The electronic teat

Your thoughts please …

Scene: Pizza Express, 7pm, Sunday evening.
Family of four enjoying a pizza-based meal. Mum, Dad, daughter (estimated age: four), son (estimated age: two). Son is eating doughballs. He is also enclosed in a large pair of headphones and is gazing, trance-like, at a portable DVD player. The DVD player is playing Finding Nemo. Mum and Dad talk to daughter, but son is completely isolated from family occasion, child-minded by Pixar. Soon, the daughter is allowed to share the DVD player by plugging in her own set of headphones and joins in the trance-like consumption of Finding Nemo, while the parents watch them. A waitress tries to make a jolly comment to the son, interrupting his gaze, and he starts to kick off. She leaves it. He goes back to uninterrupted viewing until the end of the meal.

Is this a good and happy world we inhabit?


64 thoughts on “The electronic teat

  1. 1 Ill-mannered2 Ignorant3 If I was running the restaurant, I woudn’t have allowed itIn this country, we’re already bad enough at encouraging children to behave in restaurants, but encouraging them to stay quiet THIS way is nuts.

  2. How bizarre. Maybe the kids are a pair of shits that need Nemo-branded Mogadon before being taken out in public.Being taken out for a meal used to be cause for excitement when I was a kid.Personally, I’d be embarrassed to have my kids behaving like that in public. On a long-haul flight maybe, but not a restaurant.

  3. My grandmother used to go mad if we read books at the table at home whilst a meal was taking place, but… a portable DVD player at a resturant? They might as well have stayed at home.

  4. From the point of view of a parent, I’d say that’s very bad parenting. And pretty stupid too – where do they think this tactic will eventually lead? I guess they haven’t *thought* about it at all though.”For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”(I thought you might appreciate a Bible quote as it’s Sunday and you may not have had time to go to Church today).

  5. No. It’s not a good and happy world we inhabit. This country is now incresingly dominated by the underclass and we’re all too politically-correct to say anything.Discusting and depressing. And we’re all fucked.

  6. I think it’s unfair to judge without knowing the full story. It may well be, for example, that the son is autistic. I have an autistic nephew – this is the kind of thing you have to do to keep him calm and happy when out and about. Read ‘A Real Boy’ by Christopher Stevens and Nicola Stevens, about their autistic son and the impact on their family life.We’re all nice people reading this blog, let’s not be so judgemental. Thanks.

  7. The irksome truth is that some people simply don’t want all the boring and fiddly fol-de-rol that comes with raising children. In fact, they feel peevish and believe themselves to be hoodwinked. They were not told about the MESS, the NOISE, the fact that children are NOTORIOUSLY POOR CONVERSATIONALISTS. They long for them to grow up and go away. I am allowed to say this because I am an old mother with adult children. These young years are the glory days, believe me. God bless.

  8. The irksome truth is that some people don’t like all the boring fiddly fol-de-rol that comes with raising children. In fact, they feel peevish and hoodwinked. Nobody told them about the MESS, the NOISE, the fact that children are NOTORIOUSLY POOR CONVERSATIONALISTS.I am allowed to say all this because I am an old mother with adult children. These young years are the glory days, believe me. God bless.

  9. The head phones, the kicking off, the dough balls (whatever they are, but it doesn’t sound good),… should have called Social Services.

  10. Absolutely terrible. Certainly not the way I’ve ever handled my own children, now six and eight. I know what they can and can’t handle re: restaurants, but I’ve taught them from a young age to respect the people around them, and if they play up, I’ll take them outside. At the ages of four and two, a few toys would help if they got restless, but no way in a million years would I plug them in to a DVD. They don’t have a TV in their room either, and they can wait until they’re old and rich enough to buy their own before they get one.

  11. sounds to me like conversation is killing the art of DVD watching. If we allow parents to talk to each other like this, who knows where it’ll lead. They might talk to other people, who’ll talk to other people . . .Joking aside, your pizza restaurant vignette is heartbreaking in some of its implications, not least of which is that, as myhunnybun observed, the DVD is being used as a tranquiliser.Please tell me that’s not a picture of the actual kid?

  12. Don’t kids run out of films? My favourite films as kid even now I’ve only seen a handful of times so good help kids today with there endless viewing, every last drop of interest will be drained.Obviously it being in a restaurant is bizarre and faintly creepy.

  13. I find moments like these very depressing and makes me think advances in technology are melting our minds. As a 26 year old, I still have the nostalgic memories of living in a house with one TV that required a family member to get up a change the channel, thinking a crackled conversation with my father from his work’s car phone was as magical as witchcraft and thinking only the rich families had computers with black and green screens.In return I got joy from conversation, my imagination and LEGO.

  14. Pizzas at Pizza Express are obviously now so expensive that mums and dads wanting a night out cannot afford to pay for babysitters.Better than trying to have a nice meal when kids are either shouting and screaming or racing around. Then I think you can hurl them straight into the restaurant ovens.If it was The Incredibles I would have nabbed the headphones and player off the kids.

  15. It’s just wrong every which way you look at it. Psychologically speaking, isolating them in that way from social interaction means that they are failing to learn basic social skills. And then there’s the fact that it’s just plain rude. I was never allowed to read at the table either, and neither did we ever watch telly. Just awful. I was brought up to be quiet and behave myself if I was out eating anywhere else (or at home, for that matter) and I wasn’t plugged into a tiny television to make me do it; I was told to behave in that way out of consideration for other people. It’s failing to teach that last thing which worries me the most, really.

  16. Dan, I appreciate your sensitivity towards autism, but I merely present the facts as I saw them. (And to add to the scenario, the boy was sitting calmly enough without being wired up for about ten minute before the hardware came out.)Do you take a two-year-old autistic kid out to a restaurant at that time of night?

  17. Paul, I worry about your comment concerning “the underclass.” For me, this kind of scenario is nothing to do with class, or income, or social group. It’s way beyond those old-fashioned compartments. I employed no “political correctness” in my description.

  18. I’d echo Andrew’s point re: the underclass remark. I get increasingly frustrated at work with colleagues who feel they can use terms like that, and chav, and occasionally scumclass to describe whole sections of society.

  19. perhaps he was reviewing ‘Finding Nemo’ and a whole host of other DVDs in training to be the next film critic for the radio times?

  20. At the risk of sounding like a predictable middle-class ponce, I’ve just come back from a trip to France and Spain, and while there I commented many times on how differently children in both countries are socialised, compared to what I often see at home. Parents there interact on a far calmer, warmer and more adult level: the kids are included in everything, but are expected to behave, and when they step out of line, they usually seem to respond to a mild but firm verbal reprimand.Over here, far too often I see kids playing up because nobody talks to them (beyond stuffing a handful of crisps in their face or – as you have observed- wiring them up to an electronic device to ‘amuse’ them ( and these practices all transcend ‘class’)). They don’t learn how to tolerate delayed gratification,and the parents are often panic-stricken or punitive as a response. What you observed with this family is such a sad little snapshot, for all the parties concerned. I’m aware that there MAY have been a specific back-story to why this kid ‘needed’ this electronic pacifier, but somehow I doubt it. Grim.

  21. For goodness’ sake, will most of you get off your high horse? None of you know the background to this but are more than happy to exchange and pass damning judgments. Perhaps these parents and children have been chatting to each other all day – you have no idea. Personally, I loathe eating in restaurants, and even though I also loathe ‘Finding Nemo’, I can quite understand taking a dvd player along. In fact, this is such a good idea that I might implement it myself next time I’m dragged into eating at a restaurant by anyone, though with a different choice of dvd.

  22. …and a moment’s peace and quiet for the parents. Of course, if they just learned to say no to their children in the first place, this scenario would not exist. No wonder the whole country is stabbing itself to death.

  23. On the way back to London from Devon I was entertained by a child around the age of nine years old opposite me being fed by his mother with (and I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing) a lump of cheese – a full, supermarket sized lump – washed down with a two litre bottle of apple Tango.The cheese was that plain stilton you get which is impregnated with apricot bits. So at least it might have housed a fifth of his five a day.It was better than being at the circus. The sort of spectacle you will never, ever forget.

  24. On the New York subway I often see the opposite. It’s either a mother plugged into an mp3 player and ignoring her child. Or a father connected to his PSP and doing the same. Meanwhile the child is ‘acting up’ in an attempt to get attention.I often wonder how I would have felt growing up with parents who wanted to distance themselves from me in that way.

  25. Yes, Andrew, I take your point. I wasn’t meaning to come over like a Daily Mail columnist. I was merely making the point (though obviously not very well, reading it back)that public standards have been lowered so much by, amongst other things, an increasingly large and (in the widest sense)uneducated underclass, that people feel less social peer pressure to behave respectably. Maybe that lack of pressure is in some ways a good thing, but ultimately it ends up with drunk kids puking in the streets and babies in headphones.

  26. Took wife and kids (17 and 21 year olds) out to eat last night. They spent most of the time texting (I have tried to have a no mobiles at restaurants rule but I get ignored) so I kind of wish I had had a dvd player and headphones!!!On a serious note – it does sum up the fact that social behaviour gets worse and worse. During the Indy film last week there were a bunch of teenagers sitting next to me that talked non stop until I said “Excuse me, would you mind shutting up, I’m trying to watch the bloody film”….AnonoNick

  27. Hi Andrew.My wife is a teacher of 4 and 5 year-olds and she could regale us with tales of dubious parenting skills that would make your jaw drop. In fact, she quite despairs for the future: and that is not a good working hypothesis for a teacher to hold.To illustrate the point, we were in a coffee shop in Chichester the other week. On the table next to me, two parents were sat drinking their coffee and talking to each other about booking up a holiday for the summer. Their 2 kids were with them. The younger boy was running around and being a right pain in the arse to all around him. The parents ignored him completely. The elder girl was sat at the table looking bored to death (although there was no DVD, ipod, or mobile phone in sight). The parents ignored her too. It was like the parents had given up on trying to have any kind of relationship with their children. The National Curricumlum refers to it as “Personal and Social” skills… these kids displayed neither and they have their parents to thank for it. Of course, when the children get to their late teens and can no longer function as positive members of society, the parents will blame everyone but themselves.By the end of the coffee, the parents had agreed on where they’d be going on holiday but I wouldn’t be surprised, when they embark on their trip if they forget to take the children with them at all.

  28. For a sporadically updated but very good read from an anonymous teacher who writes a great deal about declining standards in our little ones, (and who just so happens to be a mate…), click here…

  29. Swineshead, I will definitely be making a feed of that blog for my LiveJournal. Any blog entry entitled “Timmy is a little bastard” has won me over instantly.

  30. We are living in ignorant times.Sitting in the pub on Saturday, and in a restaurant on Thursday I too witnessed the all too familiar “mobiles on the table” ritual”. When out with younger members of my family, they spend all the time texting. Maybe I’m a grumpy fart, but whatever happened to actually talking to the people you are with?Lazt parenting really hacks me off. At least I admit to knowing I’d be a rubbish dad, so I don’t have any. Yes, that’s the reason…

  31. I do suppose that you could argue at least they were ‘seen and not heard’. Only joking! Despite not knowing the facts I do think it sounds terrible but there have always been bad parents – they haven’t suddenly arrived. I think the all pervading problem is that we have become subsumed with consumption of all kinds – as particularly indicated by this generation’s obesity problem for a start. It sounds as if the parents had problems themselves, between them – has anyone thought of that? Anyway – the most mine is allowed to do at the table when out is draw on a napkin, talk and never run around.He doesn’t have a playstation, PSP, Nintendo or a portable DVD player or a computer. Lots of his friends do. He is only 7 – I’ll have to give in at some point but not now. When we have gone out with friends and their children – some have brought their Nintendo’s along which has basically stopped all conversation between the kids which is a real shame I think. More people are using Nintendo’s as a babysitter than you think – I know I am an exception amongst my friends but I intend to keep it that way for the time being.Whoops – rant over.

  32. My earlier reply seems not to have been posted. I don’t think it was abusive: Nobody needs a high horse to question the sense of anything. But you’ve not really been rationally questioning the sense of letting children quietly watch dvds while in a restaurant. If you had been, there would be more diversity in the posts, pros and cons being talked about, as well as what could have led to that particular situation that you witnessed. Instead there has mostly been condemnation and lots of “This isn’t how my parents treated me or what I would do with my children, therefore this is outrageous”. Opinions are not going to lead anyone to any meaningful or instructive answers on this. You need experience and evidence; anything else may as well just be written in the Daily Mail.

  33. Tanya: first of all, I can promise you I didn’t disallow any comment on yours – I don’t know what happened to it. As a non-parent, I generally take the view that I am unqualified to criticise the parenting of others – certainly in mixed company. Sometimes, I see something in the world that I feel like sharing, such as the wired-up baby in question. I did just that, offer it up for discussion. Clearly, nobody knows the backstory, but since nobody has been named (I didn’t even say which part of London the restaurant was in!), it’s perfectly reasonable to me for a debate to ensue. Everyone is entitled to a reaction, and an opinion. I think this one is less about parenting (although some have taken it that way) and more about the sadness of the modern world. When I was growing up, portable DVD players did not exist, so the situation would have seemed futuristic. Now it is not. I never went to restaurants as a kid, certainly not as that young age, so I have nothing to compare it to directly, but if I had been out with my parents I would have been allowed to look at a comic or book, but not in mixed company, as that may have been considered rude. The rules change. Technology changes. As for the lack of “diversity” in the posts that you mention, it’s organic. Some debates polarise, others unite. This one seems to polarise. There’s nothing sinister in that. I only disallow abuse or anonimity and have, for the record, not disallowed a single post on this debate.I hope there is no consensus among those who regularly post here. But these things must be allowed to flow naturally.

  34. Andrew’s right Tanya. At the risk of sounding like a ‘sook'(as we say in Scotland) I would say that there is often disagreement and I’ve certainly never had any of my posts disallowed because it was against the grain of the conversation. He did fail to include my post once – but that was simply because I called him a lazy cunt (in jest, I might add) and it was obviously not meant to be posted, merely a personal remark.I personaly went all right-wing and Daily-Male myself when I read this. I guess certain stories act like a mirror and we see what we want to see. Depressing story though, whatever you think. Cute baby photo though, nice hairstyle. Very Vince Clark.

  35. Andrew – I wouldn’t consider these particular children were in mixed company. To me, if they were sat at a table with their closest relatives (we assume) then that’s not mixed company. So going by your experience as a child, in a normal situation it would have been permissible to have a comic or book – most two year-olds cannot read, so a dvd player could be considered a modern equivalent for a two year-old of whatever printed media you might’ve taken on such an outing. Or it might not have even been a ‘normal’ situation – the two year-old might’ve been tired, grizzly, ill or obsessed with Finding Nemo. He might’ve been learning a lot from it that we can’t even begin to list or know. The parents might’ve been too tired or ill to go shopping or cook that day/evening and known that their son would be happiest in that situation with a dvd on. These are all quite realistic possibilities (just like the one that the parents are rubbish and never engage with him) and none of these ones mean that we are on the brink of disaster as a society! I think one of the main sadnesses of the modern world is people going around saying that the modern world is extraordinarily sad.I don’t find it a depressing story, Paul. Instant reactions to things aren’t always the best ones to stick with. I must’ve typed in the wrong code with my last post, or something. As I’m here, if anyone likes the music of The Smiths/Johnny Marr, then check out the Youtube videos of the brilliant Daniel Earwicker of The Primrose League. One is his cover of How Soon Is Now:

  36. Are you playing devil’s advocate here, Tanya, or are you in fact a parent? Either way, with your vast catalogue of possible explanations/excuses for these poor beleaguered parents, you come across as the world’s most open-minded, forgiving and reasonable person. I thought I was the soppy, wet liberal one, but on what I consider to be matters of social decay, I do allow myself to have an opinion.I’m not a parent, but I have plenty of friends who are, and relatives who are, and observe what’s going on around me all the time. I also have my own experiences of childhood to compare.When I was the age of the two kids I observed, I was not taken to restaurants. I went to a Wimpy once or twice, and I certainly wasn’t allowed to read at the table then, because it was a major treat! When my grandparents took me to a hotel in Blackpool, I sat at the table and joined in the conversation. If I’d been taken to the house of another set of adults, let’s say, I would have been allowed a comic or a drawing pad or whatever. That’s what I meant by mixed company really. Being in a restaurant, ie. in public, meant a different set of rules. It seems to me that there are fewer rules now. Adults sit at tables in restaurants and text, so of course kids do too. If I see a phone screen lit up for texting in a cinema, it drives me mad. Also, being “obsessed with Finding Nemo” is not a reason to let a child watch Finding Nemo in a restaurant is it? Surely! I really liked The Jungle Book as a kid and had an LP of it, but I didn’t play it all day.I’m still sticking with my old-fashioned view that kids of two and four should be in bed at 8.30 on a Sunday evening! It’s a good job I don’t have any, isn’t it? I’d have them taken away.

  37. My main, boring, thought is how do you judge the volume level for a film listened to via headphones when films must have great variation in volume throughout and 2 year olds (I think) have more sensitive hearing, and when (I think) you can damage your hearing with headphones at levels that you don’t even consider loud. Then again by the time today’s 2 year olds grow up who knows what science and that will be able to repair and improve.

  38. SwinesheadI’ve just read Mr Chipz blog with interest and horror.My eldest daughter starts infant school in September and when I saw references to Croydon in the blog I wanted to cry…(I live near Croydon you see)Just thought I’d mention it.

  39. Sounds like classic hysterical liberal parenting Tanya. But I’ll say no more – aa you’re obviously easily riled. Hysterical liberal parents often are, strangely enough.I have three children aged between 5 and 12 and none of them would get away with that. Theyre all far too well-balanced. For which, I would have to blame their mother.

  40. Kids of that age in bed by 8:30pm Andrew, that’s a bit late! More like 7pm.When I was small we always ate our meals at home together, round the table, so that we could all talk about our days – children as well as parents. If we ever went out to eat it would have been a treat and the same rule would have applied – conversations all round.We were never allowed to read at the table. I don’t mind young children having a book at the table if things are taking a long time, but any children over 5 or 6 years old should really be able to sit and talk about different things while waiting for their meals.I saw a family of 5 having a coffee a few weeks ago. All 3 children were under the age of 5, but there was no noise from them, nor were they running around. They all sat there with a couple of comics or activities and all joined in helping each other, parents included. Hence the quiet. It was a nice surprise to see it.

  41. Can I challenge this general assumption that only parents are allowed a say on how children ar brought up. We don’t apply this to any other aspect fo life ie. only scientist allowed to talk about science, etc. Of course parents have an insight but so do other groups/individuals in society.The idea that parents views are the sole arbiter on this is why kids are allowed to watch videos in restaurant etc in the first place. Somethings are a bad idea full stop regardless of whatever huge list of mitigating “evidence” you produce. Oh and isn’t having bread “dough balls” as a starter for a meal of maincourse of more bread just wrong? Why do people have bread (pizza) with side order of garlic bread? 😉

  42. I think the thing is, Tanya, most of us round here think kids ought to be treated with some kind of respect, the respect that will make them turn into nice sociable grown ups. Like Andrew, I don’t have children, but love talking to them and I get as much from talking to them as much as I hope they do from me. Oh, and I LOVE Mr Chipz. I was so overcome when we met that I gave him a far too big a hug. He is a wonderful writer and a brilliant observer.

  43. Without sounding pious and if I do I can assure you it is not intended I have my own alternative set of the Three R’s – they are:RoutineRole ModelRespectWe owe our children these in abundance and not enough kids get this. And on the subject of bedtime – even as a parent I respect it is every parents choice to instigate their own time but personally – unless we didn’t have school th enext day or we are on holiday – bedtime is 19:30 every night – that way you get time for a story and not a dvd!

  44. Speaking as the world’s least liberal parent – when they were young I used to regularly take the plug off the TV – I nonetheless feel some sympathy with Tanya’s point of view. After nearly 30 years of parenting I have learned that there is nothing quite so strange and unique as a family. One of the finest young men I know spent a year at the age of 10 wearing an anorak indoors and refusing to eat anything but cereal. Wise parents very quickly learn the difference between the behaviour they can affect and the behaviour they can’t. On the other hand they may grow up to be sociopaths. I don’t know. Nor do any of us from just observing.

  45. If I saw someone treating a dog in a way that I felt was odd, I’d feel entitled to think it was odd, even though I’ve never owned a dog, nor have I ever been a dog. If I see someone treating a two-year-old in a way that I feel is odd, I actually have more empathy, as I have been a child and I still have parents, so even though I am not a parent, I am closer to at least a basic understanding of what might be going on. David makes a fair point – that all families are different – but we’re all trying our best to understand a world gone mad, I think. I actually don’t agree with the Sun, that we live in “Broken Britain”, but the cumulative effect of rampant runaway consumerism for the last 25 years or so, combined with exponential technological advance has certainly put a hell of a lot of unnatural pressure on a hell of a lot of ordinary people.

  46. Yep – I agree – consume consume consume – no time for anything but consuming – and a lot of the consumption is disposable too. Frenetic, potentially brain-numbing behaviour. Mind you – I’m ok and I had no family routine at all. I generally ate tuna from the tin most days (because I liked it and no one stopped me) and supper was when we liked so I had Alpen for supper most evenings. If anything the only thing it has left me with is a slight rebellious streak where authority is concerned but nothing bad. My parents had lots of parties (at least two or three a week) and we were allowed to mingle and generally do what we liked hence the above. But we always had to sit at the table when we did all eat together which was most Sunday lunchtimes oddly enough. So yes – I agree – Mr Hepworth hit the nail on the head most eloquently – families are all different and that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing because what do we have to compare it to? Interesting.

  47. It’s good manners to pay attention to other diners when you eat. The poor little mite can’t do that if they’ve been isolated like some Mr and Mrs contestant.It’s bad manners to stab someone. See – if we all had good manners, there would be a lot less trouble in the world.

  48. When they asked the late Queen Mother what the most important thing in life was she said manners. I agree with her. Never mind all these songs about peace and love. Give Manners A Chance.

  49. One of the posters talked about his teenaged children spending the whole meal out texting. Referencing your key point Andrew, this is FAR worse than what you witnessed.I am a parent of three under 10 and would say that my parent-in-restaurant skills have improved over time. I have spent many a meal in Pizza Express in an ultra-tense mode fearful that the behaviour of my kids (as toddlers 1-4) would affect the enjoyment of others around me. I suspect the parents you saw took the option of ‘anything for a quiet life’ and gave in to the DVD. Not ‘giving in’ is the hardest thing to do as a parent; I suspect they did.Pizza Express routinely give a writing set for all children to keep them occupied (and presumably seated) so that would probably have satisfied you, Andrew, even if conversation wasn’t the outcome?Also, 7pm is the tail-end of ‘tea-time’ for most children, and the beginning of tired/grumpy-time for 2-4 year olds. They may have been eating later than they’d have wished and were trying to keep the children going during this difficult pre-bedtime period.And finally Andrew, if you don’t want to eat in a Pizza restaurant with children around, go later than 7pm. Or go somewhere else. Parents, probably tense, don’t want their – often very occasional – meals out ruined by childless couples staring disapprovingly at them.

  50. “Childless” is a bit of an emotive term, Roger. I have no problem with eating in a restaurant with children around – when did I say that? (Also, for the record, I didn’t stare at anyone.)

  51. Sorry, no offence intended; I meant couples without children at restaurants. I mentioned that I used to be over-stressed about my children ruining other diners’ enjoyment (and therefore over-strict with my kids). I got over this when a friend pointed out to me – whilst our two families were dining together in a Pizza Express – that the child-free couple, who were looking at us in a ‘give us some peace’ way, shouldn’t expect anything else in a pizza restaurant on a Sunday afternoon/evening. Your blog entry reminded me of that situation.

  52. Sorry Roger but I have just as much right to be in Pizza Express (or any other restaurant)at whatever time I choose as you and your children. And I expect to be able to dine in peace.Deb Holt

  53. But Deb – thanks to the portable DVD player and headphones, you could have dined in peace! That’s exactly what the parents achieved, peace and quiet for other diners!

  54. Deb, ‘right’ is a pretty strong word when you’re talking about somewhere that’s not a public place.We don’t have a Bill of Rights over here, but even if we did, I don’t think it would ban Maccy D’s from holding children’s parties!And where does it say that parents don’t have the right to take their kids to a restaurant and let them riot? 😀 I personally think they have it right in Spain where they take their kids with them to eat (even when it’s late). Get the kids involved in life – not hidden away where they never learn how to interact with real people.

  55. Restaurant: “A place where meals are served to the public”.I don’t see anything in the definition about it being a place where kids run around, scream, climb over furniture, throw cutlery about, all whilst their parents/guardians sit ignoring them, which was my experience in Pizza Express a couple of weeks ago.Worthydan – come to think of it, I’m warming to the DVD idea…Deb Holt

  56. It’s probably a bit late to be adding this, but I’m just wondering how many of the above commenters are parents. Those that are not clearly have no idea how precious it is to be able to have a meal and conversation with your partner without being endlessly interrupted by your little darling. No matter how much you love your children, it’s still nice to have a few minutes’ peace. Perhaps these people had been happily engaging with their son all day and he’d had enough of being taught Latin and piano or whatever else they were doing and just wanted some time to chill out on his own.

  57. I appreciate your parental empathy, Jon, but the boy was two years old. Would you put a two-year-old into some headphones and ignore him? (Many of the above contributors will indeed be non-parents, some with idealistic expectations of behaviour. I know I am. But we’ve all been brought up by parents. And without actually knowing the full life-story of the family involved, which none of us do, I don’t think that means we can’t pass comment.) I have no doubt the couple had been “happily engaging” with their son “all day”, but does that excuse putting him in the equivalent of a sensory isolation tank at the table? And don’t parents get peace when the children are in bed? It was 8.30 before they left the restaurant. Doesn’t a two-year-old go to bed at any point? It used to be a big treat for me, aged eight, to stay up until 9 o’clock, which is what time Bless This House finished. It’s in my diary: “I was allowed to stay up until 9 o’clock.”

  58. “No matter how much you love your children, it’s still nice to have a few minutes’ peace. “Then get a babysitter!I’ve got two kids – we normally take them out with us when we go to restaurants, on account of us being a family. It also helps to teach them how to behave in a restaurant. If we REALLY didn’t want to have to interact with them at all, we’d get a babysitter to look after them.Even ignoring the rights of the kid to have a meal without headphones, I’d be embarassed to be seen treating one of mine in that way.

  59. Having come to your blog via the highly entertaining podcast, I have found it very interesting to read your posts, and the comments regarding the child/children experience in Pizza Express.Speaking as a mother of a 9 year old with Aspergers (that is high functioning Autism if you didn’t know) and a 6 year old showing the first signs of Aspergers I can appreciate some of the comments left.Due to the fact that my sons both tend to be very loud, move around alot, and the eldest ‘flaps and spins’ we try to take them out when they are not tired if possible, but we have taken them out when they have been tired because of other things happening. I’m not saying that this family were wrong or right, but I think you have to hope that they felt they were doing the right thing. We always try to do the right thing by our children, even if sometimes this annoys or upsets other people/strangers.Last year we managed to empty our local Blockbuster of all customers when my eldest had an ‘episode’, but that is life, and thankfully all of us are different!I know I have waffled, but I waffle a whole lot more on my own blog!!

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