When seen but not heard lost favor to never say no, the gap between parental and public expectations widened. Nerves shattered, tempers flared, and patience levels bottomed when seen but not heard adults met never say no children in public, most notably in shopping areas and restaurants, and more recently on Internet sites.
After Jennifer and Alex budgeted for an anniversary celebration in their favorite restaurant and hired a sitter to stay with their children for the evening, they were disappointed when other children ran screaming through the aisles while they tried to enjoy their meal. Harold Brandt--generous as he might have been the first seventy years--grappled for patience when undisciplined Matthew Trout slammed a shopping cart against his cane, and Matthew’s never say no mother smiled as her son raced toward another shopper. Members of the Sun Valley Internet Sewing Circle grew discouraged when eleven-year-old Beth interrupted every thread with multiple comments about her uncle’s brain surgery because the members of the neurosurgery group bored her.
One side asserted the child’s right to frequent any place unless banned by law; the other appealed to parents to use discretion. The debate expanded to cover appropriate complaints from by-standing patrons when parents failed to control or remove children they brought to public venues. Managers struggled to please both sides.
My position fell midway between the extremes, welcoming young voices but not rude behavior. I supported allowing parents to exercise discretion regarding when and where their children belonged, with veto power to other patrons and managers when parents failed to address disruptive behavior.
As so often is the case, some parents failed to self-monitor and responded negatively to outside requests. I heard an ad today for a kid-free restaurant. I found this petition for child-free seating. Is this where we are headed?
This, in my opinion, is another step away from civilized society. Cultured communities bear personal responsibility and the discomfort of setting and enforcing boundaries, before outside intervention is required.