Should kids only be seen and not heard when they are out with you? How often have you, as a parent, received dark looks, head shakes, and grumbles because of the way your child behaves in public? Or, like this parent, received a note telling her “you’re disturbing (sic)”?
It was a typical weekday morning. Ballet teacher Stella* (not her real name), 31, had just dropped off her daughter at kindergarten. Now she was off with her 14-month-old son to catch up with a fellow mummy friend and her 2.5 year old daughter. They were going to have lunch at Starbucks in Seletar Mall, their regular mummy-child meeting place. Stella and her son reached there at 10.30am and by 10.45am, their friends had arrived. There were only three or four other people in the café.
If you are familiar with this Starbucks outlet, you will know that most of the seating here is tavern-style, with tall tables and tall stools. Stella was hoping to get a sofa seat by the entrance, which would be safer and easier for the two toddlers to sit on. However, there was a man in his 50’s already there, seated on the couch. Dressed in a light grey crew neck tee and shorts, he was nursing a coffee.
The next best option was to sit at the table next to the couch. This table was of usual table height and had regular chairs. The kids sat in high chairs at the table and ate their snacks while the two mothers chatted. The children were on their best behaviour the day. There was no drama, there were no meltdowns.
Then The Children Got Restless…
When the children started to get restless, Stella — always well-prepared when out with kids — gave each of them a sheet of paper and a pen so they could draw. After that, they watched a Mother Goose Club show on a tablet. Stella made sure to keep the volume at a minimum so that the other people in the cafe would not be disturbed.
After about 10 minutes, the kids were bored. Watching the show with the volume down low was no fun. They wanted to get out of their high-chairs to stretch their legs. So the mothers carried the kids out of the high chairs, and watched while the little ones toddled around the cafe. The other customers smiled and waved at them. There were giggles and high-fives. Everyone was amused and charmed.
The Man was Not Charmed
One person was not amused, though. The man at the couch next to their table had not said a word since the foursome sat down next to him. He got up and made his way to the exit. As he passed their table, he slid a piece of paper onto the table in front of Stella’s friend. Stella’s friend picked it up from the table and read it quietly. What she saw on it shook her. “Stella, that guy passed us this note,” she told Stella, holding out the piece of paper. It said:
“This is not a market. You’re disturbing (sic).”
Stella and her friend were shocked. They felt as if they had done something wrong, even though they hadn’t. They looked around but the man had gone.
The Man was Gone
He had been sitting quietly next to them for probably an hour, not saying a single thing. Why didn’t he just tell them what he thought instead of passing them a note, then leaving the cafe? “I would have gladly apologised to him if he thought that the children were misbehaving,” Stella said.
Stella posted a note on her Facebook wall about the incident. People were quick to note that “it’s Starbucks, not a library” and majority of the commenters agreed on three things:
• The man’s behaviour was uncalled for
• Starbucks is not a library
• If the man wanted absolute quiet he could have just gone home to drink his coffee
What Stella’s Friends Said
Fellow mums chimed in as well. One admitted she would have been “completely incensed”. “I take great pride in my role as a mum. It is a huge sacrifice raising the good citizens of tmr and there’s always lots of noise involved… I feel the the one without kids should take (the) initiative to move somewhere else. It’s far easier on them and definitely more convenient for them to move,” she said.
In addition, some zoomed in on the man’s language.
“It’s a shame he can’t construct proper sentences…”
“Exactly. I’ll be like… ‘I’m disturbing?’ You’re disturbing! You’re so disturbed you think you’re in a freaking library!”
“No one Benefits from that Note…”
Now we’re not going to speculate on his reasons for what the man did. Perhaps, like one of Stella’s friends said, “It’s a time and space problem. If this was a playground or a clearly-labelled family restaurant/foodcourt the response would have been different.” It could also be a case of “I paid the same money as you but I can’t get my enjoyment, which in this case would be the usual peace and quiet,” he added.
Finally, as one commentator reasoned, “Honestly it would have been better resolved if he could have asked nicely. Maybe he was having a headache… he could have talked it out rather than leaving a note… no one benefits from that note.”
What do you think? What would you have done?