To the editors,
I really am surprised and saddened by the resulting divisiveness that has occurred in response to the sign on the front door of my cafe, "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven" [Hot Type, November 18]. The fact that a piece of paper held up by suction cups could elicit such an enormous response both nationally and internationally shows there's far more to this issue than me or my tiny cafe. Though many have assigned it various unintended meanings, its message is very simple and honest: we all have to be conscientious and considerate to those around us when we share a space with them. I truly hope that as the dialogue continues the focus shifts from discussing the problem to addressing some of the solutions, including talking to our children before bringing them into unfamiliar environments and letting them know what our expectations are for them. The answer is not to permanently segregate our children to "child-friendly" restaurants, but instead to better socialize them so they'll be welcome anywhere they go in life. Many will point out that children are unpredictable, and therefore unable to conform to given standards. In truth though, I didn't put the sign up because of problem children, but because of parents unprepared for their child's unpredictability. Kids will be kids, and we all know it. The question is, What is the response of the parent when the child has a meltdown or behaves inappropriately? I can assure you from witnessing it more times than I care to remember that ignoring children will neither make them go away nor make them behave, and yet too often that's exactly what I see parents do. A better response would be to address the child directly. "Shhhh", "No!" and "Stop that or we're leaving!" will neither deafen nor damage your child, and may even show him who's in charge. In the long run he'll be relieved to know someone is. I know it's easy for some people to demonize me as a child-hating Scrooge, but that assessment loses all ground when you see me in my dining room when it's filled with kids. I really love children, and I'm especially grateful to the many, many families with children who frequent A Taste of Heaven and who believe taking them to restaurants and showing them appropriate behavior is an essential part of their upbringing.
A Taste of Heaven