It's a crying shame

IN HIS OWN WRITE

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 08:47 26/01/2013

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A woman in a Mt Maunganui cafe was asked to go outside to settle her four-month-old baby. Naturally the ever-so- shocked mum went straight to the local paper to complain bitterly about the beastliness of the cafe owner and vowed never to return.

I'm sure that would delight the cafe owner and her regular customers. From reports in the Bay of Plenty Times, we are told the incident occurred on Sunday morning when Mum was a having brunch with friends.

The baby was crying, loudly and persistently. The cafe was full and customers, not surprisingly, asked the owner- manager to do something. She (thank goodness it was a woman, or the story would have been much worse) asked Mum to take the baby outside to settle him down.

She took exception and yet another debate was ignited about the rights of the few impinging on the rights of the rest of us. Mt Maunganui is a nice resort town and what could be better than a Sunday brunch?

Frustratingly for the other diners, Mum reckoned she should have been given more time to pacify her son. Estimates of just how long he'd been crying varied from two to three minutes, through to 10 minutes.

The cafe's co-owner and chef was in the kitchen, "and above all that noise I could hear it screaming out there. I don't know if it was 10 minutes but it kept going. Even if it was five or three minutes, three minutes is a long time of crying".

Agreed. Not surprisingly, Mum had a different view.

She said her son rarely cried but he was hungry and tired and became spooked as she and her friends ate brunch.

"I didn't even get the chance to settle him when the lady came over. It was really uncomfortable. I was trying to breastfeed and everyone turned around to watch." She did not want to go outside, where it was hot and people were smoking.

The final word comes from the manager who, incidentally, has a background in childcare and suggested outside as an option.

"I said 'is there anything I can get you' and she looked at me blankly and said 'no'. And then I said 'can I make you comfortable outside at all?' A bit of space, fresh air. It was crowded inside.

"I was as nice as I could be. I'd do anything for them but you do need to look after the others."

The cafe made headlines a year ago after a similar incident and the latest case has been criticised by a parent support group. However, the owners are unrepentant and say they were responding to complaints from other customers.

Now you've got the picture, so let's analyse what happened.

Perhaps the key sentence came from the unrepentant mother. She said the baby rarely cried "but was hungry and tired and became spooked as she and her friends ate brunch".

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So here is a baby, who was hungry and tired, and the noise of the cafe only made things worse. So why take the baby there in the first place? Surely Mum must have a routine with him and clearly it had been totally disrupted by taking him out to a noisy cafe when he probably needed a feed of his own and a sleep. Nope, Mum's social diary was more important and his needs were subjugated to her wants.

Added to that is a very enlightened attitude towards breastfeeding in public. Anywhere, any time, it doesn't matter. It is an inalienable right of mothers to breastfeed, no matter that baby is bound to be spooked and unsettled amid the clatter and noise of a busy cafe.

Inevitably unrepentant mother's cause was quickly taken up by family support group Parent to Parent.

"That isn't the way to deal with it - you try to help. It's sad for the family and I think you'd expect a lot more understanding from the shop owners and others who were complaining."

Well hello! Here on Planet Earth, most of us think that if we go to a cafe on a Sunday morning we can reasonably expect to be able to enjoy it in peace and quiet. We've all been in that situation before with children on our own and to drag a four-month baby out, irrespective of his needs, is selfish and a recipe for a disaster.

For some obscure reason it's the cafe that is defending itself. That's wrong. It didn't create the problem, it tried to deal with it sympathetically, but self-centred individuals want to make it everyone else's problem.

As my late Uncle Lenny used to say, there's no bad children, just bad parents. No one person has the right to ruin things for the majority, when it is totally avoidable.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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