Several months ago I wrote a post with some tips that we have found really helpful when eating in restaurants as a family. Last week it was published on Huffington Post (yay!). Perusing through the comments there, and other places, really, where the kids in restaurants in debate is taking place there are a few really common themes. From everything I have read, the same few things keep Popping up. I figured that I should, once again, present a different perspective on this.
Adults are entitled to a kid-free place to spend time
Well, technically no, they are not. There is nothing that says that says that you are entitled to something that we are not. It may be a preference, but someone actually stated this to me. There are places in which kids are not allowed, they are called bars and liquor primary eateries. If a place wants to cater specifically to adults, I have no problem with that when it is stated outright, but please do not tell me that my, (or any for that matter), child is not allowed to eat in a restaurant simply because you want to have a kid-free night. I don’t know about everywhere, but here we have VIP cinemas that are 19+, have a lovely lounge, and serve food and bevvies right at your seat. Perfect for date nights or that kid-free time you are craving.
The thing I think that people forget when at restaurants is that families are paying the exact same prices for their meals as everyone else. They want to enjoy their food too, and are not going to take their kids out to ruin the meal on purpose. I often wonder what would happen if people said “I don’t think that seniors should be able to eat in places other than Denny’s or casual dining. They are slow to eat and often wear a lot of perfume, and just them being there makes me edgy and unable to enjoy my meal.” Would that fly? Nope. We’d call that discrimination, right? So why is it ok to do the same to kids?
Kids are loud and obnoxious
Yesterday, I was at an Italian restaurant with my family. It’s not a big restaurant, so the tables are pretty close together. Although they don’t have a specific kids menu, they do have a kid sized portion of whatever pasta and sauce you choose. They also have a printed sheet with activities and crayons for kids. Clearly a place where kids are welcome. But that is neither here nor there. There are ways that we act in public, and ways that we expect others to act, and that this for kids and adults alike. Things that we start teaching out kids before preschool. One example of this is using your inside voice. We criticize kids for this all the time, but next time you are in a restaurant, listen for a few minutes. Chances are, you won’t have to listen very hard to heat some adults, possibly halfway across the restaurant, talking in anything but their inside voices. Adults are just as bad as the worst behaved kids I have ever encountered, if not far worse. Clearly, many adults were never taught restaurant manners as kids.
So getting back to the other day – this couple sits at the table right beside us and starts talking. Loudly. As in, we could barely hear each other talking. Then the swearing started. “Eff this” “Eff’in blank blank blank” “Holy sh$t, that was x, y, z” Every. Other. Word was profanity. This went on for the entire time we were there. Sadly, this happens a lot. Now, I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, and I can swear like a trucker (I was in the Army, remember) but I know that there is a time and a place, and a restaurant in the middle of the afternoon (or anytime, really!) is neither the time or place. And people say kids are bad??
I am always aware of my audience, and I’ve begun to wonder if this seemingly common sense thing is not common at all. I am not going to sit down in a restaurant next to an elderly couple and start talking like I’m drinking at the bar. It is simply not appropriate. So why do people do it, regardless of who is around? I have actually leaned over to a table of 20-something guys and asked them politely to watch their language after spending 20 minutes listening to them loudly and graphically discussing sex, drugs, drinking and all kinds of idiotic exploits not 3 feet away from my kid. We, and the rest of the restaurant patrons, do not need to hear about what or who you got into while higher than a kite. We just don’t. I’m not your friend. I don’t want to hear the dirty details of your life. Again. Time and place. If you must discuss that stuff over dinner, please do so using your inside voice. I don’t want to have to explain things to my kid that he is not ready to learn about because you spent 15 minutes talking about it.
Honestly, I would way rather hear a child happily discussing their day or their meal or pretty or pretty much anything else for that matter than have to hear how the guys at the next table got so high he didn’t know where you were, puked all over his clothes and fell in a bush. We were once in a restaurant that had maybe 4 other tables of people filled. It was pretty quiet and everyone was conversing to their own dining partners. Two young guys walked in, ordered beer, and proceeded to discuss, exceedingly loudly, how they were planning to go and beat the crap out of someone, about all kinds of drugs, adult material, and just all kinds of stuff that was not appropriate for the setting. Unless you put in noise cancelling headphones, there was no way to not hears very word they were saying. It made us so uncomfortable that we ended up packing up our dinner and leaving.
What about the people who go to high end restaurants for dinner and decide to throw down a few bottles of expensive wine, some martinis and/or the pricey scotch while they are at it? They might get loud or giggly, or just downright obnoxious but no one says boo about it. Families with a child in the same restaurant might be getting the side eye just because they are there, and people accuse us of being entitled and selfish because we want to enjoy fine dining or a particular restaurant too.
I don’t think that making the choice to teach a child proper table manners and expose them to different food and experiences make us selfish at all. I want my son to be able to function in all kinds of situations as he grows up and part of this includes taking him where we go. Obviously we are not going to take him to a restaurant where the only option is an 8 course tasting menu, not because I feel that those kinds of places should be restricted to adults only, but because it would be a waste of our time and money. I know that he wouldn’t enjoy the food, so I wouldn’t go there. If he was into that kind of food, or was an adventurous eater, and we could afford it, I may consider it. I know what he can and cannot handle, because I know my child, as all parents should.
How is this disruptive to anyone’s meal?
I am not purposely going to set him up to fail or set out to cause everyone a rotten night by taking him somewhere that I know full well he will not enjoy or will take far too long for his (awesome) 7 year old patience level. Why would I? Why would any family, for that matter?
Knowing my child and what he is capable of not only doing, but enjoying, does not make me selfish or entitled. Nor does attempting to broaden his horizons. People talk all the time about the mere presence of kids in restaurants ruining their meal. What about behaviour like these examples? Why is it acceptable for adults to disrupt the meals of others and no one says a word? I struggle with this double standard greatly. I have had more meals ruined by obnoxious adults than I ever have by obnoxious kids.