Children Should Be Seen, But Not Here

Dessert wine and coffee
photo credit: robertpaulyoung

EFORE I BEGIN, please note my disclaimer: I have no children. But I do appreciate some of them. Especially those from infancy through age six or seven, who are either speechless by profession or capable of admiration, nay, worship, of me simply because I do not need permission to wear makeup, or because I carry keys that open something other than a secret diary. I used to extend the upper age limit to eight- or nine-year-olds, but those kids now are heading gun-running syndicates, prostitution rings, and beverage stands where lemon drink is passed off as real lemonade.

My complaint is that parents are bringing their tikes to establishments I could swear were once restricted by law to those of at least draft age. I lay the blame entirely on my own generation—baby boomers—who have ruthlessly carried over the communal philosophy of our carefree younger days into present-day public life. The result is that all of us adults who go out into the world, looking forward to adult companionship, find this whole bring-your-baby theme to feel a bit like an infestation. Obviously I mean that in the best possible way. But, parents, your bringing children to once adult-centered locales can inspire otherwise normal folks to fall into pathetic depressions right there on the spot. I have personally observed:

- the spontaneous low moaning of workhouse blues;

- the splitting into multiple personalities so that at least one of us can enjoy itself;

- the uncontrollable opening of a diaper service.

Parents, perhaps you might consider a social experiment: For two weeks, refrain from bringing your little ones to, say, fine restaurants and to church. (Which is not to say Sunday School. It is to say church.)

Now, I am the first to admit I do not attend Sunday services every single year, however on those occasions when I do roll out of bed before 11:00 a.m. on a weekend, I am here to report that they have gotten entirely out of hand. We are thinking church is our personal little day-care center, aren't we? We are not utilizing the perfectly good child-care room located in the basement—where it has been located since the beginning of time—are we?

No, instead we are shaking our restless infants like cocktails, while we wave rattles the approximate volume of jack hammers in their incredulous faces. With what's left of our attention, we are shooshing our toddlers in what we would genuinely describe as a whisper until one of them shouts, "But I have to go POOPY!" At which predictable moment we sidle out from the middle of the pew with our kids, plus the luggage requirements of a Rolling Stones World Tour. Three questions come to mind:

- Have we heard the lessons of our pastor? Because I kind of thought this was the whole point.

- Have we heard of aisle seats?

- Have we considered taking up missionary work in that other hemisphere? I hear it's quite pleasant pretty much year-round.

And then there are better restaurants. You remember, don't you, that before around 1989 you were able to enjoy the quiet of a linen-draped table for a delightful evening of fine dining with friends, your lover, or other strictly adult companions of your choice?— you know, the ting of wine glasses, the play of soft candlelight, the silky lilt of a saxophone? Please kiss these images goodbye, and immediately replace with:

- the percussion stylings of Wanda, four-year-old prodigy on the heating vent, who this evening regales us with "Six Feet of Grating and a Metal Fork" (approximate running time: 75 minutes); or

- numerous table-thumping visits from a lively pair of fourth graders who regard you as "home plate," largely because they regard Mom and Dad's table as "third base," from which it is their night-long requirement to steal; or

- colicky baby Jessica/Justin, who is not, I think, complaining so much about the gaminess of the paté as expressing due angst over how one's diaper has gone all squooshy on one again.

Parents, we are thinking there is no difference between a fine-dining establishment and a backyard barbeque, aren't we? We don't notice the death rays piled on our table like ticker tape at a World Series parade, do we?

It's really so simple. Seeing how you've gone through with the child-bearing ritual, all you need do is complement it with the find-a-baby-sitter ritual, or the stay-at-home ritual. And this only until the little ones reach legal drinking age, when I do believe your gig is up.

As for me, I promise to do everything in my power to assist you in this most generous and deeply appreciated endeavor.

Well, no, I'm not available to baby-sit, but thanks for asking.