As a known breeder, I may be more forgiving of children than those who chose not to go the family route (and god bless 'em for that).
Still, one of the most fundamental social educations a kid can receive is going out with parents to a good restaurant . Sitting at a public table is a force for civilization, and the sooner that force is felt, the better for everyone. I distinctly remember driving to a "fancy lunch" in Wisconsin with my grandfather when I was still in single digits; it taught me two important life lessons: one, good food is worth the effort; and two, eating is more enjoyable when you're being pleasant than when you're crying.
I do get a little irritated in a movie theater if a baby is bawling (more because I feel sorry for the baby – What were the parents thinking, bringing an infant to a grown-up movie?) In a restaurant, though, if a kid is making a little noise, I think that's just wonderful. We go to a lot of Mexican places, and it's common for kids to be walking around among the tables. Love of children is strong in Hispanic culture (it's strong in many cultures, of course, but in some more than others, I suspect) and it seems that most parents monitor the young ones (as do the servers and others, including me; I'm honored to offer a watchful eye).
Carolyn and I were at a restaurant a while back, and there was a mother with a baby who was going kind of crazy, crying and squirming. I made a point of making eye contact with the mother and smiling just to let her know I didn't disapprove of her offspring (and believe me, mothers with crying infants get lots of angry stares, like it's their fault for not having complete and total control over this fundamentally un-governable life force). Technically, babies and the very young can do no wrong (there are exceptions, of course: e.g., Michael Myers). Young children are in a state of nature; their impulses are basic; they're unhappy, they cry; they're happy, they laugh, naturally. When you let parents know that you appreciate their wild young ones, even when they're spiraling into kiddy chaos, the parent will be less stressed, which the kid will sense and sometimes become, in turn, calmer. At least that's my theory.
Years ago, when my oldest daughter was a loud little thing, we were sitting in an Asian place on Argyle in Chicago, and she was making a fuss. I looked up to see sports legend Bill Veeck walking by; he had a huge craggy head, kind of a like a chiseled rock face walking off Mount Rushmore. When he looked at Abigail and smiled, she stopped fidgeting and whimpering. He kept smiling at her as he said, "Hello little baby." I thought that was so cool: Veeck wasn't peeved at my noisy kid; he made a gesture of kindness toward her and us and it seemed to have a (momentary) calming effect upon her. That kind of open acceptance of children made an impression on me, too.
So if you're still casting about for a New Year's resolution, here's one for you: when dining out, be accepting of the young ones and be kind to breeders – chances are very good that you're probably related to one.
Answer Book 2017
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