Some Kids Should Be Banned – Blame it on the FWOBs
Here’s a surprise. Airlines, some movie theaters, restaurants and even shops don’t want noisy kids around. Earlier this summer, Malaysia Airlines banned kids from some of its first-class cabins. Then a restaurant in Pennsylvania made the news with a ban on kids under 6. The other day I noticed our corner store near Wimbledon has a sign on the door that forbids more than two kids entering the shop at a time. I was pretty shocked – our neighbourhood is made up mostly of families with young children – but I get it.
The last few decades have seen the rise of the FWOBs (families with-out boundaries). Their houses look like Chuck E. Cheese’s. At shops, their toddlers pull items off shelves without returning them, and at restaurants their precious little ones mull over menus as harried waitresses pretend to find it all so charming. They’re the ones in the business class lounges with the loud kids, who they occasionally shush with an “inside voice please,” as if it’s okay to scream outside.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a mom too, of a two-year-old. It’s not like I believe that children should be “seen, but not heard.” I just don’t want to hear them all the time. If we can’t control our kids, then companies may be justified in doing it for us.
The best advice I ever got on child rearing came from my friend Cathy. She said “raise your kids not to be annoying to others.” She didn’t mean shut them up or curb their spirit. She meant don’t let them kick the chair in front of them on a plane or let strangers babysit them on a train or pretend not to notice as they deposit the contents of a restaurant table on the floor. It’s important in life to learn to be likeable. (My friend’s daughter married a billionaire, so I follow whatever advice she offers.)
My husband and I came to parenting late. We were DINKs (dual income no kids) until our 40s and I guess our tolerance for annoying child behaviour is low. We want our daughter to feel well-loved, but not feel like she’s the center of the universe.
Another friend, Channing, always seems to get it right and so I often copy her parenting. We used to eat at their house a lot when their kids were young. We’d spend about 30 minutes reading and playing with the kids and then they were sent to bed. Perfect. I love my friends’ kids, but I didn’t come to dinner to play with them all night.
Last night, we had our own dinner party. A new French-Senegalese friend said the problem in the west is that we no longer allow strangers to tell our kids to behave. Even if they’re throwing sand in other kids’ eyes or tossing trash on the sidewalk, adults are supposed to ignore it. In France, she said, we view children as part of society and so we all have an interest in seeing they behave. If a kid is acting up in public, she said, you can be sure someone’s grandmother will say something.
And so there we were – including me and all my good parenting intentions – around the table after eight. Our daughter should have been in bed, but she was excited by the guests and wouldn’t go to sleep without a fuss. We let her linger rather than put her to bed as we should have. At one point, she was eating two breadsticks covered in hummus and making a mess. When she reached for a third, the French husband, said, “you can’t have it, it’s mine.” Our daughter backed off. I wasn’t annoyed in the least. I only wished I’d gotten her to behave myself.
Soon after, I put her to bed. I’m crazy about my daughter, but the evening wasn’t about her. It’s important she understands that not everything is.
Image by dariuszka.
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