We visited Monterey earlier this week, and we think that town might hate children.
It was our last stop on a drive up the coast from the Los Angeles area. We checked into our hotel and my husband got online immediately, as per always. When he checked his email he got some excellent news that made us want to go out to dinner to celebrate. It was 5:30—just about right for a celebratory dinner with a two-year-old and the retirees of the area. So he Yelped “family friendly restaurant,” and came up with the Old Fisherman’s Grotto. It was on Fisherman’s Wharf and sure to be a tourist trap. But even if the food was marginal, we figured it would be fun to let Frida run around the wharf and see the boats and sea lions. The first thing we saw when we arrived at Old Fisherman’s Grotto was a big red sign that said something like: “No Strollers, No High Chairs, No Booster Seats, we hate children.” Something like that—check out the actual hideous thing below.
You know a really good way to make sure kids scream and run around your restaurant (FWIW I would never let Frida run around a restaurant)? Don’t give them a booster seat or high chair. It makes squirming and escaping from the table super fun. Also, little did I know the local CBS station had done a story on the grumpy establishment in July:
So we were like screw you guys and moved on. We ended up at Rappa’s Harbor View, where they gave us a booster seat and a children’s menu. The view was fantastic. The vibe was 100 percent tourist trap, but I mean we were at Fisherman’s Wharf. And the food was not bad! I had seafood risotto and the mister had salmon. The little had a some of each of ours, but mostly she enjoyed, fairly quietly, familiarizing herself with the booster seat at our booth table. It was her first experience with one, and sliding off of it proved to be fun times. Towards the end of the meal, she discovered she could slide off the booster, go underneath the table and pop up on the opposite side. It induced happy cackles though I don’t believe (honest) that it was terribly disruptive to anyone but us. Her activity was confined to the interior side of the booth, and the place was huge with the closest table at least five feet away. Still, I quickly attempted to put an end to it, knowing that all fun in restaurants with a 2-year-old escalates into something terrible eventually.
That’s when she protested. It was a fun game and she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight. So I gave Kourosh The Look(tm) and said, “TAKE HER.” He already had his sights on whisking her away and they were gone in a flash. I waited at the table to pay the bill. That’s when I noticed the woman sitting across from us. She and her husband appeared to be in their 60s.
“Are you leaving?” she asked.
“Yes, soon,” I said. “Did you want the booth?” It was the only reason I could figure why she’d ask?
“No,” she said. “If they were coming back, we were going to ask to move to a different table.”
“Excuse me?” The blood, she began to boil.
“I don’t like eating at a restaurant with children around,” she said.
“Well then maybe you shouldn’t go to restaurants, because children exist,” I said.
“When we took our children to restaurants, we took them outside if they acted up,” she said.
“I don’t know if you noticed but that’s what my husband just did.” That’s when her husband decided he’d put a stop to this silly bickering with his voice that was deeper than ours.
“THAT’S ENOUGH LADIES.”
“She started up with me.” Oh hey high school flashback.
“No she didn’t,” he said.
“Oh yes she sure did,” I said. “Maybe you should move anyway because they might come back.”
And they got up and left. I’m not sure if they left the restaurant or just moved. And I wouldn’t care, except that they had already ordered (Kourosh says he heard them do so before he whisked our offensive child away) so I hope they did not leave the waiter in a lurch.
As I left, a cute, young couple from New Orleans asked what happened. They couldn’t believe it. The guy of the pair complimented me on my “aplomb” in handling the situation. So there’s that!
Our Monterey experience was a reality check. There are many people out there who dislike kids. I mean, we knew that, intellectually, but to experience it was another thing. We are so giddy to have this little girl in our lives that it hurts our brains to imagine unkind thoughts towards her. We do the best we can—we’re not oblivious to others and we always, always remove her from a restaurant if she’s being disruptive. But, I got to thinking, you can’t do that on a plane, and we’ve had some gnarly, screamy flights. No one on a flight has been as rude as this woman was (yet), but after a bit of Googling, I’m shocked none of my flights has ended in a slap fight and me escorted from the plane in handcuffs.
This 2009 Salon article discusses an incident in which a mother and her 2-year-old son got kicked off a Southwest flight because he was being loud. The author of the article starts out saying, “As a society, we do not have enough respect for harried moms (and dads, but it’s usually moms) or sympathy for cranky kids, generally speaking. I believe this is an important feminist issue.” Yes, more of that, please. But she goes on to emphasize that a parent is faultless only if the she is trying her best to calm the unruly kid. Because some parents, she says, appear to do nothing when their kids get crazy, and those parents are to be judged and scorned.
“Appear” is the key word, here. At a certain point, you’ve tried everything. Elmo, peekaboo, itsy bitsy spider, wheels on the bus, begging, pleading, bargaining, scolding, threatening. Sometimes NOTHING WORKS. Then what? At that point, the parent may appear to be doing nothing, because she has given up on life and wants to cry (or may already be, as I totally have). And it’s at this point, in my opinion, that tolerance comes in. When a kid is being a maniac, no one is suffering more than the parent or parents. Have pity, fellow humans! Trust me, they would do pretty much anything to make their child stop screaming/kicking/writhing around. Also the comments in that article are terrifying. People really hate children.
I don’t know the answer. But I think one truth is the world needs more tolerance. In his own way, that’s what Mark Julianelle is saying in this this Huffington Post article, in response to folks who offer goody bags to fellow passengers (which we have totally done, and now I kind of regret, especially since one passenger asked for cash instead-she may have been joking I don’t know) as pre-emptive apologies for their potentially annoying child. Julianelle’s goody bag includes a challenge to a fist fight, along with the following:
Drink Coupon: For one warm mug of SHUT THE HELL UP if you ever get the urge to b*tch about a 2-year-old
Compact Mirror: So you can take a good look at yourself and consider what kind of person gets pissed off at parents traveling with a toddler who’s making their lives much more miserable than he’s making yours.
Obviously I love him. But the comment thread in that article is also beyond horrifying. Tolerance, people. And love! It’s what the world needs now. It couldn’t hurt, anyway.
Her gestures are very distracting. But I loved this song so much as a kid.
UPDATE: After publishing this post, this is the ad that got fed to my front page:
PERMANENT birth control, people. Something to consider.