Kris and I walked up to the corner of Oak Grove and River Roads at noon Saturday to meet Lane and John in what I hope will be the first of a series of gatherings. We got a table at McQueen’s, a smoky bar filled with aging men and women who look to be regulars. The women around us were ordering screwdrivers and Bloody Marys; the men were ordering beer to go with their breakfasts. Because McQueen’s doesn’t serve lunch until 1pm on Saturdays, the old folks chased their alcohol with chicken fried steaks and three-egg omelettes. And everyone smoked — great, billowing puffs of the stuff.

We’d had our hearts set on burgers, but we settled for breakfast food as well. The food was incidental, though. Our real purpose was to get to know Lane and John, our neighbors and fellow bloggers. We’ve been here nearly three years now, and have only barely said “hi” to these two.

We had a good time. We chatted about the history of Oak Grove, about the recent snowy weather, about our jobs, and about blogging. We shared anecdotes of the various stores that used to dot the Superhighway (now 99e).

I had forgotten how smoky McQueen’s was until we were walking home. I could smell it on my clothes. “It’s a good thing you just took that sweater to the cleaners,” Kris kidded. “Now it’ll really smell lovely.” When I took the sweater off at home, I could tell that she was right. It’s cloaked in cigarette smoke.

After a bit of writing, Kris and I each fired up an iPod and we took off for a walk. I listened to Undaunted Courage, which is about the Lewis and Clark expedition; she listened to The Decemberists. It felt very Pacific Northwest. The sun was out and shining. It was a lovely day. We walked down the hill, through the park, back along the river, through the lovely estates, and then up the hill past McQueen’s again. Along the way we stopped to point out notable features to each other: cats basking in the sun, cats sitting forlorn in bedroom windows, a gaggle of ducks in the ditchwater, a house damaged from a fallen tree. We passed several other people out walking. We passed a boy who had scraped together all the remaining snow he could find (there’s not a lot left) to build a snow-head — just the top of a snowman, with a carrot nose and eyes made from chestnut husks. We passed several people in their driveways washing their cars. We passed people outside gardening. It’s January 20th, and I feel like we’re being given a small preview of spring. I like it.

In the late afternoon we ran errands. We stopped by Trader Joe’s to get more salsa autentica and, especially, more nuts. (Since I started my wellness program, nuts are my favorite food.) The store was crowded, more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. I don’t do well with crowds. And I was hungry. And there was a hippie family with clueless parents and screaming kids. This all made me very tense.

“I’m hungry,” I said on the drive home. “Let’s stop at Oaks Bottom Pub.” We got the restaurant at just after five. All the booths and tables were full, so we sat at the counter. I had a feeling we should have just gone next door to Cha Cha Cha, but I didn’t heed it. Instead I sat there getting crankier and crankier (because I was really very hungry), listening to all the goddamn kids in the place. The pub had no less than eight children, ranging in age from about eighteen months to eight-years-old. It was like we were at Chuck E. Cheese.

I don’t mind kids, but there’s a time and a place for them. A pub? Not really the place.

On our drive home, Kris and I once again had a discussion about how kid-centric the United States is, or at least the small subsection to which we’re exposed. Are other countries like this? We don’t think so. We don’t even think all parents are like this. But many of them are. And that’s fine. That’s their prerogative. It just gets old after a while, listening to stories about children over and over, or having a dinner with friends constantly interrupted by the kids.

Now I sound like an old grouch, when in reality I love children, and especially our friends’ children.

19 Replies to “A Descent Into Madness”

  1. Jeff says:

    Unless you and Kris have [human] children of your own, you will never understand why kids become so ‘centric’ in their parents’ lives. It is not possible for anyone to adequately explain it to you… you have to experience it to understand it… and having pets doesn’t even compare.

  2. mac says:

    This entry might get you flogged 🙂

  3. Sabino says:

    I belived that parents in the U.S. are less kid-centric than in Mexico. At least with my Mexico family, it is rare that they get a sitter to go out with friends or family. Kids are taken along to just about all functions. They “laugh” at us for getting sitters for our kids (or actually some critize us for it). Kids are part of their social lives.

  4. J.D. says:

    Jeff, I think you’re missing the point. Or perhaps I wasn’t clear in the entry. I view as “child-centric” those activities which depricate adult life in favor of the children. It is my opinion that our culture is pathologically child-centric. (That it’s youth-centric there can be no doubt.)

    Sabino makes a good point. From what I know of Mexican families, the children are an important role. I don’t know enough of Mexican culture to know the dynamics of a typical family, though, so I don’t know if the adults subert their wills to those of the children.

    Like I say: I was mainly being grumpy. Bring on the flogging!

  5. Rich R says:

    The activities you describe don’t depreciate the adults with kids. The other option at their disposal (outside of going to a restaurant called a pub with their kids and possibly some friends) was to just stay home with the kids.

    It seems the only adult life negatively impacted was yours. While I also don’t like interrupted dinners and loud kids in public, it has become a reality of my life. The only way to avoid that reality is for us to just stay home with our kids. I don’t think that would do much for the girls’ social training or our sanity…

  6. Lisa says:

    As a parent of two small children, I wholeheartedly agree with you, J.D. I love spending time with my kids, but I think that adult time and places are perfectly appropriate. In the rare times that we go out without our children, I’m probably snarkier than you are about wanting a table away from kids. (There, I guess I’ll get flogged, too.)

    But, from a parent’s point of view, there are few tolerable places to take kids where you can enjoy real food and a decent atmosphere in a child-friendly place. What our culture is missing is a way to integrate children without expecting adults to listen to video games and eat bad pizza (that would be your point about child-centric, I guess). It’s a rare restaurant where you can bring children, let them do their thing, and simultaneously enjoy an adult conversation. I wish our culture were better about integrating families in a way that isn’t so difficult for everyone involved.

    You and Kris, by the way, are far more welcoming and kind to kids than I’d ever expect from a deliberately childless couple. You’re certainly nicer than I ever would have been, so I’ll give you some leeway in wanting adult space. Grouch away.

  7. J.D. says:

    It seems the only adult life negatively impacted was yours.

    Let me re-iterate: I was hungry and grouchy at this time. The basic premise remains, though, but I’ll have to do some cogitating and some research in order to attempt to explain myself more clearly.

  8. mrs darling says:

    JD, you and Kris are incredibly tolerant of kids. You’re allowed your little rant this time. But you know what? There are times that those of us with kids feel the same way you did at the pub. And by the way I so agree that kids do not belong at a pub. But as I was saying we too would love to have some adult time so I think you’re feelings are very understandable by any adult, whether they have kids or not. We get bummed out by kids in places they shouldnt be the same as you. We get tired of their noise the same as you do. Just saying that you have my sympathies cousin!

  9. Rich R says:

    I should clarify a couple of points. I don’t think kids should be taken to a real pub. I based my thoughts on the pub experiences I had in Portland, where what is called a pub is really just a restaurant with a bar (and the 2 that I’ve been to seemed rather kid friendly). In Texas, when you see a pub, you might want to avoid going in yourself, much less take your kids inside.

    The other thing is that while getting your conversation interrupted by small kids is nearly unavoidable, poor behavior in a public place, especially a restaurant, is not acceptable. When we go out as a family, my kids are expected to behave like young ladies. If they don’t, it is not out of the question for the offender to end up outside with an unhappy parent until behavior improves. I don’t believe that a seat at the restaurant table gives my kids the right to ruin other patrons’ good time. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough parents who agree…at least not at some of the places we go. I think the thing that got to you wasn’t the parents being too child-centric, but the parents’ lack of attention to discipline. (And I wasn’t trying to throw you under the bus– I feel your pain. It may be directed at the wrong target or for the wrong reason.)

  10. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang says:

    you sound like the Child Catcher:

    “Where are the kiddies? I can smell them Kiddy widdy winkies.”

  11. J.D. says:

    What we really need are more dingos.

  12. Jeff says:

    I got your point, JD… and I agree with you to some degree.

    I agree that a pub does not seem like the best place for children, and I agree that children should be expected to behave in a reasonable manner when at a resaurant. But that doesn’t rule out the unexpected spilled drink, temper tantrum, or thrown food (with younger children, anyway). Like Rich, I don’t let such behavior go unchecked, but I acknowledge that it does happen from time to time.

    My first comment was targeted more at the statement, “It just gets old after a while, listening to stories about children over and over”, When your whole life is spent providing for, caring for, playing with, nurturing, educating and coaching your kids, it can be kind of difficult to talk about much of anything else. It’s not something you can just switch on and off. Our kids are a part of who we are, and they consume the majority of our time at home. They are the source of our greatest joys and our greatest frustrations, so we are likely to talk about them.

    Before we had kids, we thought we had parenting all figured out… our kids were going to be perfectly behaved little pseudo-Canadians. Yeah, right. Taking a well-mannered 3 or 4-year-old to a restaurant at 8:30 PM (when they haven’t napped at all) is a sure recipe for disaster… no matter who the parents are.

  13. Ron says:

    Friends of mine that have come to visit from other countries have commented to me about how few children they see here and how they begin to miss them. I think we don’t have that many kids at all compared to some countries that have over 1/2 of their population less than 20 years old.

  14. Lynn says:

    Dingos! HA!

  15. Dave says:

    Here’s another perspective from the childless:
    “The other option at their disposal … was to just stay home with the kids.”

    Not really. As Sabino pointed out, you can get a babysitter (and bravo to those who do). There are other options available other than a)staying at home, or b) taking the children to an adult establishment.

    As for the rest, in the US we expect everyone to bow down to the children. You can see this at the highest levels in politics (“It’s for the children”, “It’s for our children’s future” k-12 education is Oregon’s single largest budgetary expense, etc) to the lowest levels of basic interaction. How many SUV’s or minivans are purchased not because people want to take their vehicle off road, but rather because they want something in which to haul their children. A former partner of mine had to spend an extra $1,500 to get captain’s chairs in the back of his minivan so that his children wouldn’t have to sit on the same seat and possibly touch each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people take their children to restaurants (or other public places), let them behave like absolute beasts and then expect other people to gladly suffer the indignation of screeching, crying, whining, flung food, children writhing underfoot and on and on and on. I understand that this is in many respects a parenting problem as much as it is the child’s problem, but parents are rarely willing to accept that criticism and make better choices in the future. Instead you’re attacked for being uncaring, anti-child, or dismissed because you don’t have any children and therefore can’t possibly understand why the world simply must come to a complete halt and revolve around the children.

    In all fairness not all parents suffer from an inordinate or offensive level of child-centrism and my wife and I have deliberately chosen to associate with those parents and children who do not suffer from this malady. And, admittedly, if you are going to raise a child you make the decision to put the child’s needs ahead of your own. That’s understandable and perfectly reasonable. What is not reasonable, however, is to expect that everyone around you has similarly chosen to sacrifice for your children. We usually haven’t. You’ve chosen for us.

    That said, if you still have any lingering doubts about whether or not the US is a child-centric society, let’s talk about getting rid of the following things: child care tax credits, deductions for dependents under the age of 18 and property taxes on those who do not have children in public schools.

  16. mrs darling says:

    All that may be very well and right but what would this world be without children? I think its well and good that this country is child- centric. The sad thing is that we’re nto child centric enough. If we were our foster system would be revised and our schools would be better.

    It might also do us good to remember that not all children who are crawling under the table and disrupting other diners are just ill behaved. Some of them have ADD or autism or some other form of disability. What are the parents to do? Would it be right to never expose these children to the public? Parents are put in a hard place and I think those of you without kids really have no idea how hard that place is!

  17. jenefer says:


    Where and how are the keys. McDonald’s or some other fast food establishment, or Chuck E. Cheese are still public. There is no reason to visit a quiet, adult place if your children cannot or will not behave. We have two learning disabled kids and never expected others to have to deal with them without our extreme help. There are many opportunities in this world without making others uncomfortable.

  18. Courtney says:

    We took the kids to Oaks Bottom Pub last evening for an early dinner (i.e. 5:15 p.m.) and they behaved very well. When we take our kids out, we try to do so early so they don’t melt down due to over-tiredness. If they misbehave for some other reason, we pack the food up to go and leave. But taking them out in public is good socializing for them and an opportunity to practice good behavior (using “inside voices”, staying in their seats, good table manners, etc.) We keep thinking that our days of going out to restaurants are numbered, but even with a 26-month old and a 7-month old we’ve managed to have mostly positive experiences. Let’s hope that trend continues.

  19. pdxwoman says:

    If I want to have dinner with kids, I’ll go to Chuck E Cheese or Mickey Ds. If a child can behave in an appropriate manner for a real restaurant, fine. The problem isn’t the cranky kid, it’s the parent who takes an un-napped cranky kid into a public place.

    Yes, there are more kids around public places in other countries, but in all my traveling and living in other countries (Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, England, Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Canada) I have NOT ONCE been in an adult-ish restaurant where a child was allowed to cry, scream, kick other people’s chairs, throw food, or even raise it’s voice to a level that disturbed other people’s meals. Maybe I was just lucky.

    What about children with autism or similarly atypical development as suggested above? Of course there are exceptions, but as a small percentage of children actually develop atypically, folks would have greater tolerance (if you don’t have to deal with it every day at nearly every public venue, you can surely deal with it now and then).

    It is ridiculous to say that someone without children can’t possibly understand how difficult it is to take a child into public. I’ve been a nanny. I’ve done live-in work in group homes for the developmentally and physically disabled. I’ve had plenty of instances where I’ve taken and young child or a 50-year-old man with the mental development of an 8-year-old to a grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, a restaurant. If they acted out, they were told the behavior was unacceptable. If they continued, we left. And guess what…I got the best reviews and kudos because, with me reminding them that certain behavior was unacceptable (while they, themselves, were beyond acceptable), they showed improved behavior not only in my presence, but overall.

    It gets old being described as anti-kid just because you expect parents to teach their children how to behave in public. I knew better as a child and I guess I’m just old enough to say I think it has gotten worse over the years. I don’t remember it being as bad as it is now even 10 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Search Window