Laws: Cafes right to banish crying kids

Last updated 05:00 27/01/2013
Sunday Star-Times columnist Michael Laws: The partners of all criminals should be held liable if they know of their spouse's illegal activities.

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As the single father of three small children, I have an absolute empathy with the couple asked to leave a Tauranga cafe because of their crying infant.

Mother Courtney Pope took her 4-month old son, Rex, out to the Providores Urban Food Store where he was "hungry, tired and spooked". He naturally started crying, and for sufficiently long for a waitress to ask if Courtney and Rex might move outdoors. The child's crying was upsetting other patrons.

At which point, it would appear, invitation was perceived as insult, and the next battleground in the child wars erupted.

However, there is one simple rule that should always be applied in these and all similar cases. Having a child - no matter its age - does not absolve one from the simple grace of consideration. In fact, exactly the opposite.

It is the especial responsibility of every parent to ensure that their kids do not cause inconvenience or upset to others. If there's ever a conflict, the child creating the problem is, automatically, the problem.

And having a child does not give mothers - many of whom need to learn this rule real quick - priority rights. You will get understanding, even empathy, from others.

But the moment you bring your child into an adult situation, cafe, restaurant, movie, supermarket, aeroplane, you're the one on notice. Not everyone else. These other people that your child is disturbing have paid their money too. They are entitled to enjoy themselves without being introduced to "hungry, tired and spooked" infants.

Similarly the cafe in question is to be commended for doing its job. Upholding a simple act of courtesy. What a haven from smug mothers who think that, having bred, they are now queens of the world.

And it's not like - as a parent - I don't understand. I have an impish 4-year-old boy who, left to his own devices, can trash any place in seconds. He has two older strong-willed sisters who, if Daddy is distracted, can mount their own military revolution.

So Daddy is vigilant, Daddy instructs, informs of the right etiquette and if things go awry . . . the said children are swiftly removed, disciplined or directed.

And on the latter, yes, I smack. The singular swift slap on the bottom is applied by myself - in public - if my kids cross the line. I can report both its effectiveness and the fact that neither the police nor CYF have visited. They won't either, because the law may be an ass, but its application is not.

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Of course, no-one is suggesting you so correct a crying baby. But Courtney's proper response would have been to get up from her table, take Rex with her, settle the infant then return to the adult situation.

Instead she's run off, bitching to the media and potentially setting Rex up for being a public nuisance wherever they go.

Although it's lovely to have children, when you take your progeny into the world, it will be the progeny who need to adapt. Not the world. Troublesome kids always devolve into troubled adults. Don't let it happen, Courtney.

- Sunday Star Times


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