November 09, 2005

Do Our Kids Bother You?

As a parent of rowdy and formerly rowdy children, I've often tried to make them sit in their seats and keeps their voices down in restaurants and cafes -- with mixed success. Thankfully, it's no longer a problem; at age 8 and 10, Agents 95 and 97 are sophisticates who love nothing more than to sit in a cafe over a good book or a sheet of homework or (somewhat more dangerously because it raises the level of excited interaction) a video game with the sound turned off. Much credit is due to their elder models and periodic cafe companions, Agents 81 and 83.

According to the NYT, a nationwide conflict is developing between the childed and the unchilded. Cafe owners have posted signs advising parents to control their little ones. (The signs' wording tends to be classically false-friendly.) Parents have responded with boycotts. A Chicago mother says of a complaining cafe owner, "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day."" The cafe owner replies that the mothers among his clientele are "former cheerleaders and beauty queens" who "have a very strong sense of entitlement."

It's one of those right-versus-right situations, it seems to me. I can understand an adult's not wanting his leisure hours disturbed by a stranger's child's cranky voice. Most offensive, though, are the places that claim to be friendly to mothers and children but that disprove it by their behavior -- like the feminist bookstore, Women and Children First, where a male clerk asked a woman to stop breastfeeding. "'[T]he neighborhood set him straight real fast,' said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman."

Read all about it here.