Adults should be seen and not heard

Recently, I read an article in a parenting magazine about how to bring your kid to a restaurant. It had all sorts of helpful hints like “leave if your child gets too cranky” or “bring toys or crayons.” And I had to wonder, who doesn’t do these things?! Who brings their kid out to eat without anything to keep the kid occupied and then doesn’t know what to do when the kid gets bored and fussy? My mom and husband make fun of me because my diaper bag was the size of small boat, but I always had something fun for my kid (and me!) to do.

I took my kid on a trans-Atlantic flight too. Four of them actually (flights, not kids). When he was a year old, he slept the whole way, except when my husband passed him over to me so he could take a bathroom break. In those few seconds, he cried a bit until I was able to calm him down. Then he went back to sleep. But also in those few seconds, the man behind me asked his neighbor “have they heard of Benadryl?” Because I should drug another person because he bothered you for less than a minute? I should note that this person was one of the most obnoxious people I have ever flown with. He spoke very loudly through most of the flight and kept on pushing the back of my chair, forcing me to jerk back and forth pretty frequently. The video monitor in front of his seat (on the back of mine seat) wasn’t working. While I sympathized with him, I didn’t think pressing the same buttons over and over again would be helpful. This man was aware of his actions and made a choice. He made several choices. As I said, all through the flight  he whined to his neighbors about his monitor or anything else that displeased him and essentially punched me in the head. My kid, however, was not aware of his actions and cried (seriously for under a minute) because it was his only way to tell me he was unhappy. Who’s the more obnoxious one? But who’s the one that people complain about on planes?

My kid is well behaved because I never let him stand in the way of doing something I wanted to do (except I obviously don’t take him to R rated movies or clubbing). Good manners are a skill, and a child won’t get the opportunity to learn them if we always leave them at home. Even from a young age, my husband and I brought him out–to restaurants, to museums, to bookstores, to adult religious services–and he learned how to behave in public and how to keep himself busy if whatever mommy and daddy were doing bored him. So it bothers me when I see people complaining about kids in restaurants or museums. Especially a museum. Shouldn’t we be encouraging children’s exposure to art and learning? Sure, I understand that no one wants to hear a crying baby (though the parents probably are more upset about it than you are) but it’s obnoxious to be so self-centered to pretend that your enjoyment is somehow lessened by the mere presence of somebody else. I agree that crying babies are a distraction, but I’m more annoyed by the metaphorical baby who made the choice to be rude about his objections than the literal baby that is communicating the only way he knows how.

About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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13 Responses to Adults should be seen and not heard

  1. Raunak says:

    great post!
    I thinks its really important to treat children as adults to a certain degree.

    • emmawolf says:


      I agree…I think. I’ve heard lots of parenting and education advice about how children communicate differently from adults and how their brains aren’t fully formed etc. So while I feel I may speak to my child and other children I encounter in a different way (different vocabulary, etc.) and treat them differently (if an adult threw a tantrum, I’d reconsider my relationship with him), I think the underlying respect in the treatment has to be the same…if that makes any sense. And I see so many people (parents included) treat their kids as second class citizens. That’s what gets under my skin. (Quick example, it bothers me so much when I see an adult say to a kid “adults are talking now. shhh” when the kid tries to join a conversation. Nine times out of ten the kid didn’t interrupt/talk over a person, but rather waited for a break in the conversation and added something that he or she thought was relevant. I would never say that to another adult.)

      • Raunak says:

        so true! I think respect and accountability should be introduced earlier in life. Adults fear that kids might say something embarrassingly true:)
        feel like adding a kid to the presidential debate right now 🙂

      • Ryan says:

        Another good example: A child asks an adult why he has to do something, but the adult simply responds, “Because I said so.”

        I understand that some things cannot be explained to a child, that sometimes answering the question can start an argument when the adult needs the child to obey quickly, that “why?” is sometimes not innocent curiosity but a stalling tactic, and so on. But these can also just be excuses for an adult to get his own way just because he has power over a child. “Because I said so” can be just as dismissive as “Adults are talking now” and can teach children terrible lessons about morality. Beyond those problems, it can also be a missed opportunity to get a child to use some level of reasoning to figure out what is acceptable and what is not on his own.

        • emmawolf says:

          Yes! I promised myself I would never say that to my kid. He’s three and already using why as a stalling tactic, but I am trying to come up with better answers than because.

  2. djmatticus says:

    I would have been sorely tempted to turn around and say, “I’ve got some benadryl for you to take if you are having trouble sleeping.” The nerve of some people! Nice post.

    • emmawolf says:


      I really wanted to say something to him, but during that fight I had food poisoning or a stomach bug and was spending most of my energy trying not to throw up or making sure I made it to the bathroom if I did. I should have just thrown up on him.

  3. Love this post. It had me laughing because I have experienced the same thing (with obnoxious adults). In Germany I found that life is very family oriented. This means children go just about anywhere (even your dog for that matter). Every place should be as kid friendly as possible, but the true adult venues should be kept for adults. But as you have said, parents must take responsibility for their child. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t and make the good parents look bad.

    • emmawolf says:

      That’s interesting about how more places in Germany tend to be more kid friendly, but the exchange on that is that adult places are more adult. I wonder how it is in other countries.

      I think parents failing to take responsibility is what it all comes down to. And that’s how most of the respondents to the DP challenge (that I read anyway) answered the post. But I do feel that some people are just so opposed to seeing children generally that it doesn’t even matter how the children behave. As though seeing children gives the crotchety adult license to behave badly himself.

      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Piper George says:

    That’s what I said in my post. Kids learn behaviour from the examples they see. You can’t expect them to never step foot into a museum until they are 18 (if they are even interested then) and instinctively know how to behave.

    • emmawolf says:

      “Kids learn behaviour from the examples they see.”

      *nods* adults too. I almost think that some people are annoyed by kids because they think that’s how they are supposed to act, having seen it somewhere before.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Peter S says:

    I agree that it’s going to work out for the best if parents expose their kids to a number of different things starting at a young age. What are kids supposed to do, stay at home until they are teenagers ?

    It’s usually the parent’s reaction to their child’s behavior that is causing the problem, not the child. I think that other people tend to have reactions like the person sitting in back of you on the plane, based solely on a bad experience at some point in the past. Just because something irritating has happened regarding having a child present in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to happen all the time.

    • emmawolf says:

      “It’s usually the parent’s reaction to their child’s behavior that is causing the problem, not the child.”

      I’ve heard that before, but I don’t think I’ve experienced it myself. At least, if I did, no one told me that my behavior was the thing causing the problem.

      Thanks for your comment.

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