i'm one of those grumpy middle-age sods who really have no time at all for kids - they're rude, noisy, intrusive, demanding and completely incapable of intelligent conversation until about the age of 14, at which point they rebel and retreat into sulky silence.
i refuse to enter a discussion about the fact that they need their space, that they represent the future and should be cherished. actually, no. it's only fairly recently in our western history that children were considered anything other than small adults and, in the majority of the families in the world, kids are expected to contribute and work for their supper. i might though draw the line at sending them down the salt mines to earn a crust...
which is why france is such an extra delight to visit. oh, i'm sure there are bad kids, noisy kids, unpleasant kids but, when out eating in restaurants, miraculously they seem to know what is expected of them and they behave. peer pressure helps, of course - i remember my nephew many years ago suddenly realising he was the only child in a restaurant making a noise and retreating into silence and a focus on the food.
which is where it should be.
i was reminded of this today when i popped into a bar/resto for a quick beer before continuing a culture trail around paris. it being lunchtime, the only spare space was a table for two next to a table for eight - three adults and five kids aged between (i guess) eight and 12. needing to sit down for a minute more than i needed peace, i steeled myself for the noise but, to my delight, there was none. they may have been eating child-size portions of the adult's meals (no turkey twizzlers here!) but they only spoke when they were included in the conversation and, when the adults moved on to coffees, asked to be excused and gathered in a quiet group at another table and chatted away, with some pre-teen giggling, of course.
what a refreshing change but standard behaviour in france. treat kids like adults and they'll behave like adults. who'd have thought it?
[photo is by the great robert doisneau and dates from 1956 - les enfants de la place hebert]