My letter to the parents of L**** and its environs

Dear Parents,

They are called babysitters. Look into them.

My enjoyment of Saturday night's Christmas concert at Utah State University was slightly marred by the squalls and piercing shrieks of your infant and toddler offspring. I especially appreciated the part where, rather than sitting near an exit so that you could make a hasty retreat at the first signs of fussiness, many of you chose to park yourselves right in the middle of a row right in the front of the audience. I think I would have made a different choice if I had a ticking time bomb in my lap, but oh well. And I really loved how some of you finally took your screaming child out of the theater and then brought them back in again a few minutes later just to repeat the entire process.

I'm also curious--why was it so important to you that your tiny children attend this concert? Did you think that's the kind of thing they would enjoy? Because, clearly, they didn't. And I can't imagine you did either, unless you take a kind of sick pleasure in pinching your child during the quietest parts of the musical numbers, thereby ruining my Christmas buzz.

Here's the thing: When I want to hear screaming kids, I have options. I can go to my sister's house. I can go to a pediatrician's office. I can go to Wal-Mart at closing time. Heck, I can attend the story times at my own library. And the beauty is, I can do all those things for free. I don't need to buy a ticket and dress up and invite a guest and go sit in a nice theater. I really don't. And when I do buy a ticket and dress up and go sit in a nice theater I am NOT hoping for the added perks which your child's set of lungs may add to the entertainment.

So yes. Babysitters. Do us all a favor and get one. If you can't afford it, trade services with a friend. Do not ruin the experience for those of us who planned ahead (far, far ahead in my case) and did not bring babies. If you're unsure as to whether to bring your child, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Is this event intended for small children? (Key indicators would be balloons, performances during the day, and signs which read "Babies Welcome!")

2. Is it at all possible that my child might become fussy or cry during the performance? (This applies to children from ages 0-15.)

If you're still unsure, give me a call and I'd be happy to help you decide.


Rynell said... [reply]

I am a parent of small children. This extreme lack of etiquette still irks me to no end. I make a special point of procuring childcare for my young ones when attending such events. (Or else I do not go.) Many other parents do not get sitters, as you have aptly described. This bugged me when I was single and it still bugs me on the other end of the spectrum -- perhaps even more so because I put forth the effort to get someone to babysit my children. (There are in fact lots of children-friendly festive things to do, nice concerts are not on that list.)

It would be lovely if some of the offending folks read this.

Lindsay said... [reply]

Um yeah...totally with you 100% on this one. The question is, though, why do these parents put THEMSELVES through the nightmare? Because maybe I'm selfish, but, as a parent, I want to enjoy it, too, and if it's not kid-friendly chances are slim I won't, let alone anyone else around me. So yeah, Offending Parents, do everyone - including yourselves - a favor and hire a sitter! We'll all be happier if you do.

Hannah said... [reply]

Oh!! I hate that. I just went to my brother-in-law's vocal point concert and the people next to me brought their 1 year old. (I had just spent 2 hours scrambling for a babysitter, so I was a little peeved..) Anyway. The kid screamed the whole time, kicked me about 100 times and threw his mom's cell phone at me face. Not only did his parents not take the kid out, but they didn't even apologize to me when he threw that thing at me. (They saw too...) I think they thought it was cute. I hate dumb parents.

Anth said... [reply]

Argh this is one of my pet peeves - when *I* have paid for a babysitter, only to be treated to the sounds of a baby wailing, thereby ruining the movie, concert, or whatever. Said baby being bounced ineffectually by some twit too cheap or dumb to get a babysitter themselves. I hate going to those things with my toddler - it's no fun for me, much less her. So if I can't find a babysitter, I don't go. To me, it's as simple as that. If only it were as simple to the rest of the world.

amyjane said... [reply]

Amen, sister. Somewhere in the hospital crap they give you there should be a set of rules. Rules that tell you that you might not get to go to lots of things anymore, and if you do you will HAVE TO make arrangements for your offspring.
I'm with Lindsay--why would you do this to yourselves? Aren't the three hours of church once a week enough for you?

amyjane said... [reply]

Also, there's a reason that fancy things are at night--it's cause you kids should BE IN BED by then. It's just not that hard to find a swap friend to come watch TV at your house while your kids sleep and then you do the same in return. And it's free, to boot.

Jenny said... [reply]

I hate this so much. I feel your pain, sister. I wish more people would be straightforward when hosting events that children under 8 or babes in arms or whatever are unwelcome. Maybe if they charged for the extra kid people would quit bringing them, since it would be cheaper to get a sitter than to take the kid.

I wish more people would find sitters or take one for the team and STAY HOME. All the other sane people do.

Also, Hannah- that sucks hard. I feel worse for you than Nemesis.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Yeah Hannah, that's really so bad. I don't know you you kept from going nuts on those people

TheMoncurs said... [reply]

It's so unfortunate that so many parents can't handle removing (or not bringing) their children when necessary. It's just so rude. I know this wasn't about church, but there's a couple in our ward with a really fussy 5 month old baby. Our RS room is really small and the mom will sit there with that baby fussing for the ENTIRE LESSON and not once take him out of the room. I can hardly hear the teacher and I usually sit all the way across the room. Drives me batty. My husband says that the dad does the same thing when he has the baby in Elders Quorum. So rude.

miranda said... [reply]

Amen, Amen, Amen.

My son knows how to behave when we take him out to eat (and if he didn't he knows we wouldn't get to go -- it's called discipline and consequences people). At the store he is good because he knows that I will just walk out with him if he isn't. And acting up in church? No way. By the time he was 18 months old he knew that if I took him out of the chapel he would not be running around and having fun. He'd be sitting on my lap, in the foyer, arms pinned to his side.

But to take him to a concert such as the one described? Not even. Completely inappropriate. He wouldn't enjoy it, and it's not something for kids. People pay money for these experiences, and I would never dream of even taking the chance that he would mess it up for others (not to mention for me!)

Interestingly, in Syracuse (New York, NOT Utah) this did not happen. Such adult-type events were *gasp* attended only by adults. Of course, everyone at a nice concert put on nice clothes as well...

Nemesis said... [reply]

I should mention here that the hosts of the concert (the LDS Institute on campus) kind of shot themselves in the foot by offering tickets priced for individuals and for families. So maybe parents saw the word "family" and thought this was the equivalent of a Wiggles concert.

kristen said... [reply]

This needs to be extended to movie theaters. Will you make copies and post them, like, EVERYWHERE?! Huge pet peeve of mine.

The Conference Center has it right: to specify no children under 8 and to wear Sunday attire. That way people treat such performances as such.

Squirrel Boy said... [reply]

I think hiring a babysitter is just part of the cost of going out for an evening. If you can't afford a babysitter, you can't afford to go out. Simple as that.

I have mixed feelings about taking your kid out of the room during church meetings, though. My little boy is very active, and if I take him out every time he's making too much noise, I end up missing whole meetings. And at that point, why am I even there?

Of course, you have to weigh your own needs against those of everyone else in the room and strike some sort of balance. I'm just never entirely sure where that balance is.

Wodin said... [reply]

You know, squirrel boy, my mother once was sitting despondently in the foyer with a fussy child (probably me), and another woman walked through the foyer on her way to the restroom or something. She stopped to chat, and my mother said, "I don't know why I bother coming; I spend more time out here than in there." The woman said to my mother, "Don't you feel bad about this! You come for them," pointing at the baby, "and you're setting that example." It made my mom feel a lot better.

See, you should still take your children out during church, even if you miss whole meetings. Eventually it gets better. And don't say I never listened to my mother.

East of Eden said... [reply]

Can you add to your list people who let their kids SCREAM in church w/o taking them out, and also the same people who think the cultural hall is the 'run around and get all of your wiggles out during sacrament meeting, while the meeting is in progress room'?

Babysitters are always a good thing.

amyjane said... [reply]

Just to follow the tangent about kids and church--I think you do your best. As members of this church, we all know that kids are supposed to be there. Therefore, we all have to deal with a little bit of noise from other people's babies. However, you do have to draw a line and take them out. And once they're old enough to start to learn (for us it was about 8 months) you have to make going out pretty "not fun," i.e. the naughty room, where you sit on mommy or daddy's lap with folded arms until you chill out and then you get to go back in where the snacks and toys are. We have a super rambunctious kid and he's learned to be pretty darn good for a two year old. However, he's still two, and I'd hate to have people getting mad every time he says "Ooh, the sack-er-ment!" quite a lot louder than one should in church.
I'm just saying, since kid's are supposed to be at church, well before they are able to be perfectly behaved there, we have to look at that a bit differently. Concerts and other optional adult entertainment--that's a different thing entirely.

Holly said... [reply]

Awesome post and terrific comments. I don't have a great deal to add. Well, maybe I do... I have two young boys (6 and 9) and we have taught them how to behave at church and other places (partly because we don't allow them to remain in the meeting, movie, or whatever, if they are misbehaving and noisy). We did this from the time they were infants at church. Now, they can sit through the meeting quietly. The only place we have taken them, so far, is the movie theater for matinees, but we still expect appropriate behavior, and they make me proud. I want to take my older son to the Nutcracker and I think he's just about ready to handle it.

When I lived in California, I had season tickets to the San Francisco Opera. In several years of attending, I NEVER saw a child under the age of 12 at a performance. At the first opera I attended in Boise, I HEARD A BABY CRY and a cell phone go off somewhere behind me. It was on vibrate, but had been set on the floor, so we all heard it anyway. The owner got up and ANSWERED it on her way out. It made me angry, because the tickets were expensive, and we had arranged for a sitter for our children. I feel your pain, I really do.

I love wodin's answer. If you're at church, it doesn't matter if you miss the meeting. If your child fusses you TAKE HIM OUT. There are times and seasons for everything, and our season as parents is to teach our children, BY EXAMPLE. That means you go to church and you take your family. That also means you teach your children that it is not appropriate to be disruptive during a meeting. I have spent many a Sunday walking the halls with my fussy children, wondering why I was there. I was there to teach my children obedience, and now they can sit through meetings and I can get something out of them myself. I always told myself that I had many years of quiet, spiritual singles wards to draw upon at those moments, as well as having many years of quiet meetings to look forward to when my children are older.

Stepping off my soapbox.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Loved this post. Even with three kids, Plantboy and I are always irked at toddlers at PG-13 movies, obnoxious children at nice restaraunts, and children generally in any public place after 8:30 or 9:00 when they CLEARLY don't want to be there. "But he won't go to sleep. . ." It is because your child is so sleep deprived and over-stimulated and attention deficit that they CAN'T sleep. Don't get me started on babies and sleep. . .

Our ward has a family of SEVEN kids. The oldest daughter sits through sacrament meeting (she is like 14), but her six younger brothers spend the time running around the back hall and getting the toys out in the nursery. I'm not against big families . . .


blackjazz said... [reply]

It's unbelievable!

Is this a Utah thing? (thinking it's OK to take young children to a concert, theatre and cinema)

I know we're a family centred church, but it only takes a small amount of brain power to realise that that doesn't mean adults have to take their children with them where ever they go.

In the UK I'm sure if somebody tried to take a baby or young child into a theatre or concert (especially without another ticket!) they'd be refused admission.

If I sat next to somebody who had a noisy child, I'd complain to the management. In our local cinema I know if you complain about misbehaving children (toddlers or teenagers), they're asked to leave.

Nemesis said... [reply]

What do you think about Blackjazz's question, group? Is the "taking babies places where they don't belong" thing a UT or Mormon or anywhere thing? Because I honestly don't know.

Holly said... [reply]

Can't vouch for Utah, but like I said, I never saw or heard children in a theater production in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I have in Boise.

I think it isn't completely a Mormon thing, but I think Mormons are a big part of the problem. We are a family-oriented church and we are a people who, for the most part, don't like to stand up and call someone on the carpet when they're doing something we don't like (there are exceptions to this rule, but still). I've found that there is this unspoken rule that you "can't hurt people's feelings" in the church. Mormons, as a rule, can't handle direct communication, especially if it's negative. At least here in my part of Idaho. That's why we pick up the pieces when someone else drops the ball in their calling, rather than letting them fail. And, the stupid parents who think it's cute to let their kids run all over the chapel or RS room don't ever get asked to take their kids out. We all sit passively and get annoyed, but no one will stand up and say, "Please take your child out."

There are people who will complain about the noise to an attendant in a venue, but most Mormons won't. At least from what I've observed. It's sad on all counts.

TheMoncurs said... [reply]

Actually, it occurred to me after I posted my original comment that it does seem to be more of a Utah thing. I live in AZ now and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in Cali and haven't seen it nearly as much in either of those places than I did during my time at BYU.

My friend had an "adults only" wedding in Utah and people seriously did not know how to handle that. They were beyond confused. How could their children not be welcome?? A lot of people showed up with kids anyway. You wouldn't run into that attitude in very many other places.

And about kids at church: I'm with Wodin. I'm pregnant with my first and my husband and I fully intend to take him out whenever he becomes a distraction. That might mean I miss pretty much everything until he's old enough for nursery, but that's a risk you take when you decide to have kids. I think that when your kids are really small you're at church to be obedient and to show your kids a good example. If you happen to catch a lesson in there, great! If not, someday they'll all be in primary and you can sit peacefully through a Sunday School/RS/EQ lesson.

Jimmy said... [reply]

You know, I'm guilty of a few social faux pas myself, but I'm proud to inform you that this is one thing I do right! My kids are meant to be inflicted on ME, and they're not there for everyone to enjoy, err, endure.

Point well made, Ms.

Jimmy said... [reply]

I had to DIGG this one :)

coolmom said... [reply]

I know it's late and no one will read this, but having raised five children, I figure I've missed about 15 years of sacrament meetings. It was probably more of a big deal to me at first because I am a convert to the church and thought I was missing somethng. Now I know I wasn't and I realize it was definately more important to sit in the hall and teach discripline. And the being there paid big dividends. It's too bad they can't make an announcement at the beginning of important events for everyone to turn their children off, like a cell phone. As long as there is agency there will be stupidity.

blackjazz said... [reply]

Wow - a child-free wedding. I like that! It's seriously radical. It's so rude that some people decided to bring their little darlings anyway.

I was visiting another ward on assignment last Sunday. They announced the ward Christmas party, which was for "all the family". Yeah right! Why would anybody think that fun activities for toddlers will also be fun for adults? If it's for all the family, it's really a children's party. I was thinking "Well... even if I were a member of this ward, I wouldn't be going." Sadly, my own ward will, no doubt, be doing the same thing so I won't be going to that either. I really don't enjoy seeing other people's children run round and shout.

Maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old man :-(

Nemesis said... [reply]

"Maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old man"

I wasn't going to be the one to say it, Blackjazz . . . ;-)

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