Spoiler alert: I try to stick mainly to writing faintly amusing posts on here (at least, I hope they are) but sometimes I need to let off steam about something and this is one of those times. You have been warned!
Recently, our enjoyment of a quiet, relaxing meal out was spoiled by two rather precocious young girls, their brother and their parents, who were all sitting nearby. The girls were allowed to run up and down the busy restaurant, inbetween the tables, getting in everyone’s way and posing a serious health and safety hazard the whole time they weren’t in their seats (which was most of the time we were there). Perhaps the staff trying to dodge round them should have said something very firmly to them, since the parents made no apparent effort to stop them. Perhaps we should have said something, ourselves. (Afterwards, we learned that the manager on duty that evening HAD remonstrated with the parents earlier on but was clearly ignored. That’s a great life lesson they’re teaching their children, isn’t it?) We found it all very irritating and not in the slightest bit charming or beguiling, as their doting parents seemed to. At one point, both girls were told to dance (right next to our table), and to stand on the benches they had been sitting on, to pose for their parents’ phone camera!
Maybe I’m showing my age, here, but I don’t care. When I was that young, we were told to behave ourselves in public, to stop showing off (if indeed we were) and that “nobody is interested in/looking at you.” Going out for a meal with our parents was a rare treat and we would not have wanted to jeopardise any similar future treats. Certainly, we would never have been encouraged to stand on seats that somebody else would be sitting on afterwards!
Now, it seems, the opposite extreme is considered the acceptable norm. Children are encouraged to “express themselves” more. In a way, of course, this is a good thing – but only up to a point. It’s hard to believe, I know, but not all of us are endlessly fascinated by others’ offspring – even if we like children (and, generally, myself and my OH do). But seriously, please, no “expressing yourself” in public, in a very busy restaurant, with plates of hot food and drinks being ferried about everywhere. And most certainly not at the expense of others who are just out for a pleasant meal! If an accident had occurred, I wonder who the parents would have blamed first?
It’s a very sore point with us atm, in any case, as we are forced, on a daily (and nightly) basis, to listen to next-door’s children (and their parents) “expressing themselves” through very thin walls, grrr. Again, at their age, we lived in dread and fear of “what the neighbours would say” and were brought up to consider others’ needs before our own. I would love to know at what point in society we did a complete U-turn on manners, respect and consideration for others. This a huge bugbear for me, and for others I know. (Watch this space for a future (deadly serious) blog on the subject.) Can anyone enlighten us, please?
Back to the restaurant: we know, from talking to the waiting staff there, and also at other places, that this is a common problem. Parents, wanting a relaxing meal out themselves, seem to willingly hand over responsibility for their offspring the minute they sit at their table, letting them run riot about the place. I repeat: this is what we have been told happens – and more often than not, unfortunately – plus, we have witnessed it ourselves, on many occasions. Of course, there are going to be polite, responsible parents out there, but perhaps they eat elsewhere, at other times, or maybe they just wait patiently for their children to grow up a bit more before inflicting the little darlings on the rest of society?
Perhaps large signs are needed, somewhere everyone can see them, to remind parents that their child is their responsibility wherever they are and, as such, to keep an eye on them/keep them under control at all times. It’s incredible that such a thing is even needed, but clearly it is, unfortunately.
On another occasion, the back door of a restaurant we were dining in was opened a fraction to let some cooler air in on a particularly sultry summer’s evening. The next minute, my OH had leapt up from our table and gone rushing outside – to rescue a small child from a nearby table, who was now standing in the middle of the busy main road. Neither of its parents had noticed; the father was on his phone and the mother looking elsewhere. “We don’t know this area” was her extremely feeble excuse when her child was returned by my furious partner – thankfully unharmed.
I can see that, if this lack of responsible behaviour carries on, sooner or later there’s going to be a terrible accident – and I for one don’t want to have to witness it!