There's this place? It's called Tea Lounge. It’s what it sounds like. People go there. And the people, they bring their kids. And babies. Kids and babies. The place is crammed full of kids and babies. Screaming, mewling children. You would think that in Park Slope, no one works, and no one has anywhere else to go with their children. And everyone is desperate for scones and four-dollar cappuccinos. So they pack up the kids, and head out for Tea Lounge. Which, look, in theory, this should be fine. Tea Lounge is big. Tea Lounge can handle the crowds. Tea Lounge probably loves all these people, with their fine children and their pretty money.
But the people, they bring their children, and they pack lunches for them, and they bring toys, and they spread out all over the place, and you know what? Then it’s no longer a café. Then it’s a day care center. Babies are crawling, toddlers are toddling, while childless adults are trying to get to their seats, balancing teetering china cups of steaming coffee.
People. Your children. Remember them? Look up from your lattes.
Then the after-school crowd comes in. Young kids, let’s say, 7-10. (Preteens? Wait, they call them “tweens” now! This is cute! Okay! Tweens!) They arrive with their parents in tow—parents who appear to be ready to vomit with exhaustion. (But why can’t they go home? Are their homes being used as porn sets until 5 p.m.? I bet that’s it. I bet their homes are being used for the production of hardcore pornography.) The parents collapse on chairs. The kids run shrieking in circles, hot-chocolate in hand and smeared into hair. They tell each other hilarious jokes, which cause them to fling their bodies throughout space, while they yawp with joy. Then they scream their hilarious jokes at their parents, who are sitting many feet away from them, smiling into space. I’ve seen children sprawled out in high-traffic areas, playing with Legos. Legos. They can’t play with their Legos at home? Perhaps they can play with the nice gaffer from the porn set. I bet the gaffer is nice. Gaffers are always nice.
Recently I was there with Henry. (Yes, I bring my child there. I am a hypocrite, sure, but at least I don’t let him run around.) Two bohemian-type (read: grubby) children, a girl and a boy, run up to Henry. Henry stares at them. I smile at the kids. The girl rubs one paw across Henry’s face. I swear she leaves a smudge. Henry is taken aback for a moment, then recovers and goes back to his Cheerios. The girl says to me, “He’s a baby!” I look at her parents, who are sitting (defeated, cringing) a few feet away. They smile ruefully in my direction. The boy is now inserting a finger into Henry’s mouth, like he’s a doll. For once I hope Henry bites someone. “Um, honey?” I say, trying not to slap the kid’s hand out of my son’s maw, “He has a cold, and I wouldn’t watch you to catch it. Also he doesn’t like that. Yeah, that. He doesn’t like it.” Except he does like it; Henry loves the poop-infested hand of this strange child in his mouth. He’s snorting with laughter while this kid fishes around in Henry’s mouth, and the girl and the boy are yukking it up, taking turns with the World of Discovery that is my child’s orifice and saying things like, “Ew, wet Cheerios in there.” I’m looking at the parents and, very loudly and directly, saying, “Um! Um! Um!” Which is so clear! This so clearly communicates, “Please stop your horrible children from fishing around in my child’s mouth!” But the parents, they don’t speak this language. They seem to find their children’s inquisitiveness charming. So they sit there. This makes me sad.
People. If it’s so difficult to keep your children in check, you should stay home, even if there are strangers performing illicit acts on your soapstone countertops. Really, this is common sense.