This Court No Longer in Session

I guess it was only a matter of time. Today, as we were dining at our local steakhouse another patron approached our table and asked our children to stop banging on the table. We were a bit tongue-tied; only one child had participated in any banging (8 month old Charlie), we had stopped him, and we were trying to figure out how we’d be able to proceed with dinner without further incident. If we couldn’t figure it out, one of us would remove Charlie from the table and we’d eat in shifts (what we did), or get the food to go. I was dismayed; I felt like we were trying so hard not to cause anyone trouble. We were being attentive to both kids, we’d chosen to eat at 5pm on a weeknight to try to minimize the effects should there be any unanticipated issues. But, of course, he couldn’t know any of that, could he? He probably figured we were going to let Charlie pound away at the table for the entire meal; perhaps he’s been through that before? Because, you know, I read on the internets that parents and their kids act so entitled these days… Afterall, we take our kids out in public without being able to guarantee perfect behavior at all times; how dare anyone with kids infringe in any way on the rights of others to… hey, wait! Jerk. Kidless prematurely balding men sporting our generation’s version of the comb-over, the thinning buzz cut, and square hipster classes (strange how that sounds a bit like a description of Brad, but this guy was so not like Brad) act so entitled these days…

And that there is the whole problem. Everyone seems to act entitled to… whatever it is they think they’re entitled to. And, they get royally pissed off when anyone questions their sense of entitlement.

Shoot. I had this whole post worked out in my head, but three interruptions by fitfully sleeping children have derailed me. I was thinking about this sense of entitlement we all walk around with (“I’m entitled to have my kids out in the world!” vs. “I’m entitled to have a kid-free experience in the world!”) and about the judgment involved (hip man judging us to be inconsiderate parents when we feel like we’re jumping through all sorts of hoops to try to avoid offending hip man types, us judging hip man as a child-hating self-absorbed effete when he merely wants to be sure he emerges from dinner without a pounding headache). There was a big furor about this issue on the internets this past fall, stemming from a New York Times story on a coffee shop in Chicago; the amount of venom and disconnect between the two points of view was impressive. Ever the peacemaker, I feel the need to come to some kind of resolution, at least for myself, on how to deal. How can I respond in the future when someone confronts me in this way? Now that I’m not upset, I’m thinking with humor and a matter-of-fact assurance that if the disruption continues, the disruptor will be removed. Which is what we would do even if no one complained. Will I have the grace and confidence to actually do this or will I cave to that horrible feeling of being judged and mumble a reply and then get angry and ashamed and let one complaint affect my whole sense of self, so that I plummet into a depression for days and waste precious time and… Okay. That’s got to stop.

For Lent, I am going to try to break free of judgment. I will try to stop judging others, especially childless hipsters. I will try to stop allowing others’ judgments of me (or, what I perceive to be their judgments) get me so down. Not one of us knows the whole story unless we talk to each other and that isn’t going to happen if we’re all walking around pissed off and righteously angry.