you enjoy being a parent. But just don't expect me to treat your kid any differently than I would any other human who acts ridiculously in an effort to grab my attention or ignores me when I say excuse me in an a store aisle.

The reason some of us don't have kids is because we considered how much effort & patience is required & said "screw it, every village needs a spinster witch."

@L: I like the way you think.
@Abby: I appreciate that you leave your kid(s) at home when getting a haircut. And I do hope that other people have the same idea.

But I will say, respectfully, that misbehaving children are *not* a management problem, but a *parent* problem. We cannot escort parents out the door if their child misbehaves, because there goes our income with them; it is a very delicate position we are put in, as I'm sure is the case for other service industries. Our staff wouldn't have to "babysit" (haha--you were kidding, right?!) while trying to do their job if the kids were under control, or left at home with a *paid* babysitter, other parent, family member, friend etc.

and @Sally, our salon also welcomes spinster witches as long as you don't poke anyone with your broomstick...

You know what else was so "great" about the 50's and 60's?...beside being able to beat your children (or other peoples children)? ; )

Mother's stayed at home with their kids, did their grocery shopping and got their hair done while the kids were at school(or dropped them off at Grandma's or a neighbor's house), made almost all of the meals for their kids and never took them to a restaurant until they were 21!...okay maybe I exaggerated a bit on the last one.

However, the majority of them did not work full time jobs, figure out daycare, and still take care of a majority of the household duties, all while managing the overfilled schedules of their children.

I don't say these things as excuses for bad behavior, but just to understand why all of a sudden you see so much more bad behavior in public. It's because you see kids out and about more often. It's really quite simple.

Get used to it people, kids are in out in public and they are here to stay...take off you're rose colored glasses and get over it....please!

BTW, Sally, if you wish to convey proper manners to another human than go ahead and push one right on out of your vagina and feel free...otherwise, MYOB. The mother at Panera is right, you need to relax. I know the perfect bottle of wine. It's called "Mommy's Time Out" : )

At first glance, I thought this article was going to be some childless hipster complaining about how kids in public ruin their otherwise perfect lives, with grossly exaggerated claims of brattiness & zero compassion for people actually doing the work of parenting. So glad it wasn't that. Good job Leah! And I agree with Barold. Getting unsolicited parenting advice from people without kids is like getting marriage advice from a pimp. Sorry, but the idea of parenting and the reality of parenting are two vastly different things.

As parents, I think we have to recognize that even though by town/city/county lines our "village" may seem broad and include everybody, the "village" that helps us raise our children is actually much smaller, but more supportive, understanding, and inclusive. My "village" probably consists of my family, friends, neighbors, the congregants at my place of worship, and the other families in the "mommy" group to which we belong. My "village" does not include the woman glaring at me in line at Wegmans. That woman? Well, she's useful in teaching my children that not everybody appreciates their behavior and we can use her as a natural consequence but I'm not counting her as a person of much value outside of that.

I communicate to mu children the way I want them to communicate with me and everyone else in the world. That means we're not yellers/screamers/threateners/hitters. That being said, if I'm at the store and Mr. 2 year old is screaming and I can't talk him out of it and quick, we leave. That's what works for us because it will end whatever is causing this behavior and it makes everybody around us happy that we're not imposing a tantrum on them. For us it's a win-win: we avoid the public tantrum, the child calms down, and no one is giving us death glares. Do I expect everyone to parent the way I parent? Heck no. Do I sometimes wish they would? Heck yes. But don't we all? Don't we all have the right answer when it's not our child that we're observing?

You never know what someone is dealing with on any given day (with or without children in their lives). A little general consideration all around makes this issue less of an issue - don't you think?

I'm speaking as a woman without children, yet, but have nannied for all ages. So I can sympathize with parents and feel like you shouldn't be stuck inside your house if you have some spirited children. However, I have found that there seems to be much less boundaries in terms of where children are taken by their parents (and when!).

The past 2 movies I have been to after 9:30pm, there were children there. The first was a movie with drugs and sex and violence and a toddler RAN around the theater, screamed, etc. The second movie there was a baby in a stroller (luckily quiet). I've also ran into Price Chopper after 9:00pm to grab some groceries and have been confronted with crying babies and aisle-hogging toddlers.

I became a parent 5 months ago. Everything I thought I knew about parenting has already been turned on its head. So, yes, if you don't have children you don't know as much as you think you do about parenting. I didn't.

And, as a new mom, I appreciate this line more than anything else I've read lately: "I shall, however, nurse wherever I damn well please in accordance with the rights afforded me by New York State. I do promise not to judge you for being aghast, if you promise not to judge me for being a mammal."

Thanks, Leah!

I love that people say, "you're not a parent, so how can you offer advice?"

Where did you learn to parent? Did you learn it by watching others, or did it just come instantly when you popped a child out of you? There's no license exam for fathering or bearing a child, all you need is the right parts and a little bit of luck, bad or otherwise.

I've been baby sitting for friends and family since I was 15. I've changed more diapers than a lot of parents do, and I've done my share of teaching about the world.

I will babysit for friends, I will not babysit for my brother because he has raised 3 spoiled little brats with no manners.

If you have something constructive to add about your parenting experience then do so. If you think having physically born a child gives you magical insight into the world then please share it, but others who have plenty of experience can share there insight too.

Also, women should be able to breast feed anywhere they want, it's a completely natural thing that's been occurring forever.

I'd think the stroller in a movie theatre would be an emergency hazard. Isn't there a law against that?
Panera has always been kid-friendly. I stopped going there bec there are always kids running around.

Well said Jeff!

Hey Jeff, You know what, I've put IKEA furniture together, guess that makes me a carpenter. And that time I installed a ceiling fan, must make me an electrician. I have also changed out a thermostat and replaced a toilet, so I guess I'm a HVAC tech and plumber too!

When you become a parent, please feel free to add your constructive feedback to the parenting discussion, otherwise just stick to keeping us abreast of your magical insights into babysitting and poopy diapers.

When I want useful advice on parenting however, I will call an expert.

Panera is not an office. Panera does not exist for you to get work done, no matter what you had to do to get there. Panera is a restaurant open to the public. Just because you held your tongue doesn't mean the thought wasn't there in the first place. Have you considered that you are hogging a table instead of just buying food, eating, and leaving, allowing other paying customers to sit without waiting for you to wade through academic articles? If you want to do that in a more child-free environment, might I suggest Starbucks, which is not a place where parents bring their kids to eat? And furthermore, if your kids were with grandparents and hubby was working, how come you couldn't just sit at home and work? Oh right, no air conditioning. Buy a window unit.

I belive that it is a parent's job to prepare their children to be healthy, functioning adults. I'm not saying to control them completley or treat them like little adults but I think it is important to learn there's a time and a place. My parents were great and I never felt creatively stiffled but I knew that there were times that were not about my entertainment. In Church, at fancy dinners etc I was expected to sit quietly and entertain myself. I played with my fingers, I read a book, I imagined what other people would look like as animals (we had a guy at Church who looked just like a turtle). You actually feed your child's imagination more by giving them only their own thoughts to entertain them. If you let your child believe that the world is there for their entertainment, they are going to have a frightening wake-up call when they get to their first job. Ultimately it's about creativity and fun with some boundaries.

Jeff, meet Sally. Sally, meet Jeff. You two go out, get married (or not), have a kid or two, then get back to us after you've had to spend all day, every day, year after year, with your kids, at home and out in public.

I love a thousand-word rationalization as much as the next guy, but the upshot here seems to be that the author won't hassle us about our misbehaving kids if we don't hassle her about hers. Except my kids don't misbehave, so, uhh, no deal. Nice try.


@dgc: Aren't you kind of proving Jeff's point for him? In all your examples, the simple act of doing something does not make you an expert. And yet, it seems that by your logic, the simple act of having a child makes you an expert on parenting. If that were the case, this whole thread would be pointless, as there would not be any crying/whining/misbehaving children, since all those expert parents would be handling all those problems perfectly. The ability to reproduce and the ability to parent are two separate things, no?

Lou, Nobody likes a bragger.

Yes Adam producing a child and parenting a child are two separate things. But like all of those professionals I referenced, I learned most of my parenting "on the job" or from other experienced parents. You don't get to say you are an electrician, plumber, carpenter, or HVAC tech just because you do a small job a couple of times. You have to actually do the job day in and day out for know, like parenting.

Just because I'm handy and can do a few easy jobs around the house, doesn't mean I have the balls to give advice to someone that does that job for a living. That would be incredibly rude and disrespectful, because I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. Therefore some guy that picks and chooses whom he will or will not babysit and has changed a few diapers, but has never actually parented anybody, doesn't get to give me or any other parent advice on how to do our job either.

Well, what about having the balls to say something to someone who does something for a living, but doesn't do a good job? Isn't that what we're really talking about here, anyway? I don't need to have done the job "day in and day out for years" to spot shoddy carpentry. And sure, while even the best kids of the best parents in the world have their moments, I'd be willing to be that the overlap of crappy parents to crappy kid-behavior is pretty high.

Adam: And sure, while even the best kids of the best parents in the world have their moments, I'd be willing to be that the overlap of crappy parents to crappy kid-behavior is pretty high.

"Crappy" is too strong, but +1. Poor behavior is learned, so the teacher is clearly to blame.

Where a lot of folks go wrong is failing to factor the arc of time into their parenting approach. You want a three year-old who obeys your commands without exception or delay, because safety demands it. A small child who's never been permitted a tantrum doesn't even know how to throw one, has no concept of it. Arguing about food, or anything else? Kids never allowed to argue with adults simply don't do it. This is an absolutely achievable state, no tyranny required.

That said, the worldview instilled in a three year-old is not the one you want for an eight or fourteen year-old, so the following years are an exercise in realtime recalibration and expansion of the established boundaries. Doing this well takes a lot of attention and effort -- but it's one hell of a lot easier considering the groundwork already laid. There's no room for confusion.

The short version is that if you front-load discipline, you very rarely need to enforce discipline going forward, cuz there's so much less costly friction in the relationship. Instead, you just steer, and get on with the business of being great friends with your wonderful and creative kids.

I agree with folks who realize they're not raising kids, they're raising adults, and future parents. But that doesn't quite cover it. You're also raising people who, ideally, will be your best friends. It's a big job that can't afford a sloppy start. Start strict and become permissive. Start permissive and learn over time that you didn't actually have a plan, not really.


Adam, Well then yes, you can say that carpenter did a crappy job in that instance. However you don't get to call him a crappy carpenter until you get to review more of his work. Therefore you don't get to judge someone's parenting by observing one instance in Panera.

Not to mention that a parent's "medium" is much more difficult to work with than a piece of wood (no matter what Lou says).

Parenting is one of those things in life that you have to experience for yourself, like falling in love, breastfeeding and having an orgasim. No matter how much you talk about it, or watch other people do it, you just don't comprehend it...and you have no business offering other people advice on it until you actually do experience it.

Well, I guess there's no point in discussing this further then, right? Since, as an adult with no children, I just couldn't possibly have any insight into how someone might be able to look at parenting from a slightly different angle, or make any sort of valid opinion on how a child is being raised. I wonder, though, just how far do you take this reasoning? Should we not be able to have or offer opinions on politics, if we have not held political office? Or have an opinion on art or music if we are not ourselves the creative type? Seems like a dangerous and weirdly pompous outlook to me.

Adam, Here go ahead and check out this link, and then take a look at it again if you ever have a kid. Everybody thinks they can do it better...until they actually have to do it.

BTW, Adam if you are looking at a work of art or listening to a piece of music, you are experiencing it, and therefore you are entitled to an opinion on it. If you had not actually seen the art or listened to the music, then your opinion is not valid. All of us are affected by politics in our daily lives, and therefore SHOULD educate ourselves and have an opinion on it. If you get right down to it, politics is ALL about opinions and coming together with other people that agree with your opinions.

So sorry, your argument doesn't hold any water.

I'm afraid (obviously) that I just don't agree. At first you say, with regards to parenting, that you just can't know about it without doing it. That no matter what you think you might know, you just couldn't possibly really know what it's like, and so you have no right to offer an opinion. But when it comes to other things, educating yourself about it without doing it is fine, and is, in fact, the way most everyone forms opinions about lots of things. So why is parenting so different? Is it the lengthy vetting process prospective parents go through? The years and years of classes and study? The rigorous testing and retesting of skills and parenting knowledge?

And for what it's worth, while I don't have any kids of my own, and don't plan on having any either, I've got plenty of experience working with kids. Probably, in fact, more than most parents. Maybe even more than you. But, you know, they're not my kids, so what do I know, right?

Dear AOA:

For the love of (insert appropriate deity name) PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE eliminate the Soap Box feature. You have a great blog written by people who actually know how to write...except on Sunday nights. I get it, the purpose of this is to incite debate (it's called The Soap Box after all), but it brings down the quality of an otherwise excellent site.

Adam, I have four kids, I run a before and after school daycare out of my home, and I work part time in an elementary school...I have plenty of experience with kids between working with them and having my own. The difference is, the ones I work with leave at the end of the day and go home to their parents and I am not responsible for them for the rest of their lives.

I'm inclined to agree with FAU--I would say that, overall, the writing on The Soapbox isn't as high quality as the rest of the site.

ooh...see now I *love* the Soapbox feature and the discourse it prompts. It's interesting to read and learn about views and ideas that you might agree with, or even better, disagree with.

I can see how readers might find the whole "agreeing to disagree" end result of the topics tedious or annoying, but I look at it this way: at least on Sunday nights I can get my AOA fix with new content, instead of waiting until Monday!

I actually think this debate is interesting & both sides have valid points. Here's what I'd offer. Becoming a parent (as opposed to being a babysitter) creates a level of deep vulnerability you simply can't experience otherwise. You forever put your needs second. Your priorities & world views shift. And while babysitters surely have good ideas about childcare, it's a completely different prism than what a parent is looking through.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine