I am their mother, not you

For lunch today, I took the boys out for a sandwich at a cafe that’s two blocks from our house.  It’s a cafe set within a garden centre.  The cafe itself is really lovely – it has indoor/outdoor seating, including a pavilion with a few toys for the kids.

Though after today, we won’t be going there again.

The reason for this is two-fold.  First and foremost, the reaction I received from the staff there.  Secondly, because of the reaction from other patrons, which the cafe now seems to attract.

Up until about a year ago, this cafe was very family-friendly.  Then the whole centre underwent a costly renovation, and things went ‘upmarket’.  The menu changed, along with increase to prices, of course.  It’s now strictly table service, rather than being able to quickly pay at the counter before sitting down (I find paying first is much easier when you have kids in tow).

I’d gotten a bad feeling about the place the last few times we’d been there.  But today was the last straw…

I asked the waitress if they could make a cheese and vegemite sandwich for Mr.4.  She ummed and ahhh’d (it’s just a cheese & vegemite sandwich!) and said, ”they are really busy in the kitchen…I could get them to bring out some bread with some butter & vegemite on the side, and you could make it up yourself.”  (Thanks.  I could have done that at home.)

When we were waiting for our sandwiches (well, our sandwich ingredients), Mr.4 ran off to spot the fish in the big fishpond they have.  As you do, when you’re 4!  He was half skipping/half running, not making a sound, just excitedly hurrying to look at the fish.

“Oh, no no, don’t run around here!” came a voice straightaway.  Another waitress. “You might bump into someone carrying food…that’s a good boy.” 

Mr.4 was a little crestfallen and I said, “it’s ok, just stand here closer to our table and watch the fish”.  So he watched them until our sandwich ingredients arrived.

Then after he ate, Mr.4 went to look at a small cherry blossom tree that was near our table. 

Mr.4 loves flowers.  LOVES them.  Where ever we go, if there’s a flower on the ground, or one sticking out of someone’s fence, he usually has to collect it.  We then bring them home and he puts them in a vase in his room.  We’ve worked hard to explain to Mr.4 he can’t pick them off trees, or from people’s gardens – and he’s really ok with that now.

Today however, he desperately wanted one cherry blossom flower off the tree.  He was super-excited as, being winter, he hasn’t seen a cherry blossom for months.  So I made an exception today and said, ”look ok, just one flower, that’s all.”  So he went to very carefully pick one tiny blossom off the tree…

Instantly I hear: “UH-UH!  No, don’t do THAT!!” – coming from a lady sitting on the other side of the tree.  I looked across – she was exaggeratedly wagging her finger at Mr.4 with a stern look on her face.


Poor Mr.4 froze and looked straight at me, unsure what to do.  I said to him, “it’s alright, just take one and bring it over to me.”  He’d already picked it anyway, so he brought it over and then instantly buried his head in my lap.  The poor thing had been told off twice in the space of 10 minutes by people he didn’t know.

I glared at her and said to Mr.4, loud enough for her to hear, “it’s OK, strangers shouldn’t tell you what to do.  Mummy said it was OK.”  She looked at me and mouthed something like ”I’m sorry” and tried to smile, but I just ignored her. 

Occasionally if we are on a playdate with friends, if our kids aren’t playing nicely, one of us Mums will step in and sort things out.  Say if Mr.4 had grabbed a toy, I don’t have a problem with my friend asking him to give another child a turn.

Complete strangers telling my kids off however, really makes my blood boil. 

But wait, there’s more to today’s delightful cafe outing!

As we were leaving we walked through their shop, which sells homewares, soaps, candles, bags etc.  Quite upmarket, hideously expensive, and not the kind of store they’d want small kids wandering through.

Which is silly really, considering it’s a garden centre and they have a cafe with a kids menu.  (And a fishpond.)

So as we were leaving, Mr.4 wanted to smell a few soaps and I let him – we smelt some together, and I didn’t see the harm in that.  I sensed the retailer watching us, but ignored it – I am with my child and I know I’m not going to let him run amok or destroy anything in the shop.

Mr.4 suddenly spies a door in the corner that’s ajar and wanders over to look.  I am right behind him (Mr.1 is in his stroller). 

“What’s through this door?” says Mr.4 (never-ending curiosity).

“That’s just their office, where they keep things…only the people who work here can go in there.  C’mon, let’s –”

“Yes, you can’t go in there!” I’m interrupted by the sales lady calling out to Mr.4.. “that’s our office in there..”


Ok.  I really, really get it now, I do.  It’s time for us to leave.  And not come back.

As we move away from the door as instructed, she adds:

“Would you mind closing the door for me?  Just that kids can run in and we’ve got all sorts of things in there.”

The icing on the cake.

Obediently, I shut the door.  If I didn’t have my kids with me, I would have told her in no uncertain terms to shut her door herself. 

And at the end of what was supposed to be an enjoyable outing, I’m left with a sad little 4 year old, whose enthusiasm was thoroughly dampened by strangers whom we will never see again.

Word of advice to all: let us parent our own kids.

‘Cause I’m their mother, not you.


39 responses to “I am their mother, not you

  1. Oh my goodness! Poor Mr.4!!!
    What a terrible sounding place! It would have been less effort for them to make the sandwich than bring them all out!

    The cherry blossoms are lovely, and how cute he likes to collect flowers =)

    Hope you all have a better night tonight!

    • I know, they even put the butter and vegemite in seperate little dishes…just make the sandwich!

      We will have a better night – we’ll be at home away from any strangers!!

  2. Wow, what a frustrating day. I hope there’s a much more family-friendly place you can retreat to. Poor Mr 4!

    • Thanks Kate…it was a pretty horrible experience. Definitely sticking to family friendly places from now on. Starting to realise how important how important places are that truly cater for kids.

  3. Love this post! It is truly infuriating when a stranger does that to your child. Unfortunately it’s bound to happen to us all many more times.

    I had a woman come up to my son (5) in a playground and ask him to put down the stick he was holding. There were no other children nearby and he was definitely not at risk of hurting anyone. Our rule is that you can’t play with sticks around other kids, in case you hurt them. My son was so confused when this other woman told him off as I watched, gobsmacked. I didn’t know whether to mention anything to her or not, so I let it go – but geez it annoyed me!

    • Thanks for commenting Megan… it amazes me when stranger feel compelled to tell your child off when they aren’t actually doing anything seriously naughty. Pushing another child over, or hitting, or snatching a toy away and making the another child cry…ok…maybe, and maybe if I’m not close by.

      My 4yo was gobsmacked also…we are teaching him about ‘strangers’ and so now when someone he doesn’t know is critical of him, he doesn’t understand. Nor do I, for that matter. At that young age the discipline must come from their own parents or carers.

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  5. WHAT THE?! This just made me really angry. How do people have the nerve to tell off a kid for doing practically nothing wrong, especially when Mum is clearing nearby, keeping an eye on him?!

    I’m a nanny and even I feel awkward telling off my kids when their parents are around, even though I’m the one who’s responsible for them part of the time.

    Write a letter. Complain. Tell the restaurant and the homewares store that their employees need to remove the giant poles from their arses and learn some frickin respect.

    • Thanks for your comment…making me feel much better…though really, I shouldn’t be feeling bad in the first place! We didn’t do anything wrong in my opinion! Yes they do need customer feedback you are right :/

  6. Seriously, what is with people?

    Firstly – how hard is it to make a vegemite and cheese sandwich? You’re very polite – I think I would have walked out then and there!!

    As for the staff and the other customers – all I can say is, why do people always *assume* kids are about to do the wrong thing? Why can’t they just have some patience or – as you’ve said – let the child’s parent do the instructing and if necessary the discipline? Why do kids have to feel like everyone in the world is against them?

    And what on earth is wrong with your gorgeous boy wanting to look at things? Or asking questions? Um, excuse me people, it’s not only normal, it’s a wonderful thing.

    As you know, I had a shocker of a day with the way other people are with toddlers too. I just have no tolerance for people who feel the need to comment on or discipline other people’s kids.

  7. Oh My God. Hideous. I totally get where you are coming from and can I just say, your 4 year old sounds like an absolute angel. I think they need a dose of Hurricane Jack. He’d be able to ankle tap the clueless waitress whilst simultaneously show the rude stranger his arse crack. Sounds like that’s what they need.

    • Ironically, he was being an angel today…he can be 1000 times worse than that! God only knows the reaction we’d have got if he’d really let loose!

      Maybe I should take him back there, on a bad day.

  8. Goes without saying – hate that too. Especially because more often than not they step in and say something when NOTHING has even happened, which is confusing for little people – they’re being told off for nothing!

    I’d absolutely write a letter to them about it. Keep it polite but outline that as a regular customer you felt what happened was totally inappropriate and you’re disappointed by the changes there.

  9. Awful place, quite right to never go back. Especially since they cant even make you a vegemite sandwich. Were they too busy to make YOUR lunch for you too?

    When I was heavily pregnant with my daughter, my son was 2 and he was having a screaming fit in the trolley in Big W. This old woman hobbled up and got really close to his face and tapped him on the shoulder and said “Hey! Stop the screaming or I might have to hit you with my walking stick”. I.shit.you.not.

    I hate the general public.

    • Holy crap! That is just so inappropriate. When my eldest was having a tantrum a while back, I had an older lady (about 70) tell me to ”give my boy a good hard smack…that’s what my kids got, and it didn’t do them any harm…go on Mum, you should give him good whack on the bottom!”


  10. What a way to spoil what could have been an outing. Stupid busy-bodies! And what kind of place can’t make a cheese and vegemite sandwich?! Hopefully Mr4 wasn’t too upset. There’s a very similar place near where I live (garden centre and all). Wonder if it’s the same place. 🙂
    Enjoy your weekend and afternoon free from interfering strangers! 🙂

  11. I don’t know, after following a link to this post I thought it would be about people telling off your child quite unreasonably, but after reading your post, I don’t think anyone did anything particularly bad.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask a child not to do something if that something belongs to you, or is your property. And it doesn’t sound like it was really a serious telling off – sounds like they were polite about it.

    I also think its a bit much asking for a cafe, that you say has a kids menu already, to make you a sandwich.

    I just think we mothers and kids have to fit into the world, rather than expect the world to always fit in with us.

    • Oh Sue, I happily publish your comment because I appreciate difference of opinion.

      But you’ve caught me on a bad day. I must beg to differ.

      It’s hard to express the ”feeling” you get from people and a place in a blog post. These women – all three of them – were condescending in their tone, and the second (the one who saw my son pick a flower) was downright rude.

      Most importantly, they all reprimanded my son when I was close by, and when I was watching my son.

      I am not someone who turns a blind eye to my kids behaviour – I watch what they are doing and am quick to pull them into line if they misbehave.

      And quite frankly, if a cafe doesn’t have a simple sandwich on their kids menu (along with fried chicken nuggets, chips, and battered fish), then I don’t see the harm in asking for one.

  12. Hmmm sounds like a certain cafe in Essendon? Starting with P? Am I close? If so, I have had similar experiences there myself, if I go there now I have fun messing with their heads! I get a little vengeful when someone has a go at my babies! I’m like you blood boiling, angry word spewing, craziness on the inside, trying hard to keep it altogether on the outside.. Like I said, I go in prepared now; with a ‘game plan’. You’re a good mum and nothing compares to experiencing the world through a 4yo boy’s eyes, congrats to you for sticking to your guns. xxoo

    • Thank you Amelia!! I always watch my kids and was close by when they all put their two cents’ in – which makes it even more amazing! Obviously they didn’t think as his own mother I was going to do anything!

  13. I empathise with your story. I am sorry that you had a bad experience. And whilst I would love to know which cafe it is – in order to avoid!. I appreciate your sense of confidentiality and fair play in not doing so..
    I would do these two things:
    1. Print letter out and send to them as customer feedback. They can then choose to ignore of take on board as they wish. Important to give feedback I feel.
    2. Give feedback on http://www.womow.com.au (word of mouth website full of businesses).

  14. Oh I really felt for you and your son reading this post. Wow! you handled this so much better than I would have. If anyone had a problem with your son they should have come to you, they had no right to speak to your son about the issues.

    I wouldn’t go back either – but I also wouldn’t be able to help giving them some ‘customer feedback’ my husband says that’s my problem, expecting things to change…. I like to have a slightly more optimistic view.

    Hope that you are feeling better and that your son has some more positive adventure experiences soon! x

    • Thanks for stopping by! If I wasn’t next to my son then maybe I would be OK with it..but when I’m very close by, or right next to him, I feel it’s inappropriate. People have therefore made the assumption, it feels to me, that I’m not going to take any action. Anyhow…we haven’t gone back there!

  15. Wow I feel really angry for you just reading this, poor Mr 4 hope you all recovered from your day out. You handled it so much better than I would have/have done. J was playing with the card swiper buttons whilst the lady at the checkout put the shopping through when she physically grabbed his hand, quite roughly and told him to leave it alone, J of course had complete meltdown and so did I, leaving all the shopping right there at the checkout and walking out, haven’t shopped there since! Hugs to you and Mr 4 x

  16. I was at the supermarket checkout yesterday. I’d let my 3 year old choose a treat for after lunch but he’d decided he wanted it RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. I gave him the option of just holding it or putting it away in my bag. He was happy(ish) to just hold it except the woman behind the checkout tutted and said “I disagree. If you can hold it then you should be able to eat it.”

    Uh, thanks for that. Mr 3 heard it, of course, and went three-year-old postal because he couldn’t eat it now and I had to take it off him and the lady had the nerve to give me this smile as if to say “I told you so”.

    I hope you find somewhere more family-friendly to go to soon.

    • Ha, I’ve had something similar happen to me..my 4yo would say ”that lady said it was OK”, and I’d have to explain she is a stranger, I am your Mummy, and you do what Mummy says! It’s so frustrating.

  17. Oh my gosh! What a frustrating outing. I don’t understand why other people feel the need to reprimand another’s child, especially when you were obviously on top of what was going on, especially at the end when you were explaining about the office only to have someone rudly tell him off. Unbelievable. I would stay away from there, too!

  18. I too find this really hard. ESPECIALLY if I’M RIGHT THERE!!! HELLO… if my child is doing something I don’t want him/her to I’ll be the one to tell them. The main reason for this is I KNOW MY CHILD AND FAMILY BEST! But like you, I’m happy for my sisters and friends to tell my kids off, espeically if they look after them for me.

  19. i totally see where you are coming from but i sort of also understand people in shops/cafes panicking sometimes because of all ‘those’ parents that openly don’t seem to give a f! about either the goods or other people around them and let their offspring run amok. they spoil it for everyone, even in a family friendly place there should be some rules, that’s what the outing should teach the kids too, no ? i mean don’t get me wrong i was not there, and i would not tell strangers how to raise their kids, but i worked in shops and the damage was then on my responsibility for some reason.
    if the woman who interfered could have heard what you said, it’s even worse though, because it’s almost as if she is telling YOU off as well, since you were obviously ok with it (and why not, my son loves flowers too and i think he should be able to touch them).
    mouthing a sorry to you afterwards would not have made the incident any less confusing for your boy. 😦

  20. Sad, sad, sad state of the world if they can’t even butter and spread two slices of bread for you. I’ll bet you were charged something like $3 for the privilege of fixing your son’s sandwich too, right? Makes me seethe, what some places get away with charging/providing for that charge.

    As for the stranger-parenting…. it really irks me. I understand people have to keep their shops in order, but a blanket zero-tolerance policy is a bit much. What about observing closely and actually letting the parents have an opportunity to do something about it first? You haven’t mentioned where it is, but I’m guessing here… and it’s somewhere I was planning to meet up with a girlfriend but it sounds too much like hard work, frankly!

  21. Oh my goodness. How utterly frustrating for you to see your little boy’s spirit crushed like that. Let me tell you know that it happens when they are older too – and you are usually so stunned that you don’t react until later on when the full injustice sinks in.
    Definitely time for a new cafe!!

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