It was a hot day – 41 degrees Celsius.
We were achieving a bucket list dream – attending the Aussie Tennis Open in Melbourne. We thought it would be great to take the girls with us and brought tickets before we knew the brutality of the weather forecast.
The girls were pretty good considering; we spent most of the time indoors in the AC watching the games on TV. Keen on getting some value for our money, we decided to sit in for some of the Del Potro game and see how the girls went.
Luck struck and we nabbed some seats in the shade. Kalyra sat and played on our phone, and Savannah amused herself quietly on my lap. I was impressed.
Some time later, during change of play, Savannah made some sort of noise that was barely audible above the sound of those talking around us, and a lady in front of us turned around, deathly stared at us and neighed like a horse.
I was shocked.
I hadn’t seen her for the entire 30 minutes we had already been sitting there so she must have just walked in and one noise from our 2 year old and she was ready to make her, “Children are a pain and should not be seen in public” attitude known.
“What’s your problem?” Craig and I both arced up.
She grumbled and muttered with a slightly coherent “I never took my children to events like this,” and buried her face back into her phone.
Well, your poor kids for getting in your way of a good time, Oh saintly parent.
“What are you complaining about? She’s made one noise the whole time we’ve been here. You’ve just arrived and you’re not even watching the game, you’re on your phone.”
We were furious and to avoid creating a major scene – and because we knew Savannah was probably reaching her expiration point (we do know our children) – we left Grump to the game.
As we walked out the usher, (aka the boss who will kick you out if you’re noisy) said,
“Gee your girls did really well. They were so well behaved.”
“Thank you so much.” The snorter was too busy on her phone to see our pointed smug smiles.
You’ll come across stuffy McStuffins when you take children out in public. If my kids are bouncing off the walls then I totally respect their frustrations and concerns. Usually, they aren’t, and if they do, we step into control it pretty quick or remove them from the area.
There’s no reason children can’t attend public events and restaurants with you.
There’s a right way to do it and they can definitely be taught appropriate public manners. It’s a bit of a juggling match and a challenge, but it can be done.
Prevention strategies will help reduce the snarling comments and the loud grumbling neighs. (If you just picture them as neighing horses it will diffuse your anger and give you the giggles).
1. Get your children used to it
The best way to have children that behave well in public settings is to get them used to it, and start them young – just like we mention in our 17 tips for flying with kids.
We’ve been taking the girls since they were born, so it’s a normal thing for them to eat at cafes, or restaurants or attend public festivals and events.
2. Have your bag of goodies
Have a stash of pencils, colouring books, writing and reading books and a few small toys in your bag – make sure they’re not super noisy.
3. Visit child-friendly places
Seek out restaurants with playgrounds or kiddies corners. Attend festivals or events that have programs or areas for kids.
We found some amazing family friendly wineries, cafes and breweries in Bright and the High Country. And we picked out a few fave cafes in St Kilda on the beach. The girls could play in the sand while we sat close by enjoying a coffee.
You’ll find staff much more interactive and helpful at child-friendly places as well. I love the ones where they pick up the girls for cuddles and whisk them around the room to say hey to all the tables.
4. Plan for the right times
Go early for dinner. If you are at an event, get there when the right kids shows and entertainment is on. Leave at the time when darkness falls and the kids are over it. (I’m pretty sure you will be too!)
5. Make sure they are well fed and settled
Have a bag full of food for them, or if eating out, take the first 5 minutes to order their meals and have them delivered straight away. Settle them in before you do anything else. Get out all their toys and play things. Explain where they are.
Show them the toy/play area and let them know what they can do. Remind them how to behave. Pour them a glass of water, ask them if they need anything else, and then sit down.
6. Let them order their own meals
My Mum thought it was hilarious when she came out to dinner with 2-year-old Kalyra, who ran her finger down the menu like a food critique and chose fries for her meal. Now Savannah loves to do the same.
It’s a ritual they love to perform, and we make an effort to encourage them to order with the waitress and say please and thank you. Kalyra’s stepping up to now pay as well (so she can pocket the change). When children feel they own the experience, they are more likely to behave.
7. Talk about good social behaviour and public manners.
Remind children about appropriate behaviour in a public place and why.
Each of us needs our space and peace to enjoy our meal or entertainment. It takes a lot of time and effort and is a pain, but its worth it in the long run (Don’t we say that about every parenting job?)
8. Let them sleep in the stroller, on the chairs or on the floor.
There has been the very rare occasion that we’ve put the girls on the floor, almost under the table to sleep. Whatever works. Let them sleep and you enjoy yourself. Shame that our children are almost out of that stage.
We generally have to go next step.
9. Remove them from the area
There’s nothing like a bit of time out. If your child is slipping into meltdown mode (we experienced this at the most important temple in Bangkok ) walk out of the public space, find a tree to sit under and wait till they calm down.
Remind them of good behaviour and how the other people around them don’t want to hear the noise. It’s good for them to learn about consideration for others who share your space. Let them run around a bit if need be. Talk about the problem and find the solutions.
A good 10 minutes of quiet talk and cuddles with Savannah usually calms her down.
10. If all else fails give them the ipad/tablet
You know all those things you said you WOULDN’T do when you were a parent. LOL. Yeah right. Greatest 10 minutes of bliss you’ll ever have.
11. No seriously, if all else fails pack your bags and go home.
You really don’t want to disturb the peace and good times of those around you. It’s really not fun for you or your kids either. When the expiry has been reached just head for the beds!
You really shouldn’t be afraid to take your children out to public places. There are sometimes I’d be happy to crawl under the chair with the outbursts and tantrums, but we usually can get it under control quick.
What are your tips for taking children to public places and remaining sane?