If you missed it, read part one here.
Your child is learning to act like an adult. So make them do so.
When we lived in Hawaii, I quickly became addicted to Japanese Ramen. Not the crappy 15 cent stuff you ate in college because you were poor (I cooked mine in a coffee pot, so I got my daily dosage of caffeine and salt at the same time!), but the hand made noodles, slow cooked broth and sauteed vegetables that characterize really good Ramen.
Pro tip: if you ever visit Hawaii, go to Goma Tei Ramen. You can find it on Yelp, they have restaurants in two of the malls there. You can thank me later, or leave a tip at Da Tip Jar and tag it with “RH’s Ramen Recommendation.”
My wife was feeling sick that day, so I took my three kids (7, 5 and 3 at the time) to Goma Tei. The staff recognized us (I DID say I was addicted), but they didn’t have a table, so we sat at the bar.
Let me tell you, every old and single person in the bar was giving us the “Noisy Kid Eyeball.” Parents know what I’m talking about. It’s that look of “Who the hell are you to come into a restaurant with your snotty, noisy, grubby kid and spoil my meal.”
Second Pro Tip: for all you single people out there…we notice these things, and it’s rude. So just stop doing it.
Anyway, my kids and I had some great Ramen, we chatted without incident, and had a pleasurable experience. The wait staff likes my kids, so the young Japanese ladies working there came out at different times to shake hands with the kids. When we were getting ready to leave, one of the older ladies came over and said “You’re a brave man, bringing your kids in here alone.”
I’ve done some brave things, like fly over unfriendly countries and fight casualties aboard a submarine. I don’t think taking my kids to a restaurant counts as brave.
Three year olds can behave in public. Now, if my kids had been tired from a long day, would I have done this? Nope. But on a normal day, kids over three should be able to behave themselves in a restaurant for about an hour. More importantly, they need to do that a bunch so that they learn what is acceptable, because from the moment they can talk and walk they are learning to model their behavior after yours. If you bring them to restaurants and expect them to behave, they will (over time) do so.
You’re not your kid’s friend.
Since I’m in the Navy, I’m used to being called Mister, my rank, or my title. I call my Sailors by their rank and last name. I know (most) of their first names, but it’s inappropriate to use them. When I meet their spouses or parents, I introduce myself by my first and last name, because their spouse is an adult, not in the Navy, and doesn’t have to call me by my title. Oddly enough, most use my title anyway, but it’s totally their choice.
When I introduce my kids to other adults, they address that person as Mister/Misses/Miss and their last name. For professionals, I tell my kids they can use titles, such as Doctor or Petty Officer. First names are forbidden.
That puts me against the grain of so many people. “Oh, you can just call me Bob/Sue/Rachel/Michael.” Ahhh! No!
Children are NOT on the same level as you. They are growing into human beings, but they have to recognize that adults know more than them and have greater responsibilities. One of the passages to adulthood for me was being able to call someone by their first name.
It might sound stodgy, but it works. For some reason, having to say “Mister X” makes the next words out of your mouth more respectful. Perhaps the title jogs our brain into a polite tone.
Society teaches kids bad lessons.
My wife used to get Starbucks back in the day, before we realized they had a blatant disregard for unborn babies. At one point, she pulled up to the drive through, and the friendly Starbucks employee asked her for her order. From the back seat, our three year old chimed in “I’ll have a caramel macchiato with skim milk please.” She had picked up my wife’s ordering habits, almost like Pavlov’s dogs responding to a bell.
This mimicry is great in many cases, but unfortunately you can’t turn it off when someone swears in public, urinates on the sidewalk, illegally pan handles for money, or goes into a tizzy over a messed up order at a restaurant. All this bad behavior and more has been thrust in front of my children (thanks Hawaii!), forcing me to explain poor adult behavior to them before they are ten years old.
Even more frightening is what I’m not seeing. We screen our kid’s TV and cell phone use, but I know plenty of parents that don’t. Society is content to broadcast poor behavior models that your kids will emulate because it is “cool.” One needs only look at the trashy celebrity news on the front cover of magazines in the supermarket checkout to confirm this. People tell me that it takes a village to raise a child. I counter that by asking “What do you mean by “raise?””
Lest anyone think I’m a Luddite, I send my kids to public school, they participate in social activities outside of church, and we do things like watch movies in the theater. But this doesn’t mean I’m OK with celebrity lifestyles, fart jokes, talking back to adults, denigrating dads, being mean, and all the other garbage spewed forth from society. Just because some producer thinks it’s OK to throw that out there, doesn’t mean you have to agree with it.
You can do it.
Seriously. For the Millenial couple out there worried about the cost of raising kids, the stress involved, the possibility of “not having it all,” I got news for you: you can do it. You can raise kids successfully. You don’t need to have all the answers. You don’t have to buy every parenting book known to mankind and follow the 4,562 collected lessons between them all. You can in fact raise great kids and have fun along the way.
Besides, society depends on it. So get moving!
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. Because if the DoD told you to have kids, you’d be creeped out.
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