Darla Neugebauer, don't yell at babies, human decency, karma, Marcy's Diner, mean, parental shame, sympathize with parents, sympathy, Tara Carson, toddler mealtime is hard, Washington Post
Did you hear the one about the restaurant owner who yelled at a patron’s baby for crying?
I know I set that up as a joke, but there is no punchline. That happened. That’s a thing. Someone yelled at a baby for crying.
If you don’t know the story, here’s the recap (Mom Tara Carson wrote her own account for yesterday’s Washington Post.): Couple with small child are vacationing in Maine, stop in to a place called Marcy’s Diner, wait a half hour for a table, wait 40 minutes for pancakes, baby fusses, owner freaks out and yells at baby. AT the baby. Not about the baby, or at the parents, both of which would also cast her as an uppity, unsympathetic mean-o.
Darla Neugebauer, owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine, yelled at a baby for being a baby.
There are a lot of implications to this story. There’s the fact that it’s hard to take your kid out to eat. There’s the fact that it’s hard to keep patrons in your restaurant if a baby is crying. There’s the fact that the mother complained about her dining experience (if you can call it that) on Facebook and Neugebauer left an obscene and straight up NASTY comment, called her child a monster and “it,” and admitted to having thrown to-go boxes at the couple and demanded that they leave (in the rain, without finishing their meal, after they waited over an hour. How is this appropriate customer service or restaurant-owner behavior, in any reality?). And there’s the fact that her supporters are flying the “Be a good parent and control your kid” flag (bc kids of good parents never cry. Ok.) and in subsequent interviews, Neugebauer accuses the couple of not paying attention to their child: “I don’t even know if they knew it [the child] was there.”
So hang on. You’ll parent-shame this couple, accuse them of neglecting their child (crying is far from hard evidence of neglect, but sure, ok… Have you ever known a small human? Ever?), but express zero shame or remorse on your part for yelling at a baby for being a baby?
Further: the noise the baby was making offended you, so you responded with…more noise? More offensive, disruptive, disturbing noise? Because you also have no vocabulary to convey your emotions and desires?
Full disclosure on my part here: I used to and sort of still am someone who doesn’t like loud kids in restaurants. Or on planes. Or in stores. I like my own kid just fine, but my public interactions with other people’s kids who I don’t know range from indifference to mild annoyance. I can remember being in a Target once, years ago, and hearing a baby lose his ever-loving little face over something, and quipping to a friend, “We don’t need anything over that way, do we?” then making a beeline for the opposite side of the store. I can remember being outwardly annoyed at being seated next to a tired-looking woman with an infant on a long plane trip once.
I have a kid now. He’s sticky a lot, and he will try to touch you, no matter your preferences for being touched by sticky stranger-children. Karma says, here, feel this parental shame. Own it. Now feel bad about that day in Target! Feel bad about that plane trip! You could’ve held that infant for that mom who had probably needed to pee for a month and a half, it wouldn’t have killed you! FEEL IT! FEEL IT IN YOUR BLADDER!
Touché, universe, touché. But I have never, would never, and will never, yell at a baby. Good freaking god, the lines we have to draw, and why.
Anyway, tweet at Neugebauer on Twitter; it might make you feel better. (Or don’t. I mean, she has karma, too. She might be coming back as a pack of rat babies living in someone’s crappy New England diner kitchen. You don’t know.)
And a plea: If you can’t or won’t help the parents around you as they struggle to control their strong-willed, unselfconscious, sticky megaphone children, at least be willing to give them that knowing, sympathetic nod.
You have no idea what that nod means to me when I get it. When Jax grabs a huge tomato at the farmer’s market and MLB-throws it and the vendor laughs and the woman behind me in line gives me that nod, I could cry with the grace of their acceptance.
It’s like someone warm and un-sticky and grandmotherly has put her hand on my head and blessed me and said, “You are forgiven…
…now go get that child, he’s trying to feed that guide dog his gummy bears. You’re welcome, dear.”
I wonder if I get that feeling because I’ve never yelled at a baby for being a baby.
With respect Mrs. Carson I think everyone behaved badly. Your daughter – I don’t know why – ill, cranky, spoiled, hungry – only she knows. The restaurant owner could have been less angry, profane and nasty in her request (effective though it was). Darla could have tried bringing a toy, offering to deliver your meal, asked you nicely if you would step out and return when baby is calm. Maybe Darla could have (if she had time) tried to calm your child – she seems to have the ability albeit in a brusque manner.
She did have a point – what seems like a “fuss” to you might be ear-splitting noise to other diners. When your daughter is that cranky, take her outside and try to calm her. If it’s raining, go to the car, hoist the umbrella or ask Marcy’s if they’ll deliver to hotel (or you can come back for the food). We were all once children and may have behaved in a similar way – my parents would not have permitted it (or left a public place if we were inconsolable).
On the same topic, it’s not just babies who disturb the decorum of restaurants – other adults – the loud obnoxious bros, the loud gaggling women (4 seated, all yelling over each other), business people yelling into cellphones. There’s also the penchant for restaurants to try to sound like nightclubs with throbbing music.
Over all, a bad episode where everyone could have acted differently to address a problem. Your daughter looks cute – just remember not everyone shares the sentiment. Good luck~
Thanks for the comment, Shaun, but to clarify, I’m not the mother of this child. I just wrote a blog post about the incident. I link to Mrs. Carson’s account of what happened at Marcy’s Diner (which was published in The Washington Post), in my third paragraph. We’re in agreement, though, that all parties involved could’ve done things differently to smooth the situation. I just think yelling at a baby is never the way to go, ever.
Terry R Griffin said:
I do not have kids, but I had nieces. I know that anything can set them off……being hungry, tired, teething, too much shopping,.. and their crying can make your ears bleed….but here’s the thing….it should not be a matter of making people “cope” with it. I think that statement shows how self righteous we have become. “I CAN SMOKE WHERE I WANT, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT YOU MOVE”….or “I HAVE NOT SHOWERED IN TWO WEEKS, DON”T LIKE IT? TOUGH!”……or “MY BABY IS IN A MOOD AND IS SCREAMING FOR 40 MINUTES STRAIGHT, LEARN TO COPE WITH IT”. Cope with it? I am paying the same good money you are to have an enjoyable event…..your child is acting up, it is up to the parent to try to deescalate the situation as quickly as possible. Take the child outside and figure out what the crying is about. If it means you do not get your nice meal at the restaurant, box it up and have it at home after you have taken care of baby. No one in a restaurant wants to hear a screaming baby. Did the diner owner handle it well? I think the cussing could have been avoided in the Facebook posts but it is HER ESTABLISHMENT and if a patron, aged 1-100 acts up and is asked to leave she COULD have had the family trespassed by the police. Instead, she yelled at the family of the 2 year old and the two year old stopped crying. Not the end of the world, not a trauma to a 2 year old, and not a reason to attack the diner owner.
We’ll have to respectfully disagree, Terry. The baby did not stop crying after she was screamed at by a stranger. She was shocked into silence for a few seconds, then screamed harder, because she was scared. Definitely a trauma. This diner owner’s first words to the couple were not a polite “hey, we’re going to rush your order, but is there any way you could take this little one outside until it’s ready? Thank you.” It was a nasty comment and shoving takeout boxes toward them (for food they hadn’t yet received). I object to holding higher standards of conduct for babies than adults who own diners. She’s a bad business woman and seems, based on her FB comment and subsequent interviews, to be hotheaded and self-righteous. My sympathy is with well-meaning parents who maybe waited too long to act, and a baby who got screamed at for being a baby. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Terry R Griffin said:
I agree to disagree….but the parents did not take ownership of the child’s crying whether it was 5 minutes or 40. They should have tended to the child and find out what was going on….yes, I agree the owner was loud and probably angry and short tempered because of how busy they were….but it is still up to the parents. The owner should never have been put into the position to yell. If they were asked to leave they should have got up and left. The two year old may have been startled into silence but I never found an article that said she started crying again immediately after. Nor have I found any articles from other patrons disputing the owners story. If you have them I would indeed like to gain more information as I do not claim to know the full story. Having been in a restaurant where the kids were screaming at each other and running wild for over a half an hour before they were asked to control their kids or leave I was tempted to go over and raise my voice but did not. I was not the owner and it would have been the owner/manager’s responsibility. The owner did what she did…was the tone of voice appropriate? I don’t know, but it achieved what she wanted, which was peace for the rest of their patrons.
“The owner should never have been put into the position to yell.” She yelled because she couldn’t control herself, not because someone MADE her yell. Unlike a baby, who yells/cries because she has no vocabulary. Owner made a bigger disturbance than baby (the mom’s account, which I linked to, said the diner was noisy and no patrons were looking at them while baby cried), so I’m not sure she “achieved what she wanted, which was peace for the rest of her patrons.” Owner is an adult with a vocabulary and she chose to use volume and vitriol instead.
Terry R Griffin said:
I am torn……I mean, parents yell at kids all the time, I know that a stranger doing it would be startling…….but again if the parents would have taken care of the child as soon as it started to cry to figure out WHY he/she was crying and take care of the issue none of this would happen. Loud restaurant, yeah maybe people not right around their table would not have heard but sitting next to them? Annoying to the extreme. I do not think she handled it right but she handled it the way she felt was right and in her place of business she had the right to. But I am done with this….it is done and no amount of ranting is going to figure out what really happened….I tend to think more in the middle of the two stories. Thanks for letting me express my thoughts! Have a great day!
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I have not read anything from the Washington Post about it, but now I will. I hadn’t heard anything more about the actual situation. I also haven’t read or seen anything from the owner, other than a brief news interview.
I think it’s absolutely important to teach our children to respect those around them. A 2-year old is going to cry, going to get upset by *something* (grape jelly versus raspberry!?), and have a meltdown. Not being in the restaurant and not witnessing the situation first hand, we’re only able to piece together what happened, and how do we truly know what was embellished and what’s the truth of the situation?
Ultimately, I think we can agree on this – the owner overreacted. Big time. I agree wholeheartedly that it is her job to cater, but part of me still wonders about the other patrons whom she also has to cater to. At what point in time would you yourself have enough? Going from here say and accounts, the parents ordered food for the hungry child but never fed it to her. The parents refused to take her out of the situation (if not outside, why not a few minutes of cool down in the bathroom?). I can’t 100% side with the parents on this one. The crying lasted 40 minutes. Yes, babies cry – but allowing it to go on in a public place for that lengthy amount of time is not good parenting in my book. If I were a customer of that restaurant, I would also never go there again – clearly it’s not a child-friendly establishment.
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Meg An said:
I just had a similar conversation about this the other day with a few of my friends (all of us are childless but none of us are in the habit of giving out any parenting pro-tips so I think that doesn’t matter here). At what point did people start to think that their list of rights somehow included the right to not be inconvenienced or annoyed? This is a serious coping skill that people have just stopped developing. A baby crying at target gets a nod or even (depending on the situation) a sympathetic phrase to mama. When I see a kid having a meltdown behind me in a checkout line I always ask the parent if they want to cut ahead of me in line (that is what I would want in that reverse situation). Is it inconvenient? Sure. But you also get the social benefit of the warmfuzzy of not being a jerk and making it a bit easier for someone else–seems like an easy win.
Now on the childless-so-maybe-I-dont-get-it comment: I would never yell at a kid but I have been yelled at by many a parent for “talking to their kid” when they are doing something that irks me and I don’t get that either. My most recent example is a kid, roughly 7/8, and his mom come to the pool where it is just them and me and a friend. The kid has free range of the whole pool while we are clinging to a wall and chatting. THE WHOLE POOL. He is loud, splashing, and doing all the things you do at the pool when you are seven, I get it. But when I simply said, “hey friend could I please ask you to practice your cannonball on the other side of the pool so they aren’t so close to us?” His mom looked up from her phone and lost her mind. Same thing happened for a kid about that age who kicked my seat from LAX to Denver. The mom was sitting right next to him and you could hear him kick the seat bc it was rattling the tray. I turned around and asked the boy, “hey friend can I ask you to please stop kicking my chair?” she threatend to call the cops (sky police?) if i spoke to her kid again? You would have thought I pulled up in an unmarked van and offered him candy for his help in finding my puppy. Now I get that many kids have hidden disabilities and that manifests in many different ways but that was not what was up here (if that mom had said something like, “I’m sorry he can’t help it” I would have told her not to worry about it and would have left him to it).
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All of this, Meg. All of it. Especially: “At what point did people start to think that their list of rights somehow included the right to not be inconvenienced or annoyed?” I’m sorry you got yelled at by a mom, it sounds like you were courteous and well-intentioned. If you said that to me, I’d be all, “Jax, for real, canonballing ladies isn’t going to get you dates,” or some funny attempt at smoothing it over. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
I’m honestly torn on this one. On the one hand, I feel it’s no one’s place but my own to parent my child. On the other, my understanding is that this was a solid 40 minutes of crying and the owner had asked the parents to take the child outside to calm her down. The owner eventually lost her $&!# and screamed, and the baby stopped crying.
I’m one of those people who don’t like to hear kids screaming in public, but I know that one day Little Baby of Mine is going to throw the most epic of tantrums in the most public of places. It’s going to happen, and perhaps more than once.
While I don’t agree or condone with the owner, I do understand that we all have a point where we snap and have had enough. In what world does one set of parents and one loud child get to overrule 75 other patrons attempting to enjoy their meal?
I think the worst of this is now this poor child had a strange woman scream at her. I hope the little one doesn’t remember this instance and moreover isn’t affected in the future.
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I totally hear you. Did you get a chance to read the WashPo account by Tara Carson? She said that they already considered taking the baby outside but it was raining, and that yes, the owner did ask them to leave–by snapping at them, shoving takeout boxes at them, and storming off. She didn’t identify herself as the owner and politely ask. She threw a fit first. Bad business and bad manners. Mom also said that the baby did stop crying for a minute because she was shocked, and then dissolved into big tears at being, as you said, screamed at by a strange woman. I’m trying to teach Jax to live WITH, and with respect to, other people. That everything isn’t always about him all the time (only most of the time, ha). So I don’t think omg, everyone has to cater to the baby even when she’s screaming! But when you own a restaurant, it’s your job to literally cater. If you’re going to ask someone to leave who isn’t purposely being a jerk, do it nicely? Especially when the someone is two years old? And the owner’s rant on FB is just…wow. Vitriol. Younger, child-free me would’ve wanted the parents to take the baby out of the restaurant, too. But I like to think that even younger, child-free me would be way more upset by someone screaming at a baby than by a screaming baby in a restaurant. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sarah. I’m not trying to antagonize you, I just feel pretty strongly about this one. I respect that you’re torn about it. 🙂
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