Ask Task: should I clean up after others peoples’ kids?
By ALLISON TASK
For Montclair Local
Allison Task is a career and life coach in Montclair, and the author of “Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You Always Wanted to Do.” Her website is allisontask.com. Need advice? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to us at email@example.com.
This column was inspired by conversations I had with Montclair locals throughout July. The questions below are a compilation of those conversations.
I was recently a guest at a daytime house party, one of a dozen or so families with children who ranged in age from two to eight. The hosts were generous; food and drink were flowing. When I was about to leave, I observed that the basement playroom was thoroughly trashed. It didn’t seem right to leave it that way, so I worked with my children to clean up. During that time, at least five groups of parents and kids walked by, assessed the situation and what we were doing. Not one person stopped to help.
Am I alone in this? I don’t think it’s okay to trash a person’s home, nor do I want my children to think that it’s okay to behave like that.
—Well-mannered or out-of-touch?
You’re welcome to visit my home any time.
I hear what you’re saying about homes being left in a state of disrepair after parties and play dates. I’ve observed that as well. Some people need a neat and tidy home, others don’t care as much.
It sounds like you may be in the former camp (I’m right there with you, sister). In the moment, your choice to clean up reflected your values. Unfortunately, not everyone will share your values. You keep doing you (and scoring lots of invitations), and find some like-minded peers to help you feel less alone in your value set. They exist; I promise.
And when it’s your turn to throw a party, consider hiring someone to clean up so that you can invite a wide range of people without having to do the cleanup yourself.
I have a small restaurant in Montclair. It is not unusual that parents come, relax and let their kids do as they please in the space. It’s casual, but that doesn’t mean I want children standing on tables or watering my outdoor plants. I have no problem yelling at these kids when they’re harming my stuff, or harming themselves, but why aren’t the parents doing their job? Why are they so checked out?
— Hello? Anybody there?
Let’s start with why (some) parents are checked out. Perhaps I can get one of our talented local therapists or educators to respond to this question, as they often ask the question. Stress, lack of knowledge, lack of support. Many parents are overwhelmed and under resourced. They need to look the other way sometimes and they’re choosing to do it at your restaurant. Which is not cool, and I’m sorry about that.
But they didn’t pen this letter, you did, so let’s bring it back to you. While you have no problem yelling at the kid, is that the best use of your time? In addition, and once the child, and your restaurant is safe, could you speak to the parent or caregiver directly? Children will often behave differently in different situations (camp vs. school, babysitter vs. parents) based on the boundaries that have been established (or not).
Instead of becoming part of the care-taking crew, would you consider speaking with the person responsible for the child, and let them know the rules of the establishment? My guess is that in the worst case scenario, you might lose a customer, but you’ll probably gain five more.
And in the larger picture, you’ve stopped enabling the kind of no-boundary parenting that makes strangers yell at other people’s kids. Help the parent do their job; don’t do it for them.