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WTF With Your Noisy Toddler While I'm Watching 'Star Wars'?

Photograph by Twenty20

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got a chance to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." In my single days, I would have seen a "Star Wars" movie within a week of the premiere, but with our daughter Evyn taking up almost all of our bandwidth, it was hard to find a free night.

So, even though I found out about the movie's big twist and got tired of avoiding all the social media posts about it, I was excited to sit down, don some 3D glasses and let the film wash over me.

And it did just that, right up until the movie's pivotal scene. I won't spoil it here, but it involves Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and a bridge suspended over a bottomless chasm. As the evil Kylo inched his way onto the bridge, the tension at its highest, I heard a familiar sound that set my teeth on edge:

"Bah Bah Bah Bah Ya Ya Ya Ya…"

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It was the babbling of a toddler, not much different than what Evy blurts out when she wants to talk to us. You would think that, as a father, I'd have more tolerance for this. But I had the same reaction I did before fatherhood: "Who the heck brings a toddler to a "Star Wars" movie? And why isn't that kid's parents bringing her outside?"

If I could have located the family, I might have shot them a look.

Most of the time when we bring Evy to a restaurant, unless it's the most family-friendly kind of environment, we feel that there's a white hot spotlight on us.

The level of my annoyance surprised me. I really thought that having a kid would make me more tolerant of the plight of the parent who has to deal with a noisy little one in a public place. You sometimes have to bring your kids places if you ever want to have a life outside the house, and sometimes they make noise. But a "Star Wars" movie, full of intense action and mild violence, is no place for a child that young. It made me wonder what those parents were thinking. Did the babysitter fall through? Maybe they just didn't care that they'd be bothering anyone else, or they were oblivious.

If they were oblivious or didn't care, they had an attitude that I just didn't understand. Most of the time when we bring Evy to a restaurant, unless it's the most family-friendly kind of environment, we feel that there's a white hot spotlight on us. We're the ones who couldn't get it together and decided to bring a noisy, messy little one into these people's lives. No matter how great she is, we're mortified when she uses any volume louder than her inside voice.

Here's the thing about that, though: Evy is not that kind of kid, at least not yet. She doesn't tantrum or throw food or even make a whole lot of noise most of the time. But she does do her share of cranking, and even her share of just babbling. When it happens, when you're hyper-aware of your surroundings, it sounds twice as loud.

So it looks like we're going to be 'take the kid outside' parents, even though we realize now that there are reasons why parents might not do that.

Right before Christmas, we took Evy on her first mini-vacation, to our favorite Jersey Shore town, Cape May. The hotel where we were staying was in full holiday mode: train rides, a carousel, a Winter Wonderland complete with Mrs. Claus. Lots of kids were there. But when we took Evy into the hotel's lounge at what we thought was relatively early, 6 p.m., her happy babbles still drew attention.

A lot of that attention was from a group of women next to us who cooed over our daughter. But we also couldn't miss the laser focus of a middle-aged couple sitting by the bar, staring holes into us that seemed to say, "Why in the world are they bringing that baby here?" For all we know, that stare was only for a half-second. But it felt like forever for us.

So what did we do? We moved to what we thought was a quieter corner. Evy kept making happy noises, though, so we did what we used to want parents to do when we were childless: we took her out to the lobby. We did the same thing the next morning at breakfast when Evy got a little cranky right next to a brunching older couple.

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So it looks like we're going to be "take the kid outside" parents, even though we realize now that there are reasons why parents might not do that. We've been on the other side of things and know that not everyone is going to think Evy's "ya ya yas" are as adorable as we do. One thing we certainly won't do for some time, of course, is take Evy to the movies—even if it's a Disney movie. But even if we did, we'd take her outside as soon as she started bothering others.

Just because we're parents doesn't mean we can't be self-aware, right?

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