Other patrons look on admiringly.
USY PARENTS with young children are impressing diners in fine eateries across the country with their uncanny ability to enjoy a splendid meal while the kiddies scream and whine or run amok around the tables of complete strangers.
"I really admire them," remarked one diner while rubbing his temples. "I came here intending to relax and enjoy a nice, quiet dinner with my wife, and now I have a splitting headache. That's amazingand it's all because these parents can eat dinner and talk together while their little children scream and run around like they're in their very own living room. I've never been able to multitask like that."
Among the parenting skills identified as one of the pinnacles of bad is what child-rearing experts call the "Useless Hushing Maneuver." Usually expressed by one or more parents uttering a "shhh" sound at their heedless tikes, the Useless Hushing Maneuver can also take the form of what experts call "a pointless little lecture about being quiet because other people are in the restaurant. This highly sophisticated technique leaves other patrons feeling momentarily expectant that the noise will subside, rendering the subsequent return to original noise levels that much more impressive."
Experts warn parents not to rely overly much on any single technique, however, as its uselessness will eventually bore even perfect strangers and lead them to think the parents are not really that skilled at multitasking after all.
Shouted one patron over the screams of a stranger's child parked under his table, "If parents are shooshing their kids every three seconds, I've got to think, 'Are these people capable of taking more than one bite before they're as distracted as I am? What kind of multitasking is that, anyway?' You kind of lose respect. I said YOU KIND OF LOSE RESPECT!!"
Diners out for an intimate dinner for two seem to be the ones most impressed with the multitasking repertoire of bad parents.
Said one young woman hoping for a proposal tonight from her boyfriend over dinner, "This little girl keeps coming over and staring at me while she picks her nose. Then her mom shouts, 'Jennifer, stop bothering the nice lady. Come back to the table.' I am just so impressed, that if Jack pops the question tonight I'll accept only on condition that we never have children. Because no way could I multitask like these parents. Waiter, could I get another martini? I don't usually drink much. Oh, here she comes again. I am so inspired by you Jennifer, with your finger up your nose, that I just want to drink to your friggin' health."
Alternatives commonly used by run-of-the-mill parents, such as hiring a babysitter, are viewed by the multitasking bad-parent cohort as a crutch, or even as one bad parent said, "really lame. Like we're going to spring for a babysitter when we can all go to the nice restaurant together. And you know, once we're there, I don't even hear the kids. It's like a little vacation."
"That's amazing," reiterated the diner with the splitting headache. "I mean, they're incredible at multitasking, whereas I think I'm going to throw up."
© 3.31.10 Kate Heidel