April 13, 2005

You Still Up?

Huh? So I'm walking home from a MoMA gig at around 11:45, and I duck into McDonald's for a cone.

And there are two couples there, hanging out, with their kids--one less than one, one maybe 18 months, maybe in umbrella strollers. No pajamas, no nothin'.

Shouldn't those kids be in bed??


My, aren't we judgmental?! Perhaps they were visiting from L.A. or some wildly different time zone... Perhaps it was a special occasion and they wanted the kids to stay up... Here's an idea: why didn't you just ask them?

Yes, I am passing a judgement. And, my judgement is, anyone who thinks it's fine to have BABIES out at a McDonald's at 11:45 at night is SELFISH, I don't care what the reason is. Special Occasion - celebrate at home at a decent hour or get a babysitter so you can go out. Different time zone - well, I can tell you that sitting in a bright ass, LOUD, McDonald's isn't helping them acclimate to the new time zone. I don't care if you're visiting from Perth, or if it's your 40th birthday, if it's 11:45 AT NIGHT, your babies should not be out. It's LATE. Period. Your kids' need for a good night's sleep is more important that you "want[ing]the kids to stay up" for some "special occasion." Annie, maybe people should be a little more judgemental sometimes - more people might actually start taking responsibility for their actions and duties as parents if they knew that their sub-par attempts at parenting were being looked down upon. Harsh? Maybe.

Greg, this is the new gun and breast feeding thread.

Yay you.

Maybe the family sleeps in late in the morning. Not everyone follows the same 9-5 wage slave time schedule as you. At 18 months, it's safe to assume the kids don't have to be in school the next morning.

If you want to judge them for something, judge them for shoveling McRubbish down an innocent kid's throat. Otherwise, it's none of your damn business when their kids sleep.

Sorry, Cam, I have to agree:

I AM judgmental, and IT'S NOT any of my damn business, which is why I didn't say anything to them. It may take a village to raise a child, but it doesn't take a snobby, overdressed, agitated loner clutching a fistful of gift bags and a hot fudge sundae, barking advice in the middle of the night at a ghetto McDonald's.

It just seemed so cool when Laid-Off Dad posted it a year ago:

Dear Fellow Playground Daddy: How extraordinary to learn that your 15-month-old son, teetering at your knee in those brand-new Nike Shox, is such a die-hard Knicks fan. You say you took him to every home game this year? Impressive. But surely, he fell asleep before the games ended, right? He didnít? Ah, yes, the atmosphere can get pretty boisterous, what with all those screaming drunks and everything, and the games usually donít end until around 10:30pm. No wonder the kid looks so dazed...

Give the parents a break. Their mere presence in a fast food joint with their kids -- time and garb aside -- indicates we're not dealing with the brightest bunch o' folks. They're as dumb as, well, most parents these days.

Maybe they are grave-yard shift, minimum wage mothers. They can't afford fancy, organic restaurants. They can't afford Bugaboo strollers. They can't afford trendy sleepware that their children will grow out of in a month. Maybe they just finished their shift of being a nanny to some MoMA gig-going people, and they want to spend whatever time they can with their families, even it it's a quickmeal at the only low-cost, late-night, family restaurant around before taking the train to their second jobs.

Or, maybe they just got off the phone with their loved-ones who are several timezones away in Iraq and are meeting up with their support friends.

Or, maybe they're just being selfish and not looking after their kids health ;)

Oh, I forgot to mention, the kids were wearing little hospital gowns. And didn't have any eyebrows. And they'd just come from a chemo session, which they need to undergo every 4 hours to stay alive.

And I forgot to mention that when she's not working, we don't let our sitter out of her windowless room.

All this "What if - ing" is pretty interesting. What does it say about us? Why are we more willing (and considered kinder/nicer/more compassionate, etc.) to come up with a million reasons that make a parent's actions "okay/understandable considering their circumstances" rather than coming to the simplest, least concocted conclusion: they are being irresponsible parents? Why is being judgemental (in a situation that seems pretty simple to judge) ALWAYS a bad thing? I'm not saying Greg should have started a smack down with the couples, wielding his gift bags like num-chuks, but I don't think that he deserves a bit of flack for impling in a later conversation that he thought the parents were exhibiting poor parenting choices. AND, an even more bothersome question, why the "what if" circumstances that were thrown out related to the couples being poor? Why automatically jump to that conclusion? "Oh, it's really late, they're out with their kids at McDonalds. They're not bad parents, they're just poor/underprivledged/etc. and they don't have any other choice." Give the graveyard shift working mom a little more credit/respect. I bet she knows better than to be dragging her kids out at 11:45 at night.

And Scott, you're right, the 18 month old doesn't need to be up early for school, but (s)he does need a LARGE amount of quality sleep (read: during the dark night hours) in order to be a healthy little being.

Maybe I'm touchy about this because my best friend has two kids, now 9 and 7. He has never been a morning person, to say the least. During the week, the kids have to be in bed by 9 (or whatever it is, I don't know exactly). During the weekend, they don't. They may be up until midnight, but the next morning they sleep until noon, or whenever they happen to wake up. Does that make him a bad parent? I don't think so. The kids still get plenty of sleep. They are happy, well adjusted, and do fine in school.

Now my counter example is this: Several years ago, I was driving home after working very late, probably close to midnight. It was summer, convertible top down, and I'm a block away from my building. I see a woman holding a sleeping kid, probably about a year and a half old. She flags me down, running into the street. Obviously assuming she's in distress, I stop. "I really need a ride." "OK, get in." "I need you to drive me to where my mom is working so I can borrow $10 from her." "Um, OK." (I was younger and stupider then.)

Her mom works at a bar, of course, in a really, really sketchy part of town. This was at least a 20 minute drive. We stop, and she and the kid go in. I stay in the car of course. Another 20 minutes later, they come back out. "She can't give me the money until they close. Can you wait?" "Uh, how about I just give you the $10 and drive you home." So I drive her "home," to a flop house hotel a block away from where we started. It's certainly after 1:00am by now. I remember feeling very sad leaving the two of them there, and knowing that this kid's life is going to be filled with that sort of drama probably forever.

Is *she* a bad parent? Probably. Can she reasonably be expected to be otherwise? I don't know. Could she be worse? Definitely. Did I say anything to her about her parenting skills? No.

A kid out at McDonald's late at night? I hope they are eating better most of the time, and I hope they are getting their sleep one way or another. But ultimately, it's not my problem, and I don't get any say in how to raise other people's kids. And other people don't get any say in how I raise mine, either.

Yeah Greg! I'm with you! Let's be judgmental, after all, it's not as if these kids can defend themselves, and just because these parents aren't bad enough to qualify for state intervention doesn't mean they should go unchastised.
I'd like to be judgmental too! The other night I took my son out to McDonalds for his birthday (a tradition in our family) and since we had to be by the grandparents early the next day we went past his bedtime.
There we are enjoying our late night birthday treat when some aristocratic MoMa-going yuppie starts throwing us dirty looks! Can you believe it? Maybe it was our unfashionable yet practical strollers. Maybe it was the fact that we were spending actual-waking-time with our kids instead of hob nobbing at a moma "gig" till the wee hours of the morn. Maybe his parents should have spent a little less money and a little more time taking him to McDonalds when he was growing up! Kids need one thing from their parents more than complete nutrition or even sleep, and that thing is time. That poor guy must need to compsensate for his lack of parenting attention in strange ways. Maybe a 700 dollar stroller will do. Some people!

Yeah, you tell that guy, what a tool.

At least he's not one of those self-absorbed dads who lounges around posting on his blog all day, and who tries to squeak by with only reading Dr Seuss's "The Foot Book" to his kid 99 times, not the 100 she wants. Man, those guys piss me off.

"What does it say about us?"

I admit that when I don't have all the facts, I err on the side of being compasionate. I don't jump to conclusions which automatically find blame and fault in other people. I don't look down on others and label them "sub-par".

But, with your help, maybe I can change my ways and become judgemental too.

Here is my attempt:
"To answer your question, I think this says something about the values we teach our children."

Okay, I admit, ugh, I felt really bad saying that. I don't like being judgemental. Bleh. It's not for me. I'm going back to being myself.

Um. When my daughter was 18 months old she fell asleep ANY time she was in a car for more than 4 minutes. If it was 6 pm and I had to drive for 3 hours...and she slept the whole time...that meant she would be up at 11:45 pm. And you know...it's really not such a big deal for an 18 month old to be up at that hour. Maybe the parents went to the movies with their baby, sometimes when you don't have a sitter that's how you have to do things, as not to disturb all the "baby haters" that glare at you any time your baby makes a single sound in public.
I have seen people with their kids in the all night grocery stores and places like walmart at all 1 am. I never thought these people were bad parents for having their baby out with them late at night. I would think it was even worse if they left their baby at home alone.
I've known people that left their kid in the car while they drank in a bar and everytime I think about their kid to this day I am scared for his life. But taking a toddler to McDonald's at 11:45 is not child abuse, My husband and I used to take late night drives with my daughter all the time because quite frankly we needed to get out of the house and babysitters aren't always volunteering.

The allegation that everything that isn't Leave it to Beaver = Child Abuse is really starting to do my head in.
Do you know how many children are taken away from their parents every day over bogus accusations like this?

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