Taking children on a cruising holiday is mostly joyful. However, there are some of the more “traditional” cruisers who clearly believe that a cruise is not for children. They are rather appalled to find themselves sharing a cruise with a gaggle of children. Thankfully these type of cruisers are few and far between but we have now encountered them twice and they firmly believe that “children should be seen and not heard”.
Our First Encounter
On our first Christmas cruise we encountered the aforementioned cruiser. He made his way to us, just as Youngest was feeling tetchy and clearly not in the mood to have her personal space invaded. He addressed Youngest and boomed, “I hope you are going to behave on this cruise or Father Christmas will not be visiting you.” I stood aghast as Youngest’s bottom lip started to wobble. Luckily we never saw him for the rest of the cruise but it was a dampener on our first night. It must be something to do with Christmas cruises because this Christmas we encountered another anti-child cruiser.
On the penultimate day of our holiday we decided to have a sit down meal for lunch. There are two choices on the cruise ship. You can either eat at the buffet or you can have a meal at the sit down restaurant. The buffet might feel like the more desirable option; the children get to pick exactly what they want to eat and no one bats an eyelid when your 5 year-old starts shouting “I don’t like vegetables, I only want chocolate”. However, it is infinitely more stressful. Firstly, you have to herd them round the food stations. This is much like herding kittens as they both veer off in different directions. Oldest normally to the hot food counter and Youngest to the cold desserts. You then spend 10 minutes in protracted negotiations with them as people huff behind you.
“No, a plate of curly chips, smiley faces and crackers does not constitute a balanced meal. Oldest, please at least have at least one vegetable on your plate.”
“Youngest! Put the trifle down! You already have three desserts and where is your main. No, one cracker does not constitute your main meal!”
Once you have persuaded them that they should have at least one vegetable you find yourself trying to get out of the buffet to find a table. This in itself is like some sort of endurance test as people ignore the signs and go the wrong way. You then find yourself trying not to drop the trays laden with desserts and carbs, whilst not losing the children. No, we prefer the sit down restaurant where we offer/instruct the children what they will be having and they are safely contained in their chairs.
The Older Generation
Unfortunately, some of the older generation clearly think that the restaurant should be for them only. We found ourselves surveying the dining room as the older people looked aghast. The room was hushed and everyone kept the eyes down, no doubt praying that we wouldn’t be sat near them. Luckily, the waiter sensing the other diners’ disagreement sat us as far away from them as he could. However, it was quite small and we might have been in the middle of the room but we were still within earshot of them. My girls quickly set about getting their various bits of paraphernalia out as a rather grumpy middle-aged lady loudly tutted on the next table. Were they being too loud? No, but she obviously believed that all children should be able to sit at a table without anything to occupy them. However, we also know that our children have the attention span of gnats and like to be kept busy.
Oldest started reading her book and youngest started her colouring in before she loudly insisted that I write her a story. Again, grumpy lady tutted and rolled her eyes at us. Her (I suspect long-suffering) husband turned round to see the objects of her disgust. Youngest who likes to be the centre of attention sweetly smiled at him and waved as she boomed, ’Hello, do you want to see my Caribbean doll?” Embarrassed at being caught out he turned back round quickly, as his wife chided him under her breath.
For the whole meal the children behaved impeccably. They ate with their knives and forks. Believe me, when I say that this is a win indeed. Both of my children can act rather feral and have to be continuously reminded that they have a knife and fork for a reason. They also read and coloured in quietly. Yet, this lady was not satisfied. Nothing would appease her. She clearly felt that our place was not to be in there. Who knows what her history is. Perhaps she doesn’t have children of her own. Perhaps she once had a run in with a child so vile that she has flashbacks every time she sees one.
As we ate I could feel my blood pressure rising as her displeasure became more and more obvious. I felt aggrieved that she felt we shouldn’t be in there. My children are used to eating out at restaurants and they have been drilled about how to behave in a restaurant. They know that if they are lucky enough to eat somewhere nice then they need to behave nicely. That lady had nothing to worry about because my children are ladies that lunch, meaning that they will do everything possible to eat out, especially if it avoids having to eat my cooking. She also should have trusted that if one them had started to misbehave then we would have whipped them out there so quickly that no one would have been any the wiser.
In the end, the miserable couple left and I l felt like I could breathe again. As we came towards the end of our meal a lady came towards our table. I held my breath and looked at the girls. Had one of them been flicking peas and I hadn’t realised?
“I just wanted to tell you what lovely and so very well behaved girls you have. You are very lucky to have such a lovely family”
What Am I Teaching My Children?
I found myself stuttering as I stumbled to accept her compliment. Although, the word lucky rankled me slightly, she wouldn’t have been calling us lucky if she had seen some of their behaviour behind closed doors. However, for her she thought they were well behaved because they were being quiet. That troubled me too. Does being good simply mean being quiet. Does this really make for good behaviour or am I just teaching them that a patriarchal society rewards them for being quiet? Have I inadvertently taught my two girls that a good girl is one that sits quietly? Would she have come over if we had spent the whole meal chatting loudly? I accepted her compliment but it niggled slightly. Should I be proud? Yes, they are well behaved when required. However, have I taught them that good behaviour requires them to be quiet and is that the right message to be sending them?
As always, I am probably over analysing everything but I don’t want them growing up thinking that children should be seen and not heard. Perhaps for that one moment I should have allowed myself to feel smug. I spent the whole meal feeling angry at the rude woman and then we were complimented on their behaviour. For that one moment in time we looked like we had it all. The happy family, loving husband and well behaved children. However, a small snapshot in time never tells the whole picture, does it? No family has it all but that is a whole other post…