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Mothering › Child Articles › To the Angry Woman at the Restaurant Giving My Child the Evil Eye:

To the Angry Woman at the Restaurant Giving My Child the Evil Eye:


Dear angry woman at the restaurant giving my child the evil eye,

We obviously have very different opinions on how to raise children.  I gathered that you probably take your preferences from the outdated & destructive school of thought that children are to be seen & not heard.  I, on the other hand, base my philosophy on attachment theory—a field of study involving psychological & evolutionary theories, which, when applied to parenting, show that happy, strongly attached children grow into happy, healthy adults.  Our world is in desperate need of happy, healthy adults (if you haven’t noticed).


I understand there are drastically varying views on how children should behave in public.  Some people truly believe that kids should be seen & not heard.  As a general disclaimer, you should know that when I had a child, I never intended to make him bend to the bizarre whims of our unfriendly culture. I believe in honoring my 3-year-old child while respecting our environment—which does not equate to spoiling him, nor does it mean I let him “run wild” in public.  He’s pretty mild (& hilarious) these days, but as a toddler, if he was banging on the table in a restaurant (which is a developmentally normal way for a toddler to attempt to explore his surroundings), I’d remind him to keep his hands quiet or I’d distract him, but I would never hiss threats at him or grab his wrists to cause pain, as I have seen some parents do in an attempt to control their child.  Maybe it’s true that a young child whose wrist hurts won’t bang on the table again.  Maybe it’s true that my gentle guidance isn’t as immediately effective, & you’ll have to hear the annoying sound more than once.   You might even have to hear my son burst into song at some point during the meal. It’s a rough life for the public diner.


Something I have discovered is that kids will be noisy whether their parents treat them kindly or harshly.  I could threaten to spank my child for being loud in a restaurant, or I can gently remind him to be quiet, but kids are still going to make noise sometimes, no matter how much you try to control them.  I have been around plenty of kids who are spanked, threatened, given time-outs, & various other forms of punitive punishment—all of them make noise, all of them want to explore their surroundings, all of them have big emotions sometimes.


With that said, my child wasn’t being loud.  You might not have even noticed that there were two kids at the table, because my friend Crystal’s daughter was asleep in her lap the whole time we were eating.   I know my son wasn’t being loud, because he was respecting the fact that his friend was sleeping.  What bothered you was the 5-minute trot we did around the restaurant while my friend & I were paying our respective checks.  First I went to the register while Crystal took her 24-month-old daughter & my son over to the cool goddess fountain in the corner.  Then Crystal paid while I watched the kids as they (gasp!) meandered through the restaurant toward the exit.  There was no one else in the restaurant. As we walked by your table, you slammed your fork down.  The woman you were eating with didn’t make eye contact or say anything, but she looked as cold as you.


We’re having a meeting,” you said angrily.


I knew you both looked like you weren’t having a good time.  But because our kids were actually being quiet for children their age, simply walking past your table while chatting (yes, loudly) in their sing-songy way, I assumed you were discussing an unpleasant matter or were of naturally foul disposition.  As it turns out, the latter might be correct.


This isn’t Chuck-E-Cheese,” you told Crystal.  Yeah. . . We know that.  We were at an Indian restaurant, a family-run business, which I’ve been going to since long before I had my son.  The woman who runs the place always comes out to check on us & she seems to adore not only my child, but all of the children I’ve seen in her restaurant.  I interviewed the male owner for a school paper & my son came with (because I am a single parent with very limited options for childcare & because I love taking him with me everywhere).  During our conversation he started banging a fork on the table while singing.  I (gently) took the fork & (nicely) told him he needed to be quiet so I could finish my conversation.  The owner said something along the lines of, “No, mama, let him play,” & gave my son back his fork.  That sweet interaction prompted me to text my friend Jesse (an American who travels to India often) to ask him if Indian parents are like Americans in their belief that children should be seen & not heard.  My friend Jesse’s response was: “Lol hell no!”  He went on to detail his perception that Indian parents let their kids be kids.  They hold appropriate expectations of their children, & according to my friend, their kids are better behaved than their US counterparts.  Most likely because they feel positive, understood, & honored.


But that’s not the point.  It doesn’t matter how you believe kids should act in public or how you believe their parents should punish them.  It doesn’t matter what I believe either.  One thing is certain, as Crystal pointed out– we were in a public restaurant. You chose to have your meeting in a restaurant that does not offer anything even resembling privacy.  The restaurant’s seating area is a single square room with open booths & tables; you WILL be hearing your neighbors’ conversations.  Children are allowed there.  I present the small candy-dispensing machine in the vestibule & the dish of suckers by the cash register as evidence that children are actually welcome there. It’s also just a reasonable expectation that if you venture into public, you might hear a child.   Children have emotions; you might be witness to that.  You might hear a baby crying, or a person talking loudly on a cell phone.  Someone wearing too much cologne might walk past you.  It’s terrible times out there.


I am not saying parents should allow their kids to do whatever, whenever. Please understand this.  Children need guidance, some more than others, especially in closed-in situations.  That’s why I love going to spacious parks & playgrounds—my child is allowed to free-range without having to conform to the cranky adult version of the world.  But my son & his toddler friend do really well in public most days.  They are both learning how to communicate their needs in a healthy way, both rarely cry, & neither has “tantrums.”  They are “good kids;” boisterous, talkative, & funny.  In fact, I’m not sure what about them bothered you so much.


Which leads me to the conclusion that maybe you were planning a funeral or something.  Maybe your dog just died, or you lost your job & you’re feeling the weight of the broken economy on your shoulders.  Maybe a lot of sad things have happened to you in your life that somehow makes the normal behavior of children exceptionally irritating to you.  Maybe when you were a child you were hurt for acting like a child.


If you were having a bad day, I’m sorry our kids were a bother.  I try to have compassion, & I would spare a grieving person annoyance if I could.  But the truth is, I don’t know your circumstances, & we have to share this space.  I do know that my son & his friend are a pleasant addition to most public scenarios. We were polite & kind, & we raise kids who behave the same way.  You were not.  You spoke furiously at us for no logical reason, which is just a lame thing to do in front of kids.  You tried to shame us, but it didn’t work.  I smiled & told you we were leaving soon.  You said “Good, the sooner the better.”  Crystal told you we were in a child-friendly restaurant; you said we were annoying.  Something I find more annoying than a child is an adult who holds their preferences above the rights of a child.  I feel that my friend & I did our parts to fulfill the general contract of decency that individuals presumably enter into when we venture into public. You did not, for whatever reason.  To assist you in behaving in a more decent manner when you’re in a public space with a child in the future, consider reading about healthy child development, secure attachment, & gentle parenting.   It may give you some perspective & help you empathize with children rather than try to control them.




Eating seaweed salad at a sushi restaurant.



My son & his friend sitting sweetly.



He’s my date pretty much everywhere.  The world is gonna have to deal.


Kristen Tea

About Kristen Tea

I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.

Comments (56)

Oh hell yeah! Kristen you nailed it, I only wish that woman will end up reading this.
Well said. I believe this is a scinerio that most mothers can appreciate.
Love everything you said here. I am a mom of 4 and a grammy of 3. The sound of children laughing, talking and playing is one of the most beautiful songs in the world. Bless you for treating your child with respect and love.
Thanks for sharing this...totally made me smile. I have a very lively 3 year old who often makes his presence known no matter where we are in public...restaurants, bookstores, etc but I love his energy and wouldn't want it any other way. Oh... and I'm glad you weren't at Chuck-E-Cheese- that place is scary:-)!
What is most disturbing about this woman's behavior is that her expectation of a small child to not act out in any way, shape or form had to be heard. I can only imagine if it were your son's birthday and you sang him happy birthday. What nuisances you would have been to her then!
I'm so sorry you had to deal with someone so rude! I hope this letter finds her one way or another. :)
Thank you for this! I feel this pain most when traveling on a plane, ughhh!
She's probably the type of person who talks on her cell in public. Children aren't the only ones who can be disruptive in public.
Wow that lady was beyond rude! You did am awesome job writting this. Mad props!
I loved this! I have an almost 3 yr old. In my experiences grumpy older women who obviously forgot what it was like to raise children and younger women are the most judgmental and quick to give a dirty look. I can't tell you how many times people of these two groups have said "looks like someone is tired" if he has a tantrum in public. I really wish I had the nerve to say you must need a nap to the next grumpy person I encounter :)
First, let me start off by saying I'm a mother of two, and the oldest of five children. I've been a professional nanny at several points in my lifetime. Normally, I'd like to agree with everything you said, in spirit, Kristen, but the simple fact of the matter is I don't. On more than one occasion in my lifetime, I've paid to go to a restaurant and had my TOTAL experience ruined by parents and children that simply do NOT know how to behave appropriately and sensitively in public. Oftentimes, when I'm going to a restaurant, it's for a bit of respite, a bit of calm, as a break in my crazy life as a single mother of two. As a mother, and an adult human I have this to say: 1) Going a restaurant or any other public occasion is NOT a right, it is a privilege, and that privilege is contingent upon people knowing how to behave appropriately and graciously and well. I'd have the same issues, only faster with a hairy adult male who hadn't bathed and insisted upon dancing upon the table. Your rights as a parent, a mother and a human being do NOT extend so far as to ruin other people's experiences just because you happen to think there's nothing wrong with how your children are acting. The experience is NOT yours only, nor do you have the right to do whatever you want to do, just because you want to do it. That extends to not inflicting your very young children upon other people, just because you think it'd be cool to be able to go to a restaurant. Yes, it'd be cool, but like I said, it's not necessarily your right, ESPECIALLY if your children are not old enough to know how to behave yet. If that's the case either buy lunch and go to the park where they can run around, or stay at home and invite other moms and kids to come over. Keep it at home until they're civilized. (And believe me, I KNOW that can take a LONG ASS TIME. I didn't sit down from the time my son learned to toddle until he was in Kindergarten, some five years. I KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE!!!) 2) Sometimes, having children and having to deal with their behaviour in public is just about the same as dealing with a drunk and belligerant person, and on about the same level. 3) I UNDERSTAND, believe me, I do, about the fact that the only way children can learn how to behave in public is if they are given the chance to practice. But I also need to state that while your or my children are learning that skill, that there will for SURE be times when those same precious children need to be picked up and taken out of said public place--a parental response which I see damn FEW, if any parents ever engage in. Let me be REALLY clear here again: Your (or my) children DO NOT HAVE the right to disturb other people, NOR do they have the right to continue to misbehave and disturb people, just because they're children, and just because you've paid for a meal or gone to church or the supermarket on any given day. If they are being a pain in the ass, or if someone even suggests they are, pay your check, get it to go, and take the kids to the park, PERIOD. You'll be doing EVERYBODY a kindness. Try again next year, when they're older and more experienced and their brains have had even more chances to mature and learn. And another thing? Parents ALWAYS seem to be the last ones to get when it's time to go. Clean that up before you rant, 'k? If everyone in the place is glaring, it's WAY past time to go. Go to the kids' room at the local library. Go to a Children's Museum. Go anywhere, but do NOT take them inside a public place if they can't behave quietly and respectfully yet.
@ Kim - I HAVE said that to a grumpy person...or two!
Sounds like that lady and her friend need to have some sensitivity training and manners classes. I just don't understand why some people look at children with such disdain. My children are my life and so I just can't wrap my head around it. I applaud your grace and class in such a hostile situation. P.S. your little one and his friend look like little sweethearts! : )
Who are you talking to? Surely not me, since I described that the children involved were NOT being loud or rude or inappropriate at all. They were released from their seats to explore for approximately 5 minutes while we paid our bills. THAT was apparently too much for this incredibly rude woman. I am not sure your stories relate. Either way, children have as much right to be in public as anyone else, so, again, you're going to have to learn to deal with it :) I am not sure why you keep repeating that kids don't have the right to be themselves in public, because they most definitely do, unless the environment is a strictly child-free zone. If children in public bothers you or anyone else, y'all can hit up the child-free joints & leave the rest of the world to us.
I also enjoy spending time with my son. And while enjoy the (very) occasional few hours without him, I don't see how not taking him anywhere will help him to learn "acceptable" public behavior. I've definitely gotten dirty looks. And I have felt very overwhelmed at times. But at the end of the day, my son's dignity is more important to me than if someone else had an issue with him pounding his spoon on the table. By the way, people wearing too much cologne are FAR more of a public nuisance than a whole herd of toddlers in a restaurant. ;) Also, we frequent two family owned Indian restaurants. I've never felt unwelcomed by them either. One of the men working once smiled and nodded while I nursed my son in a sling as I filled my plate at the buffet. They are a lot more understanding of a child's needs.
YOU may have to learn not to care ;) I can see being upset at rudeness, and I have been where you are. But parenting does not get easier, and the expectations just get more complex and harder to nail down. I can hear your frustration, anger, and... if you intended it or not... defensive hostility. And, as I've said, I've been a hurt and mad toddler mama before. But I found I had to not care as much. If you are in an appropriate place, and, as you said, your child was in reasonable limits, the problem is theirs- let it pass and not weigh you down. This public judgement will not change or go away. Next it will be the granny who "sweetly" tells you that boys don't wear pink shoes. Or the other parents at the park who tell your older child they are "too rough" because they only have toddlers and can't imagine what a 7 yr old is like and that they want to play on the playground too. Parenting is a process of focus. The focus is on your child. The other people will pass out of your life in seconds. To give them this amount of energy is a waste.
Kristen, I get why you wrote this--you needed to vent, and that's cool. But you know what? Just look at it this way. You ran into a grump at a restaurant. Oh well. As you yourself said, "It's a rough life for the public diner." Just as the grump has to suffer your child, you have to suffer the grump, because grumps are out there. Like it or not, there's a big chunk of people out there who aren't thrilled about small children at restaurants/on airplanes/whatever, and articles like this pitying them for not being kinder and more understanding of your parenting choices are not going to make a whit of difference. I have a small child myself. She goes where I go; if she misbehaves, some people are kind about it, and some are jerks. Whatevs.
Actually, I wrote it as a testament to attachment parenting, as well as commentary on our culture's backwards attitude toward children :) The information contained in this post may not make a difference to the haters out there, but a few people have said it will comfort them & keep them strong when they bring their kids in public so that's good.
FWIW I have two dogs and I take them out in public too--to dog-friendly places, naturally, but sometimes just out on public streets or parks or playgrounds where they aren't prohibited. Some people don't like dogs and are sh*tty about them being out and about. It's the same thing. I'm not breaking any laws so...who cares? It's a fact of life that a lot of people don't like kids or animals.
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