Two friends attempt to design a treaty for the peaceful co-existence of those with children, and those without!
My visits to the cinema hall are declining. I’m a little scared of meeting my best friend for a heart to heart in my favourite cafe. I take a very deep breath before approaching the airport or railway station. And it’s all because of the kids.
A disclaimer before I start off my rant – the fact that I don’t have any kids is not a reflection of my (absence of) love for them. I adore children – my family and friends can vouch for that. I enjoy their prattle when I’m stuck in the elevator and my neighbour’s daughter’s visits to our house is one of my guilty pleasures. I have no doubt that there is no better stress buster than the smile or chatter of a child.
It all started when I’d gone to watch The Dark Knight Rises on the big screen. Selina’s success at acquiring Bruce’s fingerprints was greeted with a loud squeal which was clearly not part of the story. When Commissioner Gordon was captured by Bane, a shrill cry went up, which continued till the time my Fair Knight Joseph Gordon-Lewitt rescued Gordon. As the action accelerated, so did the frequency and pitch of these cries – the source of which was discovered to be a little child seated in the front row. The entire audience was now captivated by the incantations of this toddler even though her parents appeared to be resiliently deaf – till someone in the audience shouted for them to “take the crying child for a walk” and brought us back to the travails of poor Mr Wayne.
We had a similar experience while watching Madras Cafe, except that there were two kids now (The cries were interspersed with some fascinating baby talk – I sorely missed them while watching Besharam). We did some adjust maadi to the shrieks during Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani & Chennai Express (they were a welcome distraction every time SRK tried to emote), but our patience was really busted by the time we were watching Gravity. I couldn’t help wondering then on why PVR wasn’t as thorough in banning kids from the movie hall as it was in seizing my little bar of Dairy Milk.
Many of my friends are recent parents, so I can completely understand the need for a break from the endless routine of sleepless nights and soiled nappies. But it’s also impossible to shush a 2 or 3 year old; and frankly, I don’t blame the child for getting restless. So isn’t it a little selfish of the parents to completely ignore the disruption – in fact pretend that everything is normal – especially in a serious movie where the constant yells are a huge distraction? More importantly, is it even advisable to bring the child to violent movies – I remember being left at relatives’ and friends’ houses when my parents went to watch “A” movies (it’s a different matter that at that time, even Arth was an A movie).
The same scene often repeats itself at cafes and restaurants (and I’m not talking about McDonald’s here). Children go shrieking down the alleys, helplessly pursued by their harried maids while their parents dine in Zenlike calm – the only people in the room who end up enjoying their meal. Do you think that Indian parents can do better in teaching public space etiquette to their children, or could that stifle the child’s spontaneity?
Meanwhile, I’ll go back to pretending that the 7 year old on the table behind me is not kicking me repeatedly – after all, if the formidable Samantha from Sex and the City had spaghetti sprayed over her perfect blonde hair by an irate child, what chance do I have?
Aww H, I am a mother and I still feel your pain!
The first time Baby Baguette threw a public tantrum, I almost died of shame. It felt like some sort of divine retribution for the big side eye that I used to cast at child bearing couples, convinced that it was somehow their fault that their uncontrollable tyke was emoting like Priyanka Chopra on steroids (seriously, must she cry in every single movie?). How could my perfect baby do this to me? Why doesn’t she just chew on the pacifier and smile beatifically at strangers like they said she would in the books? Where did she get those lungs from?
But two years of motherhood have thickened my skin (and waist) to such an extent that I can now blissfully ignore the recriminations of strangers and return to my doughnut while BB practises her -errrm- oratorial skills on unsuspecting passers by. Having said that, I do believe that there are some places that are out of limits for little children. Fine dining establishments -definitely (There’s a reason why I’ve had dinner out only twice in the last years). And also the Theater. In fact our experiences over the last few months has driven me to devise some sort of Treaty for Peaceful Co-existence if you will:
1. Flights- If young(ish) parents are expected to put the rest of their lives at hold because snooty passengers can’t bear to have a toddler throw up next to them, well, that’s just unfair . Babies will travel, and while parents can promise to do their best and keep the baby sedated with videos for as long as possible, we can’t commit to keep them on ground. It is a scientific necessity that every self-respecting baby must scream her lungs out during take off and landing; and throw at least one piece of airplane cutlery at the aunty sitting on the next seat. The parents can only hope its not the knife. Child-averse travellers are advised to select seats right at the back of the aeroplane if they want to avoid interacting with a three-feet tall stranger beset with cabin fever.
2. Movies- Cellphones and children both have no business being in movies- unless it is a movie meant for children (or cell phones). Likewise the child-averse have no business being in a movie for children (even if they love the minions from Despicable Me Part Deux). Note to parents, Salman Khan is childlike, not child-friendly. I remember being a six year old and watching a movie with Bhanu Priya and Rishi Kapoor where the villain threatened to impale a baby with a sword (yes). And your child will remember Sandra Bullock’s loneliness in space. So take her to see Planes, and rent Go Goa Gone on DVD for after she’s asleep.
3. Restaurants- Children are not welcome in any restaurants after their bed times. They scream, throw food, act miserable and will only ruin whatever little pleasure you get from your meal. Order takeaway at home instead! In their waking hours, they get right-of-way in restaurants with free plastic toys, ball pits, french fries or ice cream cones. The childless are advised to wear stain-resistant clothes to these fine establishments. Children, however, can be left at the door of any place where alcohol (or filet mignon) gets served. Parents, drown your sorrows in tequila at home.
4. Zoo – Children win.
5. Parks- Children, of course.
6. Pubs- No children. EVER(I am surprised I have to tell some people this)
7. Museum- This is a tricky one. If the museums have dinosaurs, then children? If it’s known for it’s priceless sculptures, then perhaps no children? The following rule of thumb should help- if your children are small enough to sleep in the stroller (or on your shoulder); or old enough to listen when you request them not to run through the halls, then by all means, begin their art education. Museums are guaranteed to help exactly as much as those Mandarin lessons in convincing you that you are raising a ‘global citizen’ (now if only he’d stop picking his nose). If your child is any age in between, then compromise. When holidaying in Paris, take turns during your visit to the Louvre. One of you can sit and enjoy delicious ‘creme glacee’ in the jardin with the bebe, while the other traipses to click an I Phone selfie with La Giaconda.
Would you care to co-sign H? Should we start preparing for our Nobel Peace Prize speech , having sorted through the impasse?
Or has my love for the moppet turned me into a social pariah completely?
I’m relieved to hear that I am not being unreasonably self centred or acting like a “typical singleton” here (it is widely believed that the two co-exist!). And after stumbling upon Greg Pembroke’s howlarious Reasons My Son Is Crying, I realize that there are an infinite number of perfectly logical reasons for baby tantrums – from being asked not to chew the tag on their shoes to seeing their own reflection in the mirror! So the next time I hear a kid screaming, I’ll take a deep breath, remember the irrepressible Erma Brombeck’s reminder that “Insanity is hereditary, You can catch it from your kids”, and throw up a silent prayer for mums like you!