The Internet has had no small effect on the culture of parenting.
As was reported July 16, a report by the Pew Research Center found that three-quarters of 21st-century parents admit to using social media for “emotional support and parenting questions.”
As with all things on the Internet, what can be used to support and inform can also be used to correct and even shame.
Thus, it seems, is the case of a new dispute out of Portland, Maine, that has pitted a local restaurant owner against the parenting methods of a New York family.
According to Portland’s WCSH6, the Carson family, parents and toddler, was dining at Marcy's Diner on Oak Street in Portland's downtown on a friend’s suggestion. During their meal, restaurant owner Darla Neugebauer became agitated at their child's behavior.
“After listening to a child scream at the top of her lungs in my very busy restaurant, I screamed at her and told her it had to stop," Neugebauer told WCH6.
As is often the case these days, Neugebauer’s outburst didn’t remain within the walls of her diner. According to Maine Eater, Neugebauer (who co-owns the restaurant) took to Facebook to air her grievances, complaining that “the rotten child” was disrupting her other 75 patrons, and the parents were simply “ignoring their screaming child.” The post was full of profanity and personal insults to the family.
The Carsons also took their experience to the Internet, posting a complaint to the restaurant’s Facebook page that claimed they had “the worst experience” at the diner and argued that if the owners couldn’t handle a crying child, they are “not suitable to run a business.”
Tara Carson, the child’s mother, told WCH6 that her child was crying but not screaming or throwing a temper tantrum for an hour, as Neugebauer insists.
"I felt helpless as a mom that, you know, I couldn't do anything to help her because I can't explain why there's crazy people in this world that behave like that," Carson said.
Now that there are two versions of the story being passed around on the Internet, the issue has gravitated toward an essentially partisan conflict of parenting methods. As Buzzfeed reported, the incident has gone viral and turned into an argument over how parents should handle misbehaving children in restaurants.
“If his/her parents can't be bothered to look after/attend to their child, esp(ecially) in public, and even more so in your property, then you have every right to be concerned about the effect on other patrons,” one commenter said on Marcy’s Facebook page. “My mother wouldn't have allowed my siblings and I to behave like that and neither would my sister with my niece.
The situation has escalated to national media coverage, with The New York Times explaining that the conflict fits into a larger trend of restaurants refusing to serve parents with noisy children.
“Parents who want to include their children in adult outings feel they’re no more burdensome than the loud talkers or drunken prom-goers at the next table,” Quartz’s Roya Wolverson wrote last year while reporting on the trend. “Naysayers say the kids are a nuisance or a danger — and often point the finger of blame at more permissive parenting among the middle classes.”
As a matter of clarification, Tara Carson published a further justification of what happened that day at the diner, and the attacks at her parenting skills were front and center.
“Am I a perfect parent? Certainly not,” she wrote for the Washington Post. “But I do know that these things happen. Babies cry and sometimes moms make the call between a tantrum in the loud diner or going out into the rain.”
For Marcy’s Diner, any public backlash hasn’t seemed to hurt. The Washington Post reports that the viral dispute brought the diner “the busiest Monday in the four years Neugebauer has owned it.”