Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's the matter with kids today?

In a word, parents. This is a subject I've been thinking about for a while, especially since moving into my apartment almost two years ago. There are four children upstairs under the age of ten-a boy, a girl, their mother, and their father. That's right-technically two of the children are actually the parents. It's taken almost the two years I've lived here to educate them that someone is living downstairs. The boy and girl are almost unbelievably rowdy, jumping up and down and screaming at all hours of the day and night. It took many complaints to the manager of the apartment building and some stern warnings to the parents before things settled down a bit. Most of the time now, it's fairly quiet, but there are still occasional wrinkles, like the pizza party a couple of weeks ago. Once again, there was jumping and screaming like they were knocking furniture over and someone was trapped under it. I had to walk upstairs and remind them that I live downstairs and if they wanted to act that crazy, they needed to take it outside. I had to repeat this process the next morning as well before the children finally settled down.

My question is, why do I need to supervise other people's children so that I can have some peace and quiet in my own home, an apartment that I pay rent for every month? I'm not just paying for the four walls-there is a lease agreement with all sorts of regulations about noise. I don't mind the children playing outside, except when they run screaming past my door. I hear them constantly and it doesn't bother me a bit. But when there's a huge thud on my ceiling like a sofa has just been picked up and dropped-that bothers me, and I don't intend to put up with it. I just wish the parents of these children were more responsible. I raised my son in an upstairs apartment, along with his scout troop and all his friends, and I never once had a noise complaint from the people downstairs. Whenever they got too rowdy, I reminded them people lived downstairs. They had a choice-they could play quietly inside, or they could roughhouse outside, in the areas that were designated for children to play in. My son's friends thought I was the strictest mother they had ever seen, but they were always over at my house anyway.

I was finally inspired to write an entry about this subject by an item on the news about McDain's Restaurant in Monroeville, PA. As of July 16, 2011, McDain's banned children under the age of six from the restaurant. This is a quiet restaurant on a golf course and had suffered numerous complaints of rowdy children ruining other people's dining experience. According to their website, the restaurant was opened as a sort of "19th hole" for their golf course. It has never had a children's menu, nor does it have the kind of atmosphere children find enjoyable. None of which would matter if parents would only, well, parent. The response to McDain's ban has been overwhelmingly positive, with a small vocal minority of parents complaining that their children are not a problem, it's the people who hate children who are the problem.

I for one applaud the ban. I love kids. I have a kid, I work with kids as a public school employee, and the neighborhood children don't hesitate to come to my door when they want something, even though I am usually the one who is speaking to them about being considerate and following the rules in the building. But I also look forward to the very few times I get to go out to a nice restaurant for a meal with my family, an experience that can be totally ruined by unruly children in the charge of permissive parents.

Once a year, my family goes to Red Lobster. Not the most upscale restaurant, but a nice place and it's a cherished tradition. We get the taxes done and then go splurge on a fancy dinner at Red Lobster. This year, there was a child at the next table making a noise like an air raid alarm. The parents thought it was adorable. I thought it was horrible. I asked the waiter to speak to the parents about getting their child under control. He looked terrified and whispered he couldn't say anything to them. I then demanded a different table as far from the air raid as possible. He complied, because I was fully prepared to walk out without paying for the dinner we had just ordered and which was being prepared. Ironically, Cici's, a family-friendly pizza place which charges about five dollars a plate and has a kiddie arcade in the restaurant, does not tolerate rowdy behavior by children. I have seen parents asked to control their children when the little dears were running and screaming in the dining area. Children have a whole arcade room to play in-when they are in the dining area, they are expected to sit in their seat and eat their food quietly.

It all comes down to parenting, and oh, how I hate the phrase, "They're just kids." I know they're just kids-that's why they need to be taught the difference between right and wrong. My son is in his late twenties now, and when he was just a tyke, I got a lot of praise for how polite and well-behaved he was. He didn't get that way by me saying, "He's just a kid." No, my son learned courtesy and consideration for others by hearing about it from me every single day. I reminded him that people lived downstairs, that he needed to say things like please and thank you, that it was important to consider other people as well as himself. I guess you could say, although my son was and is the center of my universe, I was always aware and still am that he is not the center of the universe. There are far too many parents out there now who have never even pondered this, let alone realized the sun does not rise and set on their child. If only parents would deal with their children, it would not be an issue to have them in a restaurant. I would glady be surrounded by five-year-olds who know how to sit still and eat with manners. I don't want even one shrill brat near me again when I'm out in public. I don't know how McDain's will fare, but I will be following their story with interest. I'm willing to bet their business will boom, now that they've banned small children. And the ones who are allowed in will behave themselves, and have fond memories of McDain's, the restaurant where they got to eat with the grownups because they knew how to act like a grownup.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Dog Sooky

I got her at the pound-I took one look at her and just fell in love with her. There she stood, not pressing against the bars and eager to be picked, but not hanging back and afraid to come forward either. There was a kind of dignity in her sad brown eyes, as if she couldn't understand why her master had thrown her away in such a place, but she would accept it. I sat on the floor next to her cage while my son went to find an employee, and I promised her I would love her and care for her until the day she died.

We took her home and named her Sooky. The pound papers said she was three years old. She was very timid and sat crying in the living room the first day. We never did know her story, but she was a beautiful dog-a blue merle Australian Shepherd. We thought she might have been in a puppy mill and not been a good producer. She didn't know how to climb stairs and I had to carry her up and down the first week. She was afraid of the TV but got used to it after a few days. The outdoors and strangers always frightened her too-she prefered to take a quick walk outside to take care of business and then return to the haven of our home.

Sooky was never a great watchdog. I would say she had the heart of a lion-a dandelion. She would growl if someone came to the door, but that was about as menacing as she ever got. I do believe she would have tried to protect the house if someone tried to break in, but I don't know if she would have succeeded in chasing off a bad guy. Her strength was in her gentleness. She was the most loving dog-I still remember how I brought a sick friend home and Sooky used to curl up on the bed with her. She would have made a great therapy dog if she hadn't been so timid.

She died July 6, 2011. Her health had always been so good, but the previous summer we had to have a tumor removed. I was hopeful there would be no further problems, but it was not to be. Up until the last month of her life, she was so energetic and beautiful, but that last month she went downhill fast. She wasn't in pain, but she lost control of her bladder and looked so guilty every time she wet the floor. She didn't want to eat, but if I held the food in my hand, she would make an effort. She still went for her walks, but she got so thin. The day we took her in, she was still in fairly good shape, so it was very hard to turn her over to the vet and say goodbye. I know it was the right thing to do-she was already dying and I wanted to let her go before she started to suffer. But it was so hard. A dog like that is not just a pet. Sooky was my loving friend and my loyal companion for years-not enough years, but there never really is enough time. I hope it's true all dogs go to Heaven-if it is, I will see my cherished friend again, and if not, I will have kept her memory green in my heart for the rest of my life.