Our dinner at a local sushi restaurant was a bit earlier than we usually dine. So I casually mentioned to my husband that we might overlap “family time” at the eatery. But we decided that it wouldn’t be a problem; we both love kids. Little did we realize it was the parents who would ruin our dinner out on a Friday night.
This blog is not about parents who use tech devices during meals. I have previously complained about that. (http://betsybrownbraun.com/2010/10/16/join-the-family/) Nor is it about parents who allow their children’s use of tech devices at meals. (That blog is on my to-do list.)
I realize that I am risking some nasty feedback, but I just have to say it: Young children do not belong in restaurants. Not only is it insufferable for children’s rowdy behavior, loud voices, bickering, whining, and crying to disrupt the other diners’ experiences, but restaurants generally don’t bring out the best in kids. And it’s not the kids’ fault. Why don’t the parents teach, then expect “restaurant behavior” from their children?
One couple was dining with their 18 month old-ish baby. As they talked, he screeched ear splittingly. And his attention-getting device didn’t even work. It just destroyed the dining atmosphere for us other diners. Another family with 5 and 7 year old-ish kids successfully ignored their kids’ escalating voices, ups and downs, constant seat changing, running around, and shrill sibling arguments. I would have handed out my cards, but these families didn’t seem to think that anything was awry.
Young children and restaurants do not often mix. (Ok. Some do, but they are the exception.) Restaurants deliver slow food; kids like their food to come fast. Restaurants require “inside voices;” kids have trouble modulating their voices, especially when they insist on being heard. Restaurants call for kids to stay in their seats, remaining calm and collected; kids are wiggle worms who are spontaneous and sometimes physically exuberant in their expressions. Being able to dine at a restaurant requires readiness on the part of the child. Some young children are ready, but most are not. It’s not fair to the child. Truth be told, children are actually happier eating at home.
In today’s increasingly child-friendly world, restaurateurs vie to capitalize on the explosion of families with young kids who habitually dine out. There is a proliferation of family friendly restaurants. In fact, there is a restaurant in Williamsburg to which one family wheeled their child in his play pen. (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130711/williamsburg/williamsburg-eateries-boost-efforts-cater-children) While on the surface it would seem that child-friendly restaurants—ones that tolerate scattered Cheerios, crying babies, and a game of chase among the tables—is a good idea, I don’t think so. Frequenting these eateries reinforces the child’s unacceptable (out-of-control) behavior; it does not expect and therefore teach the child real restaurant behaviors that should generalize to all restaurants.
I can just hear it now, “But what if we want to have dinner out?” Having children requires many sacrifices on the parents’ parts. A parent’s job is to provide environments for the child that are reasonable and in which he can be successful. You enter the world of the child, as opposed to expecting him to fit into yours. Would you continue to wear a shoe that is the wrong size? Children don’t fit into adult environments until they are mature enough to control themselves and meet your expectations and those dictated by the particular situation.
You want to have dinner out? There are two choices for you: 1) Hire a babysitter (join a babysitting co-op), or 2) if you don’t have a sitter solution or can’t afford one, don’t go! Presumably you have learned to delay gratification by now. Besides, there is always take-out.
I encourage you to read ALL the comments below. Clearly, I struck a chord with a few parents! Then read Kids in Restaurants, Park 2: Lousy Local Conditions. ( http://betsybrownbraun.com/2013/07/22/kids-in-restaurants-part-2-lousy-local-conditions/) It’s a good follow up.