By MIA FREEDMAN
Yesterday a blog post called “Two flat whites and a bawling child, please” caused all sorts of a commotion on a news website when a woman wrote about an unfortunate experience she and her partner had in a cafe.
It was brunch time on a weekend. The coffee was great and the couple were in the process of deciding what to order but there was a problem. The screaming child sitting with its parents a few tables away was messing with their chi (not to be confused with their chai, that’s something altogether different and they were drinking lattes anyway).
After 10 minutes of this, during which time other patrons looked to be similarly disturbed by the pitch and intensity of the child’s screaming, the writer’s partner got up to say something to the child’s parents. The response he received? “Chill out, mate,” from the baby’s dad, followed by some abuse (on the way out) by the mother who loudly called the man “a despicable human being” before giving him an artfully raised middle finger.
I’ve been both parties in that scenario and neither is pleasant. Wait, I’ve been the couple who had their brunch disturbed and I’ve been a parent with a child who loses it. But I’ve never just sat there and expected my fellow patrons to deal with it.
Why should they? Of course, kids sometimes lose it in public places; supermarkets, public transport, shopping centres, doctor’s surgeries, airports, planes, cafes and restaurants… I don’t think there’s a public place where one of my children hasn’t lost it.
My modus operandi when this happens is always the same: try not to lose my own shit while applying all available harm minimisation tactics. This is often hard. Your kid is distressed or being bratty and you’re instantly forced to juggle their immediate needs with the needs of those around you not to be majorly inconvenienced. You need to stop the screaming/tantrum while quickly weighing up the relative merits of doing this without giving in to whatever demand it might be and setting yourself up for a future world of pain (eg: “Ok, ok, you can have another choc-top, just please get up off the ground and stop screaching like a poltergeist.”)
In the case of a screaming baby, it’s different. You need to urgently try and establish the problem (hungry? in pain? cold? windy? hot? thirsty? overtired? needing a cuddle? just grizzly?) while simultaneously minimising the inconvenience you’re causing to those around you. All under the tsk-tsk gaze of The General Public. No pressure!