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Children of Miss Etta Kate’s generation were raised, as were her parents and theirs before them going back many, many generations, to be seen only if absolutely necessary and certainly not heard in church, at the theatre, in libraries, etc. Violators of this simple and considerate rule of etiquette can ruin any public event.
These days, young parents mistakenly believe that where they go, so go their uncontrolled offspring. They must think that every event is child-friendly and the word public includes even the most ill-behaved of those under the height of three feet. Admittedly, it is a wonderful thing to expose children to events such as town gatherings, community sings, or sporting events held at the local high school. But in fact, today’s young parents more often than not sit down to enjoy themselves and leave their children to run gaily through the legs and over the toes of other attendees or, worse still, screaming and crying to the distraction and consternation of all the rest of us.
Miss Etta Kate does not, however, intend that there be a plywood, painted cutout of a three-foot-tall cartoon character placed at the entrance of every public gathering place to measure and thus prohibit entrance to any person under the designated height. What she does suggest is that all young parents try really hard to recall what they were taught as youngsters. In other words, toddlers up to the age of about four were tended to in the nursery at church during the worship service. Infants were taken out if they persisted in screaming their heads off during Communion. On the other hand, it would be even more beneficial for the parents to actually instill in their little darlings the fact that children should remain seated during church, keep their mouths closed and color something. Their feet should hang straight down from the knees and not be propped on the back of the one hundred-year-old pew in front of them.
Freedom to express themselves is perfectly all right – in the proper places; a public gathering of any sort is not one of those places. Getting rid of pent up energy is also a good idea, but not during an outdoor ceremony where some degree of decorum is admired and expected.
Here’s a thought for young parents: why not take the time to talk to your children about the significance of the event to which they’re about to be exposed. If during the course of your explanation your child seems not to care a whit or if he actually drops off to sleep while you’re talking, then it’s probably a good idea to get a sitter while you attend the event.
Miss Etta Kate believes whole-heartedly that children should be educated in the social graces. She is hoping, however, that young parents will take it upon themselves to do it at home and not wait till everyone else wishes they had.