Thursday, July 10, 2008

Overheard at Red Robin

If you aren't familiar with it, Red Robin is a chain burger place and quite yummy. Cecilia loves it but that is no surprise as she gets a balloon every time we go there.

We were there recently for lunch and about halfway through our meal, a family of 3 or 4 adults and 3 children sat in the booth behind us. I didn't pay much attention to them until one woman of the party began speaking rather loudly behind me:

Mommy: Why did you do that? What did you just do? What did you do with your hand? You hit mommy. Mommy doesn't like when you do that. You do not hit mommy. That hurts mommy. You made a bad choice. You didn't think about your choices. You need to make good choices and that was a bad choice. You are angry aren't you? You are upset. I know your crayon broke but you can still use it and crayons break. That is life.

Now, I'm all for disciplining children and certainly there should be no hitting, but I had to wonder how old the child was behind me that this woman only spoke of herself in the third person, repeated herself so much and was talking about making choices. I asked James about how old the child behind me was. He thought she was about 8 or 9 years old. Personally I found her tone and language rather condescending and humiliating to the child. Shortly before we left, a child at a completely different table screamed, for some reason, at the top of his lungs. Even though this child was not at the table behind us, I then heard this:

Mommy: Mommy doesn't ever want to hear you scream like that in a restaurant. Screaming like that is a bad choice and we want to make good choices. Mommy will be very upset if you ever scream like that in a restaurant.

The irony of this last statement, aside from the fact this child never screamed, is that this child, who was sitting directly behind me, was so quiet I rarely could make out anything she said. When I got up to leave, I took a look at the little girl sitting behind me and discovered she was sitting on a booster seat. So she was not 8 or 9 as her original height might have suggested but more like 5 or 6 years old.

On the ride home, James and I spoke about the mother and daughter behind me. He played devil's advocate pointing out that we don't know the family or any of their personal circumstances. While this is true, is there ever a good reason to speak to a child in a humiliating and condescending way like that? I had to wonder if she was nuts ONLY speaking of herself in third person. I could think of two things on the way home:

1. That child is a gift from God and a precious person made in his divine image. No one deserves to be spoken to like that. I certainly wouldn't want to be spoken to like that and I don't speak to my children like that. They are children, sure, but still human beings who can tell when they are being treated with disdain or contempt.

2. The girl is being shown to treat others with condescension. Can anyone besides me imagine how this child will treat her mother in 10-20 years

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