Sunday, November 8, 2009

Children & Parenting

What is happening with parenting in the USA? Seriously. My friend John and I were out to dinner at Marathon Grill at 16th and Samson in Philadelphia at 8 pm on Friday night. Across from us, a table of 5 adults and two children were having their meal. What was incredible to me was the 3-4 year old standing up on the high chair and screaming, then running along the booths and playing with blinds. What was more incredible was the ineffectual attempts by the mother to control either child's behavior. After 30 minutes of this, including an episode in which both children darted away from the table (still screaming) and were in the way of servers and other guests, John lost it.

Shouting directly at the kid, "SHUT UP" in an unquestionably authoritative voice, the restaurant was swept into silence. For about 5 seconds.

The mother was offended, the presumed father was so outraged he got up lunged at my friend and had to be physically restrained by his "bros." The entire party was aghast at the nerve John had in speaking to their children.

I continued to eat my fantastic coconut shrimp and take another sip of my Pinot Grigio. Fully prepared to step up and poised with my knife in the other hand, I actually thought the scene was going to devolve into violence. It didn't and after apologies and other harsh words from them, they left. Nearly an hour later, as I was outside on my cell phone coordinating some other members of our party arriving, I noticed the "daddy" and three of his friends standing on the opposite street corner waiting to continue this in a more physical manner. They shouted at me and then finally stalked off into the lovely evening air. What did this say about them, the messages they were sending to their children and the role of decorum in public places? Apparently it is better to take offense and then violent action than to discipline your own children.

I share this because the level of kindness in public places seems to be declining. We are all to blame for this - my friend shouting, their expectation of tolerance by others, the willingness to get physical and the "pack" mentality of status and retribution. Is it any wonder we are looked at so poorly by other nations and cultures? Should we expect kindness when we are certain, as the parents were of their own moral "rightness." Perhaps we should all look more closely at our motives and feelings, thus taking responsibility for ourselves before we are so quick to blame others. We could all use a bit more kindness in our lives.

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