Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Here's to Etiquette and the Return of Inside Voices

Okay, I'll confess right up front: I don't have children. I love kids, but I don't have any of my own--at this time. Nevertheless, I have to applaud the owners of businesses that serve food and beverage to the masses who are asking parents to rein their children in when they patronize certain establishments. See this article for more detail.

I'm sure raising children today is no piece of cake, but between the cell phone gabbers and the screaming children, etiquette and manners seem to be going to hell in a hand basket in this country.

Having said that, though, I know my siblings and I were raised to be aware of our settings and to behave accordingly in those settings. My parents didn't tolerate running all over the store, touching everything, and screaming at the top of our lungs or crawling under the dinner table at home or in restaurants. In fact, my father often and repeatedly told us when we would get out of line, "Keep it up and you're going to the car." It took being banished to the car once with Dad and we straightened up pretty quickly.

To this day, my siblings and I can't go into a store or gift shop without first putting our hands in our pockets (the result of Mom's continual admonition: "Don't touch anything" because she didn't want to have to buy whatever we might break.)

And we never got away with being allowed to disrupt church and run around in the foyer of the church either. (No small feat, given how noisy Mormon worship services can be.) My Dad would pick us up out of the pew, take us out, hold us, and stand in a corner with the misbehaving child facing said corner until said child calmed down. We quickly learned that that wasn't any fun and we'd rather sit quietly in the worship service with whatever quiet diversionary activity my Mom had schlepped along (i.e. a picture book or a piece of paper and a pencil), then stare at a wall.

In other words, my parents didn't reward bad manners and tantrums.

So, here's to the businesses that are asking all of us--adults and kids--to use our inside voices and to behave ourselves when we're out in public.


Adriana Velez said...

Harrumph. This is why I live in Park Slope. The kids have taken over the neighborhood. Adults who don't like it can stay in Manhattan.

Swizzies said...

I have to admit, when I was little, my family did go to restaurants still quite a bit. I remember having to behave very well in those places, and no shenanigans allowed - this included using proper table manners, the correct utensil, napkin in your lap, one hand at a time, blah blah blah. I can't see how it damaged me or my siblings to have public manners - we weren't beaten or anything. But it was a sacrifice on my parents' part (well, usually my mother's), as the loud/naughty child would be taken outside until they could behave. My mother once spent our entire mealtime out in the car with my screaming 2-year-old sister. But what's wrong w/ putting a little bit of manners around public spaces? I don't think that should cause a battle between them what has kids and them what don't...?? What's up with things these days? It seems like EVERY issue in the US becomes very quickly polarized now - parents defensive and pissed, non-parents (or other quiet advocates) self-righteous and pissed and both lobbing bombs at the other side...??? Instant rhetorical war - was everyone always this touchy, or am I just now noticing it? Also, I have definitely noticed that public behavior of children is still quite monitored and controlled here - I haven't heard a crying child in a restaurant even once here that I can think of. Not that I'm suggesting everyone be as repressed as the Swiss... :-)