Silence, Please!

keep-calm-and-silence-your-cell-phone-2

I went to see Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 with some friends yesterday. We enjoyed the movie, but I’m honestly not sure if there was more drama on the screen or in the seats. There were a dozen of us in the theater – maybe 20. We heard the usual warnings about silencing your cell phones and all but one actually did. With the exception of some occasional laughter and sharp intakes of air, it was silent.

Until the baby started crying. It started off relatively ignorable. OK, not really. But it was quiet enough that if you really focused on the screen, you could still hear the actors. The crying didn’t stop though so I thought for sure the person caring for this child would remove them from the theater.

Nah. The kid ratcheted it up a notch. Then two. Which is to be expected when a kid’s needs aren’t being met. I soon realized as the kid started talking loudly that the kid was not a baby but a young toddler. At a loud and violent PG-13 movie. Great.

The mom started whispering to the child. The child quieted for a bit. Then the child cried again. And then the spanking started. Which any idiot could have predicted was going to make the child cry harder. So no surprise to the rest of the movie-goers when the screams got louder than the whispering in the quiet, intense scene on the screen.

I heard the mom whisper various threats. You better quiet down. You need to behave or I’m going to spank you. Stop that. You need to stop right now. Other people were starting to mutter to each other. It was getting very hard to focus on the movie. I’m not confrontational, but several times I thought of calling out for her to take her child out. But like all the other well-behaved citizens, I just gritted my teeth.

At one point, we could hear muffled crying and my friend commented, “I think they are suffocating that poor baby.”

After the second round of spanking and wailing, though, a woman on my row had had enough. She stood up, turned around to face the back row, and called out, “Will you please take that baby out of here? No one in here wants to listen to her – or him – cry like that! We can’t hear the movie. You are being selfish. You need to take her out.”

The mom became immediately defensive and called back, “If you don’t want there to be noise in here, then why don’t you sit down? You’re making a bigger commotion!”

“Look! I’m sure other people in here feel the same way. They just aren’t saying anything. Please! Stop hurting that baby,” the first woman responded. “Stop spanking her!”

“Spanking?” The incredulous mom responded. “It’s not  spanking – it’s called discipline.”

Hmm… So when she threatened to spank the kid… she… misspoke?

It was getting ridiculous. Now I couldn’t hear the movie or focus on it. The two exchanged some more loud and angry barbs until the confronter sat back down and  apologized to us for causing a scene. While we all agreed with her assessment of the situation, I really just wanted her to shut up so I could hear Katniss.

The mom was beside herself. She began whispering desperately to the person next to her. Soon she was sobbing. I then heard a theater employee, who had apparently walked in, call out, “Please put away your phone.” I have no idea if she was talking to the sobbing mom or someone else, but the confronter took the opportunity to go explain the situation to the employee.

By then mom was outright crying herself. She and her seatmates, and the poor toddler who had been setup to fail by being brought to an inappropriate movie, began filing out. The mom’s cries lasted all the way out the door. Eventually the theater was quiet again and we finished the movie.

I thought about the (obviously) young mom afterwards. She hadn’t been willing to miss some of the movie to take the child out. She expected the child to behave at an age beyond her ability inside the theater. She had no consideration for the fact that the rest of us had an expectation of watching the movie without distraction. She was indignant that she was called out for her behavior. Ironically, she likely left feeling wronged.

I’m not sure what the best reaction is in a situation like that. Do you just sit quietly and politely ignore the rude and inconsiderate behavior (as most of us were doing)? Or do you call the person out (as the one brave woman did)? Should we have clapped to show our support for the woman? Or would that have just heaped more embarrassment on the mom? Do we have an obligation to point out inappropriate conduct to fellow citizens? Who gets to decide what’s inappropriate? Do we do more harm when we call people out or when we say nothing?

I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know if there was more drama on screen or off. I certainly know which was more enjoyable. At least Katniss was fighting over something worthwhile.

Riding in Cars with… Whomever

I am still trying to teach my husband the proper way to interact with other people in certain social situations. I’ve been trying for quite some time now and so far my teaching skills have proved sorely lacking.

Take today, for example. A friend and former coworker stopped by for a tour of the studio and to say hello. Our plan was to go out to eat lunch afterwards. This friend is still in his twenties, single, no kids – still enjoying a much more carefree life than ours. In fact, he ended up being a bit late because he was slow to get up after some heavy drinking at a party the night before. While he and my husband had met and like each other, he is essentially a stranger to Hal.

This doesn’t particularly bother Hal. You know how some kids have to try every public bathroom they encounter? As soon as you walk into a store or restaurant or someone’s house with such a kid, they immediately express an urgent need to use the facilities? Well, Hal has a similar obsession except his is an unquenchable desire to ride in other people’s cars.

As I walked into the house to get my things, I heard Hal ask the question.

“Daddy, can I ride in his car?”

I held my breath because I knew he would likely not answer appropriately.

“Well, Hal. That’s not up to me. You’ll need to ask him.”

Oh, no! I thought to myself. Wrong answer! See, my husband is of the opinion that everyone should be able to speak their mind and be truthful, no matter how uncomfortable. He’s not into the social niceties and hinting phrases that should be employed in situations like this.

By the time I got back outside, Hal was crawling into his booster seat that had been installed in the back of the other car. The friend was laughing. It sounded to me as if he was a bit in disbelief that he was about to transport our child into town in his car.

When I got into our car, I told my husband what he was supposed to say in a situation like that. “You don’t put people – especially people without kids – in a situation where they have to say no to a four-year-old. You just don’t do it. You should have said, ‘No, sweetheart. Why don’t you just ride with us?’ That way, if they are truly ok with him riding with them, they can say, ‘Oh, that’s ok. I don’t mind.’ But if they don’t want him to ride, you’ve let them off the hook.”

“If they don’t want him to ride with them, they should just say so.”

“Say no to a four-year-old?!”

“Yes. If they don’t want to do it.”

“Honey! You shouldn’t force people to do that.”

“I’m not going to serve as a barrier between my kids and other people.”

“Uggh! This is a tactful way to give them a way out if they don’t have it in them to tell the kid no but really aren’t comfortable taking the kid with them.”

“So what you are saying is that the next time a situation like this comes up, I need to tell him, ‘I don’t know. You need to go ask your mother.'”

“Well, I guess if you want it to go through two layers instead of just one, yes.”

“If that’s what it takes because I’m not going to do what you suggested.”

When they got to the restaurant right after us, I was waiting to open Hal’s door. “Is it everything you thought it would be?” I asked him.

The friend climbed out of the car laughing. “Oh, man, did we have some interesting conversations!”

I’m sure you did, buddy. I’m sure you did. The Facebook posts and blog entries pale in comparison to the real deal.

Hal Visits the Lake

Hal was very excited as we pulled up at a friend’s lake house. He had chosen to wear a one-piece bodysuit that his cousin had worn for a triathlon and then passed down when he outgrew it. He had his floatie and he was ready to go!

Daryl tried to give him some helpful advice as they waited for us to get our folding chairs out of the back of the car.

“Now, listen Hal. If a fish swims into your swimsuit…”

“A fish is not going to swim into his swimsuit,” I attempted to interject. Neither boy appeared to hear me.

“…and it’s a bass and it’s at least 10 inches long, then you have to get it out of your swimsuit and throw it back in. But if it’s less than 10 inches, then you can take it ashore and eat it. Okay?”

“Okay!”

“Hal, a fish isn’t going to swim into your swimsuit. Come on, hold my hand.”

There were at least 50 people there, most of whom we didn’t know. Daryl found some friends and took off. Hal stayed in the shallow part of the cove while Daddy and I stood nearby, keeping a close eye. We had both emptied our pockets of valuables just in case we had to run in after him.

At one point, Hal began to walk out of the lake. When the water was at his ankles, he announced, “I need to go pee!”

“There’s a lake right there,” replied my husband.

Before we had a chance to explain better, Hal turned and began to pee. The obvious stream worked its way through the fabric and splashed into the water several inches below.

Laughing and slightly embarrassed, I walked away and shared the tale with another mom. She told me that she instructs her kids that it’s okay to pee in the lake as long as no one can tell you are doing it. As soon as you make it too obvious, you have to start getting out.

She then told me about insisting to her mom that she needed to use the bathroom when she was a kid. She didn’t specify exactly what she needed to do and her mother didn’t ask. She was just told to do it in the lake. So she did. She pooped in the lake.

I made a mental note to query Hal if his exact need was ever not clear.

Etiquette Anxiety

My son is missing a day of school and riding on a charter bus to his state Destination Imagination competition today. He’ll be staying in a hotel room without us. It’s a lot of responsibility to hand a third grade boy. He’s very excited and I’m happy for him, but also just a little bit anxious about his behavior. After all, he’s very excited and that doesn’t usually bode well.

So this morning when I walked by as he ate his cereal and I saw him wipe the milk off his chin with the top edge of his T-shirt, I had a mild parental etiquette explosion.

“Daryl! DO NOT wipe your mouth with your shirt!”

“OK.”

“I mean it! Please, please do not wipe your mouth with your shirt today. Please don’t do anything that will embarrass me.”

“It was just some water.”

“It was not water. You don’t have any water. It was milk and it doesn’t matter. You should always use a napkin. Do not wipe your mouth with your shirt!”

Daddy added in, “That’s with an exclamation point.”

“Yes, with an exclamation point. Two exclamation points. And all caps, bolded, with an underline. And highlighted. I mean it,” I said.

“And a question mark,” Daddy said.

“NO! No question mark! This is not in doubt. DON’T do it!”

My husband walked away laughing and said he was going to send the team coach a text asking her to write down all the times that Daryl did something that embarrassed me. Dads have such a higher tolerance for the foibles of nine year old boys. I guess they’ve been there.

A Matter of Etiquette

Our bathroom, the never-ending remodeling project, does not have a mirror or a sink. This is why I found myself in the kids’ bathroom drying my hair while Jane brushed her teeth.

As she rinsed her toothbrush, she dropped it into the recently spit toothpaste at the bottom of the sink, just as she was turning off the water. She grimaced at me slightly and then turned to wipe it clean on the washcloth hanging on the towel rack behind us.

“Jane! You should have rinsed it off before you wiped it on a towel that other people might use to wipe their faces!”

“What? You mean the washcloth that I used to clean my shoes?”

With eyes wide in disbelief, I said, “If you used that to clean your shoes, you shouldn’t have hung it up on the towel rack where other people might use it.”

“Oh,” she replied, looking slightly abashed. She quickly pulled it off the rack. And then turned to the mirror and… wiped the toothpaste from the corners of her mouth with it. Grinning at me as she did so.

And all this time, I thought it was boys that were supposed to be disgusting.

The Start of Us

Teenagers are goofy creatures. When I was in high school, note passing was serious business. Sometimes I think more communication took place in missives passed in the halls or across the classroom aisles than during lunch or after school.

I passed notes with several people. One was my best friend’s (recently ex-)boyfriend, who also happened to be my (recently ex-)boyfriend’s best friend. Got that? Like I said, goofy. We were in Latin club together and had come to enjoy each other’s company.

I had begun to “like” him but he was already dating someone else. I liked him enough that I resolved to just be his friend if I couldn’t be more than that. Lucky for me, the girlfriend broke up with him.

One day, shortly before Halloween, he asked me – in a note, of course – who I “liked”. I listed three names. First names only. One was his.

He wrote back, “So tell me more about this ‘Daryl’ guy.”

I don’t remember exactly how I responded. I suspect I was worried about being rejected, despite the undeniable signals I was getting from him. So I’m sure I paid him some compliments and also made some little jibes, enough that I wouldn’t be too embarrassed if he wasn’t interested.

He wrote back, “What would your answer be if I asked you to go with me?” I guess I wasn’t the only one that was uncertain about the path forward.

My mom had some really old books on a shelf in the living room. One of them was a ladies’ etiquette guide from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. I found the proper response to a gentleman who has requested permission to court and decided to use it. After all, that’s basically what he was doing.

Then, on Halloween day, 1990, he popped the question. Via a passed note. “Will you go with me?” I wrote “yes.”

And thus was the start of us.

We have other anniversaries. There’s the day he asked me to marry him, and then the day nearly 10 months later when we told people we were engaged. And, of course, our wedding day. Halloween, though, was and always will be our first anniversary. The day the two of us officially started down the path that has led us to where we are now. Still in love. And still goofy.