Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorite writers, once made an interesting observation on sports writer Bill Simmons’ podcast that there is a “problematic shift in our culture toward a world designed for children.” Klosterman’s is not as much a profound statement as it is an interesting way to state the issue.
I’m not sure exactly what examples Klosterman would cite, but it’s well-known that the “Self-Esteem Age” has produced a bumper crop of entitled hellions who’ve basically hijacked their parents and thereby the economy. Through some mechanism that is beyond the scope of this piece, the halo protecting kids—especially those under the age of 5—has seeped into non-parent culture and ruined all of our lives. This is obvious to anyone who has eaten at any restaurant that doesn’t have mouth wash in the bathroom.
It’s bad enough that tables of families with small children are more difficult to wait on than tables of mature people (I forgot to mention, I’m a waiter). Screaming kids, strands of spaghetti tossed on the floor, flustered parents, flustered patrons, bad tips all around—these are all fallout from a society that frowns on the concept of a Kids’ Table at Thanksgiving dinner for fear that it hinders autonomy—something that has been extended to those least human of humans: toddlers. National restaurants compete in a war of attrition for this lowest denominator. The crayons, coloring books, cheap meals, and plastic souvenir cups that are just killing the environment: these costs of doing business are equally as important to a restaurant as a liquor license or a health permit.
That being said, I’m more disturbed by the interactions I see between parents and their children on a regular basis. I engage in some form of the following conversation a couple of times a week at my waitering job at a gigantic second-tier family eatery.
Me: “What would you all like to drink?”
Parent (to kid): “What would you like to drink?”
Me: “Sorry, we don’t carry Garraagh anymore. But we do have Coke products.”
Parent: “Sweetie, what do you want? They have juuuuice and miiiiiilk. What kind of juice do you guys have?”
Me: “The Big Three. Apple. Grape. Orenthal.”
Parent: “Do you want apple juice honey?”
Kid (throws crayons on the floor. Chews on something that is probably poisonous) “I don’t like juice.”
Parent (to kid, not paying any attention to me): “Tell him what you want. Look, they have … Look, it’s Tommy the Tomato … Honey, do you … here … (muffle, muffle, klink). If you … can you give us a minute?”
Me (to myself): I’ll give you 20.
If you are a parent or plan to be one, I urge you to take the reins from your children when they are barely able to read or speak coherently. Parenthood is truly the last opportunity for an adult to practice dictatorial hegemony. Take advantage of it. Mold your children in your own image or however you want. If you want them to like broccoli, feed them broccoli.
Also, teach them to tip well, because that vomit under you kid’s high chair isn’t going to clean itself.
—Photo credit: APM Alex/Flickr