I have been once again asked to explain why I think families should have to pass a test before going out in public.
It’s because they have children.
Not to be prejudiced; we all know adults who could not pass a manners-in-public test either, but they are beyond hope.
However, a test might save some children and their future families.
Study guide: If you are attending a play, and your daughter is talking in the seats and is louder than the actors, you should remove her from the event until she can be quiet.
It used to be easy to pass such a test because our parents taught us manners from the ground up –– there is nothing more Anglo-Saxon mannerly than silent invisibility. And that’s what they taught.
Once in my youth — when I had decided I was as smart and as well-informed as my dad — I interjected into a conversation he was having with a neighbor on our front porch.
After my 13-year-old self was done pontificating on some political issue, and having done so by repeating ideas I had heard from him so I was sure he would beam with pride, he asked if I could help him with something inside.
When we were hidden around a corner, he said, “Don’t ever do that again.”
“But I. . .”
“No ‘Buts’ – you are to sit and listen or leave. Do not play adult.”
We returned to the porch, my face burning with shame, and he and Mr. Allman continued their discussion.
I listened long enough to be polite and slinked inside.
Study guide: Children — Sit, listen, learn and do not disrupt adult conversation. If friends bring their children, introduce yourself politely, then take the children to the yard or your room to play.
I would be 16 or 17 before I was asked questions and led into conversation with adults. By then I had learned to listen quietly and speak briefly in turn, but I was still nodded out of the room after a few minutes.
I have tried to raise some children of my own since then, and that evening on the porch has informed my decisions often. There was adult-time in my house, and I have many times sworn not to return to someone else’s house because they did not have adult-time.
They instead stood enraptured as their 3-year-old explained the world or interrupted a conversation for the 20th time, usually with some senseless inanity about the dog.
“Coco is swat poo foos.”
One family’s precious little one set up a bowling game on the table where the adults were seated and proceeded to crash a plastic ball into the pins and scream every time we attempted to speak.
His mother asked him if he thought there might be a better place for his game.
He said, “No.”
Like my parents, I always budgeted focussed time with my children. When I visit friends with children, I allow time to spend with their children.
Children and pets are drawn to my fiance as if magnetically, and our home, I hope, is a place where their children like to visit or love to be there. We live on a cul-de-sac with a basketball hoop and have a football, and I do not speak to adults when I am playing ball.
I am a semi-retired scouter who spent years of weekends camping with 30 or more boys. A Venture Crew added more years of high-adventure.
Study guide: It’s OK to budget time with your children that does not include adults. In fact, you should do this.
But then, there is adult-time, and the children should leave the conversation or politely come in for a minute or two.
My idea for a public-manners test was reinvigorated recently by a few experiences with some curl-lipped little monsters who were being taught their by parents that they and they alone were the only persons worthy of attention.
And they are the reason why, when I say “I love children,” my friends finish the sentence for me. . . “but no one cooks them right.”
Ah, the recipes I could have concocted with the five little squealers who inhabited the yurt near ours last weekend in Bandon.
Five kids in a yurt, a thin-walled-yurt offering no sound deadening whatsoever.
Who puts five kids under the age of 7 in a yurt in the middle of other campers; how do you even have five kids under 7?
Five in the morning and little Claribel, clearly suffering from consumption, begins to cough. Cough and cough and cough, little squeaky toddler coughs.
Mom scurries out to the car to get medicine and sets the alarm off –– anyone asleep now?
She silences the car and heads back in, but by this time one of the toddler-bucks has awakened and is barking like a dog and has stepped on a sister, and she is screaming like a rat with its head caught in a trap.
And still the coughing …
The medicine kicks in and Claribel-consumption quiets but two toddler-bucks are now making animal noises and the rat-child is screaming occasionally –– it seems one of her brothers hangs off the top bunk and stomps on her shin anytime it gets too quiet for him.
The mother has said nothing, and it is thus she has failed the aforementioned test –– she is unaware that the members of her litter are not the only people on earth.
And so I propose, until you can pass a test indicating you possess the knowledge that your children, no matter how precocious and cute, are not the only people on earth, stay home.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .