It's a family in-joke that my Mother-in-law can't cook. JF joked when we met that he learned how to cook so well early on because it was either learn or starve. Whenever we have a big meal, like Thanksgiving or Easter, I will typically make her a plate, and take it to her at a later time.
It has become a tradition to spend Christmas Eve at my mother's house, and the afternoon of Christmas day at M-I-L's house. Since we usually spend quite a bit of time at both places, there's usually a meal involved. (We have to keep up our strength after all that hard unwrapping!) My mom has gotten in the habit in the last few years of planning for steaks on the grill and baked potatoes. This saves her from having to make two humongous meals in a relatively short time span, and is both easy to prepare for and to clean up from.
Mother-in-law, however, posed a problem. She's can't cook for love nor money, and most businesses are closed for Christmas. About eight or so years ago, we happened to notice that a small little Japanese place right around the corner from her house was open on Christmas Day, and a new family tradition was instituted that very night. After unwrapping gifts, off we go to the little Japanese place, where JF usually grosses his mother out completely by ordering the nastiest-looking sushi he can find. (Yet another holiday tradition...)
Early this evening, we went for a late lunch/early dinner to Little Japanese Place. We got worried for a second when we drove up and there was a large sign on the door, but it just turned out to be a notice that they WERE planning on being open. So, we go in, and we're the only people in the place, other than the wait staff. We sat down and ordered, and made small talk while we were waiting for our salads. Right behind M-I-L and Offspring is a large fish tank with these gigantic fish. Seriously, the fish are so big that there's very little room for them all to maneuver in the tank together.
About fifteen minutes after we arrive, another family arrives. There's two small boys with their parents, and they also are instantly drawn to the fish. They remain, noses pressed to glass, while their parents are seated directly behind us. The parents place their orders while the children shout and yell at the fish. After a few minutes of this, I expect the parents to call the children over, and continue on with their meal. Silly me. The children continue to shout at the fish at top volume, so much so that the conversation at our table grinds to a halt because we cannot be heard over their noise. Their parents sit and talk, and ignore the kids completely.
The larger of the two kids begins running his hands along the top of the tank, trying to get his fingers into the water. When he's unable to dabble his fingers in fish water, he pulls his body into a chin-up on the fish tank! Astoundingly, the parents still do nothing. These kids are yelling their heads off, and attempting to scale the fish tank like they're making an assault against Mount Everest, and the parents do not do a single thing about it.
I worried that the tank would fall over on Offspring and M-I-L, who were seated right behind it. The child was small enough that he'd manage to escape, because he'd fit into the space between the high back of our booth and the large stand the tank was on. Offspring and M-I-L would get whacked with the tank AND soaked.
When their food arrives, they manage to coax the older boy into sitting down and eating, but the younger still stood right next to our booth, trying to talk to (or more accurately, shout at) us. Normally, whenever I encounter kids in public, I try to engage them in conversation, or at least smile at them. Not these demon spawn. If I had my way, I'da chucked 'em into the tank and hoped the fish were piranha.
What killed me was not that the kids were acting like kids do -- but the parents! They did nothing! In fact, the only time that I heard the mother tell the kids to actively DO something was when she said, "Joey, *please* stop kicking me!" The younger whined that he didn't want this, and he didn't want that, and kicked the back of the booth repeatedly. The parents had no regard for their poor kids at all!
I place all my anger at the parents' doorstep on this one, however. Sure, the kids were little monsters, but they're that way because the parents haven't taught them any better. I'm not a person who believes that children should be seen and not heard, but you can bet your bottom dollar when Offspring acted up when she was small, we did something about it. And, you don't have to beat your child to get them to behave, though you wouldn't believe how many ass-whuppin's I've seen in Wal-Mart, Target, etc. All you have to do is instill in them that there's a certain time and place for things, and make sure they know what is and is not appropriate behavior in public. And, if they act up, be prepared to chuck 'em to the piranhas.