Little C (loudly): I think that lady's gone for a poo, Daddy."
Me: "Sssh..." (changes subject)
(Ten minutes later)
"That lady's a long time...told you!"
Fortunately, the family in the story above saw the funny side. This is not always the case when dining with a child. More often than not, you are treated to at least one scowl as you walk in, if not to people sighing loudly and moving tables. The other night, over a (very early) dinner with friends, their three kids and our one, you would have thought we had crapped in the food of the miserable couple at the next table. (Next time, we will.).
Now I know it's sort of fashionable to whine about children. We even had one columnist in a London paper a few months ago suggesting only half-jokingly that they should be banned from the capital. They get in the way you see, they make noise, they run about and stop you having your oh-so-interesting conversation. How horrid for you.
I've noticed a huge difference between getting on a tube with Little C at the weekend and doing so in rush hour. Now, being a considerate sort - to her, as much as the furious and bitter sods who inhabit London 'commuter' trains - I rarely travel with her at peak times. On the odd occasion when I have had to, for perfectly valid reasons which I don't have to explain to moaning gits, I can feel the righteous irritation of the masses rising at her clearly offensive behaviour in actually boarding the same train as them - to say nothing of then playing I Spy or asking how many stops till we get off. You can almost feel them indignantly counting the stops down with us.
Let's get something straight here. There is no such thing as a commuter train. There are trains which tend to have more commuters on them because of the time they set off - is all. If they were only for commuters, I wouldn't be able to buy a ticket and Little C wouldn't be able to get on for nothing (yes, whingers, it's all free for her, doesn't cost her or me a penny to ruin your miserable journey). The simple fact is that whether you like it or not, we have as much right to be there as you, we have the right to talk and laugh and if one of us is only three years old, there is every chance we might do so quite a lot. You don't have any right whatsoever to expect deathly silence and dumb glares all the way to work or home again. If it makes you that unhappy, then walk - or get another job.
Similarly, if we go out for dinner - on the rare occasions we do these days - we have as much right to do so as everybody else. If you don't like it, go somewhere that doesn't allow kids or only allows miserable bastards - you will have a great time. If my daughter happens to chatter, or walk away from the table, or sing, or get upset because the pasta sauce is 'yukky' - then that is probably because she is only fucking three. It is arguably more understandable than your loud conversation about your new job, your sordid groping under the table or your outright, all year-round misery - so get a life. The thing about restaurants - and the world in general - is that other people might be there. And some of them might be children.
The British attitude to children stinks. Ok, I have only realised this since I had one - I too have been a joyless, complaining, sour-faced git about them. And now I want to slap the old, curmudgeonly me about the chops and say "You know what? You could learn something from these little people. When did you become such a moaning, selfish loser? Let me help you get that head out of your arse."
I go abroad and see people in Italy or France welcoming children with open arms, fussing them, indulging them, smiling at them. Social and family life revolves around them. It's only in Britain that you consistently encounter the grimaces and scowls. Did the saying "children should be seen and not heard" originate here? I bet it did. I once sat in a restaurant and overheard people at the next table commending Little C's behaviour and saying "I don't mind children in restaurants when they behave like her." Frankly, she was having a good day and they got lucky. It was also about 2pm - so lunch, as well as dinner, is a restricted area for families with children? And I should bite my tongue while others somehow manage to click theirs while talking out of their nether regions?
If anyone should be seen and not heard, it is the moaning morons who have so little joy in their lives, so little indulgence in their souls, that they spend all their time bitching and tutting about children. I know, because I was once such a moron myself. There is nothing worse than a convert, is there? Take it from me, because I've been on both sides. Get a grip, crack a smile
and stop bloody whining.