Friday, February 02, 2007


I am not especially fond of children; they are far too unpredictable to be likeable. They have bowels and bladders that seem to spring leaks at surprising moments, gabble incoherent nonsense (which, as a woman, one is meant to find infinitely fascinating), and have the ability to suck the room dry of any intelligent adult conversation by their mere presence. (Having re-read that sentence, one realises how many elderly Rich-Listers share the same attributes.)

Another annoying attribute of children, is their parents. Middle-class ones, anyway. The lower and upper-classes seem to share a similar disinterest in their off-spring (although with varying degrees of competency), but the middle-classes tend to think the over-indulged fruit of their loins are a precious gift to be shared with all.

They are taken everywhere the parents go, even the best restaurants, where everyone is meant to be quite impressed with "how adult and well-mannered" they are, something the parents themselves have failed to achieve.

A slack-jawed child of indeterminate gender sits at the table. Mr Gormless (I have no idea who he is), is shovelling small pieces of food into its mouth.

"Since she was a baby, we have introduced her to a great variety of food. This is goat’s cheese. She loves it."

Mr G popped another morsel in her mouth. The child gummed it, unblinkingly, and swallowed. She reminds me of the mechanical clowns at the Easter Show, whose heads swivel as ping-pong balls are thrown down their fibre-glass throats. She demonstrates the same gastronomical delight.

"She's quite a connoisseur. She’ll try anything."
I am tempted to see if that statement is true. I have a lip-stick in my bag I don’t particularly like.
"Most children don’t like olives. She does."
He popped an olive in her mouth.
"Yuck," she said loudly and distinctly, and the olive rolled out of the infant's maw, trailing a long line of dribble. Mr G went red. I covered my laughter with a discreet coughing fit.

Another parent at the table is describing the secret to their parental success.
"We treat T just like an adult. We don't believe in talking to him like a child. Research shows that 'baby-talk' stunts their intellectual development."
"T," I said, "What is your opinion on the efficacy of the Kyoto Protocol in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?"
T violently shook his entire body, knocking cutlery to the floor.
"Interesting. How about stem-cell research? Yes or no."

The parent shot me a look of utter revulsion, and I went back to eavesdropping on the neighbouring table.


noizy said...

"We treat T just like an adult. We don't believe in talking to him like a child. Research shows that 'baby-talk' stunts their intellectual development."

Straight out of 'Meet the Fockers', that is. You should force them to watch it.

stef said...

Actually 'baby-talk' doesn't stunt their intellectual growth but teaches them the phonemes - the building blocks of language. Annoying but useful.

Francophile said...

Stef may be right and baby talk doesn't stunt the little darlings' intellectual development. But it certainly has that effect on the adults who use it.

Oswald Bastable said...

Children and restaurants are totally incompatable.

This is why we have McDonalds. They might call themselves a restaurant, but I call them a trough. Somewhere to feed children away from places where people care about food...

Drewcifer said...

There used to be a couple of ponsonby cafe's that specifically declined to allow children in the cafe. Personally, I applauded the move. There is nothing worse than having some vulgar little whirling dervish upsetting your breakfast bagel, whilst some style-bereft incubator with legs tries to catch it!

Mrs Smith said...

I haven't seen 'The Fockers.' I'm not sure why treating a child like an adult would be a good thing, though. These people also let their child make its own decisions about everything. The pre-schoolers end up running the family. Amusing, but terribly tragic.

Child-free cafes. Hurrah!