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Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)


Mark Sommelier
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slept 7pm to 7am since he was 3 months old and irrespective of time zone).  In London, it would only be at lunch and usually because I was out earlier with Baby (Again, his schedule has him sleeping from noon to 2pm. )

Wow, where I can I get one of those?

Once again recently we tried dining out with friends and their children, only to be put on the spot as the other couple let their kids roam. :angry: Our kids are sometimes loud or act up, but they are absolutely not permitted to wander around.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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slept 7pm to 7am since he was 3 months old and irrespective of time zone).  In London, it would only be at lunch and usually because I was out earlier with Baby (Again, his schedule has him sleeping from noon to 2pm. )

Wow, where I can I get one of those?

Reading the "Contended Baby Book" by Gina Ford, and sticking to her schedule. It works.

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Maybe a stupid question but I'll ask.

Why wouldn't a restaurant simply have a policy that it reserves the right to refuse service? Singling children out as a class does seem discriminatory to me in that it basically presumes kids (or their parents, makes no difference) are guilty on the basis of identity rather than behavior.

And as these 14 pages document, the mere number of years a person has been alive is no indication of their ability to respect their fellow diners' boundaries.

But the fact remains that restaurants are public spaces and excluding classes of people -- and kids are people -- seems wrong to me.

Also, detailed policies are often more problematic to enforce than ones that leave more latitude.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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Very UN-funny experience re: crying children in restaurant. A couple of weeks ago we stopped into Cracker Barrel for breakfast, almost noon on Saturday. The couple at the next table had two little girls, maybe 5 and 7. I heard a rather loud comment from the dad, then looked up to see the older one weeping . They were sitting in two rows, rather than one on each side of the table, and she was sitting beside the man, crying into her napkin.

This went on for several minutes, with him jabbing at her with a mean, "Don't you CRY!!" and she finally got her emotions under control.

We were involved in our own conversation, and then I heard him berating the younger one, who began to weep also. He repeated the "You'd better NOT cry. You're embarrassing me."

During all this time, even at our close proximity, I had not heard ONE WORD from any of the three females at the table. Daddy Dearest had loudly proclaimed, had held forth, had put out countless opinions and proclamations. Not one word from his family, just silent weeping after one remark or another.

THEN, he turned to the older child again, snapping at her, and she again teared up and scrinched up her little face. By this time, everyone around us was quiet as mice, listening to this preposterone-laden little despot (well, NOT little---he ran 230 or so, and walked like a weight lifter) as he claimed his place in humanity by being the owner/dictator of his own private citizenry.

I could not stand it a moment longer. I spoke to my husband, but in a very loud voice in the silence, "I wonder if he wants to come over here and try to make ME cry!!"

From the surrounding tables, I heard several murmurs, with one quiet "Yesss!" somewhere in the background. In a moment, he got up and beckoned to the older little girl, the one sitting beside him. She obediently rose. They turned their backs to us and started for the door. He laid one arm possessively around her shoulders, then reached around his own back, waving his other hand in her direction until she reached up and took it. He then pulled her arm around HIS waist, and so they walked out like sweethearts entwined.

The tiny wife and the other little girl remained at the table for a few minutes; the woman had ordered a salad, and when the man was leaving, she kept her eyes firmly on him, meanwhile rapidly eating the child's bowl of macaroni and cheese. She choked it down, then they rose and followed the others out.

It was a disturbing encounter, though our only interaction, as it were, was my one comment to my husband. And though we were a little time in finishing our meal, they were still in the parking lot when we emerged from the restaurant. They stood outside their car as we walked past, and I made sure he saw me write down his license plate number.

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I can't help but wonder if a lot of this is just a shift in perception about eating out in restaurants...I guess what I am trying to get at is that eating out at nice restaurants does not seem like an Event anymore. It has become more of a commodity. A way to get fed, not an event to savor and share.

Whether this argument is true or not, the kind of behavior described on this thread (screaming, kicking, crying) isn't acceptable even when attending a public gathering (say, the movies) that is typically accepted as un-"event"-ful. I think it has less to do with the lag in appreciation for fine dining and more to do with the growing culture of friendship parenting. Parents are more and more afraid to truly discipline or upset their children, for fear that the children won't "like" them. Or so it seems to me (I am admittedly (and happily) childless, but was a champion babysitter and am a surrogate aunt to my friends' children.).

For the record, I was raised by a mother unafraid to discipline. I turned out pretty good, and she and I are very good friends - but I still understand that this relationship is different from a pure friendship. Parent-child relationships should not be pure friendship, and parents who lag in discipline in order to achieve it are in for a sorry surprise, in my opinion.

Wow. I now see why people think I'm judgmental. Huh. :raz:

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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That awful situation in Cracker Barrel illustrates how a blanket policy wouldn't really solve the problem, if only because IT'S NOT THE KIDS.

Not that I have any easy answers for how a fellow diner, server or manager is going to confront a guy like the man in Cracker Barrel. You have to careful both for your own sake and the family members he might later accuse of "causing" the problem.

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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That awful situation in Cracker Barrel illustrates how a blanket policy wouldn't really solve the problem, if only because IT'S NOT THE KIDS. 

Not that I have any easy answers for how a fellow diner, server or manager is going to confront a guy like the man in Cracker Barrel.  You have to careful both for your own sake and the family members he might later accuse of "causing" the problem.

Yeah, this sounds like a lot more was going on than just a cranky toddler. What a scary experience.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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That awful situation in Cracker Barrel illustrates how a blanket policy wouldn't really solve the problem, if only because IT'S NOT THE KIDS. 

Not that I have any easy answers for how a fellow diner, server or manager is going to confront a guy like the man in Cracker Barrel.  You have to careful both for your own sake and the family members he might later accuse of "causing" the problem.

Yeah, this sounds like a lot more was going on than just a cranky toddler. What a scary experience.

We had a scary one as well, a month or so ago. We were at our favorite Japanese restaurant, and a dad BIT HIS SON'S EAR b/c the son wasn't using chopsticks properly!! The kid was maybe 6, and dissolved into tears, holding his ear in pain. It was absolutely horrible.

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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I swear this really happened. McDonald's, mid-'80s, table next to us, burly father to crying little girl:

"Shut up and eat your Happy Meal!" :shock:

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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Parents are more and more afraid to truly discipline or upset their children, for fear that the children won't "like" them.  Or so it seems to me (I am admittedly (and happily) childless, but was a champion babysitter and am a surrogate aunt to my friends' children.).

I don't know that I agree. Try disciplining your child in front of a room full of people and see how many give you dirty looks. What kept most of us behaving as kids was fear, pure and simple. In my case it was fear of my mother grabbing my ear and hissing in it just exactly what she was going to to do me when we got home if I didn't "stop doing that this instant." If I did the same to my daughter there very likely would be 4 people around me on the phone calling the cops. Taking away the Gameboy just does not inspire the same kind of fear. :smile:

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Parents are more and more afraid to truly discipline or upset their children, for fear that the children won't "like" them.  Or so it seems to me (I am admittedly (and happily) childless, but was a champion babysitter and am a surrogate aunt to my friends' children.).

I don't know that I agree. Try disciplining your child in front of a room full of people and see how many give you dirty looks. What kept most of us behaving as kids was fear, pure and simple. In my case it was fear of my mother grabbing my ear and hissing in it just exactly what she was going to to do me when we got home if I didn't "stop doing that this instant." If I did the same to my daughter there very likely would be 4 people around me on the phone calling the cops. Taking away the Gameboy just does not inspire the same kind of fear. :smile:

Fair enough. I do remember not being punished so much as being scared into submission, though that may have had as much to do with my own personal guilt complex (in place and intact for as long as I can remember) as anything else.

I did get soap in my mouth once. Liquid Palmolive. To this day, I can't smell it without gagging. But it worked - it only happened once.

It is funny how alarmist we've become about parents and children - worried that child abuse is all around, rather than assuming the best about people. Although that Cracker Barrel story is sufficiently sketchy.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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"The Wrath of Mummy is a fearsome thing." -- Me.

However, I was the perfectly-behaved child in the French restaurants from age 5 onward for Report Card Dinner, charming the staff with my French skills, and getting extra desserts. That was not only due to fear of the Wrath of Mummy, but excitement at being out, all dressed up, and eating delicious food. The closest I was likely to come to misbehaving in *any* restaurant was probably yawning without covering my mouth. Just would never happen, because I knew the privilege was contingent upon my being good.

I know it's possible for children of that age to be as well behaved now, but I see it much less often than I used to.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I don't think it's a matter if discipline, it's a matter of control. Just who is in charge, anyway? Most of the time it appears to be the kids. It is a rare thing, the well controlled child.

I dunno if anyone else's mom had 'the look', but mine had it down to a science. A twitch of that eyebrow and boy oh boy you better knock it off. It worked like a charm. There were never any concrete threats, you just knew that if you didn't behave, 'something bad' would happen. Never found out what that was, I was too chicken to disobey...I had older siblings with horror stories, all fictional but very effective.

Going to restaurants was a rare treat. Always prefaced with 'You will not order the most expensive thing on the menu' and 'we will have dessert at home'. My mom still says that to me when we go out...and I am 40 years old. Come to think of it, she still has 'the look', too. And oddly, even though I am paying most of the time these days, I never order what I really want, I get something I think she would find acceptable. And we always have dessert at home. :smile:

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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I see this less as a referendum on Parents Today ("In my day, kids....") and more about just how the hell do restaurant staff actually handle these tremendously loaded situations?

I still say policies only go so far (see earlier post as to why).

I just don't see any inherent difference between types of disruptive restaurant patrons. And despite everyone's best thinking, there will never be a single standard for what's disruptive and what's charming shenanigans. And what's just being a kid so get over it.

Ideally, the staff would have some shared understanding of what's okay on the floor and what's not. Here are some examples of what they could say that sounds reasonable to me as a patron:

PARENTS/KIDS

At first stage of parents ignoring kids running around, etc:

“We ask our guests to accompany children if they need to move about the restaurant. Otherwise, please have them remain seated at the table with you. This is for their safety and out of respect for our other guests. If you need to leave the dining room to attend to them, we will hold your meal until you return. Thank you very much.”

When the adults have twice ignored the restaurant's requests above and accuse you of hating parents, kids, the American way:

“We do like children, very much. We would have liked to have your family enjoy yourselves with us tonight. But we owe an enjoyable experience to all of our guests. By not respecting our requests, you’ve encroached on other guests’ evenings out. If you cannot comfortably meet our requests we will close out your ticket and prepare your food to go.”

(Personally, I’d have the manager have this interchange away from the table. The kids shouldn’t have to hear this.)

ADULTS

At first notice of cell phone use:

“We ask our guests to refrain from cell phone usage in the dining room. Thank you.”

When the cell phone request has been ignored:

“We have asked you to not use your cell phone in the dining room. We will be closing out your check and preparing your order to go.”

When the grown-ups (not the kids!) are drunk, roaming, obnoxious:

“[A member of] your party is disrupting the meals of our other guests. We are going to close out your check and prepare your order to go.”

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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When the grown-ups (not the kids!) are drunk, roaming, obnoxious:

“[A member of] your party is disrupting the meals of our other guests.  We are going to close out your check and prepare your order to go.”

So what do you do when the kids get drunk and disorderly? :biggrin:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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This can not be done as a blanket thing. I have a daughter that is now 11. She has been a foodie for years now ( and my apprentice ) . She has eaten with me at some of the best restaurants in North America starting at age 6. We have dinned at the French Laundry, Trotters(at 7 she finished the grand degustation menu and ate everything placed in front of her), Tru just to name a few and have never caused any form of nuissance. However she is a particularly well behaved child.

You can not just exclude someone over age any more than sex or race. it is unacceptable. The restaurant staff needs to step in and very politely ask the parents to reign in their children or ask them to leave if it does not solve the problem.

www.azurerestaurant.ca

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I don't think it's a matter if discipline, it's a matter of control.  Just who is in charge, anyway? Most of the time it appears to be the kids.  It is a rare thing, the well controlled child.

I dunno if anyone else's mom had 'the look', but mine had it down to a science.  A twitch of that eyebrow and boy oh boy you better knock it off.  It worked like a charm.  There were never any concrete threats, you just knew that if you didn't behave,  'something bad' would happen. Never found out what that was, I was too chicken to disobey...I had older siblings with horror stories, all fictional but very effective. 

Going to restaurants was a rare treat.  Always prefaced with 'You will not order the most expensive thing on the menu' and 'we will have dessert at home'.  My mom still says that to me when we go out...and I am 40 years old.  Come to think of it, she still has 'the look', too.  And oddly, even though I am paying most of the time these days, I never order what I really want, I get something I think she would find acceptable.  And we always have dessert at home.  :smile:

"THE LOOK" That still would put the fear of God into me. Boy do I remember that.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

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  • 3 months later...

I am still reeling from attending a funeral on Friday and watching a young man (about 17 or so) bring a soft drink in a paper cup into the church with him, and proceed to the pew with it. The person being memorialized was only 19, so many of his friends attended; several had quite a bit of skin inappropriately displayed. Restaurants aren't the only place where people don't know how to behave.

However, I did find this story in today's Chicago Tribune. Here's the heart of the matter:

McCauley, owner of A Taste of Heaven restaurant, was fed up with shrieking, bratty kids climbing on his fixtures or flopping on the floor blocking waitresses carrying pots of hot coffee, while the parents remained relaxed and infuriatingly indifferent.

So he put up a subversive sign: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven."

. . .  And the restaurant owner's business tripled.

(edited to bring above quote into compliance with eGullet policies)

Edited by jgm (log)
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Shouldn't THIS thread perhaps be merged here too??

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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So much disdain and hostility toward kids and families with kids

trying to socialize said kids.........

And berating of un-socialized kids.....

And people wonder why the fertility rates (and thus the population)

of "advanced" industrial societies are declining....

And wonder how to integrate the immigrants who will inevitably

have to replace a shrinking indigenous population....

Milagai

Edited by Milagai (log)
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So much disdain and hostility toward kids and families with kids

trying to socialize said kids.........

And berating of un-socialized kids.....

I have no disdain for people who have chosen to have children, and I really love the children I know. However, my problem is that so many people who have chosen to become parents seem to have disdain for me.

Children should not be, nor should they be expected to be, well-behaved all the time. However, that does not mean that their parents should subject hordes of people to this misbehavior, if such a situation can be prevented.

Therefore, when your child acts up in a coffeehouse and won't calm down, you should take them outside until they do, or take them home. It bites for you in that you won't be able to sit and enjoy your coffee in peace, but that's the trade-off you make for having those beautiful children that you love.

I will note, again, that most parents I encounter do this, and that most children I encounter (and all of those I am related to or care for on anything resembling a regular basis) are as well-behaved as should be expected of a young child.

Kids will and should be kids. They'll throw things (toys and fits). That's ok. But not necessarily in a coffeehouse designated mainly for adult coffee drinkers. At least, IMHO. :wink:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Megan: the "disdain" observation was not aimed specifically

at you, I should have made that clear, sorry.

I mean it as an observation for an overall culture that

deems children, or any potentially 'embarassing' or 'demanding'

(insert your choice of group here)

group be kept out of sight and hearing until they can meet

behavioral norms set for and by others.....

This is one of the interesting (to me) American paradoxes

that a culture that overtly claims family values etc.

really wants to keep the nitty gritty of raising a familiy

well out of sight.

I still chuckle when I see wedding invitations that say kids

not allowed, it's the bride and groom's big day and no

rumpus please. I contrast this with weddings in other cultures

where kids run around, elders doze, guests of all descriptions

do whatever, and it's all seen as the tapestry of family life.

I chuckle because when and if this same bride and groom get around

to having kids, their views on invitees may change drastically.....

And I am not surprised that the percent childless in many

societies is going up and up....

Milagai

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Megan:  the "disdain" observation was not aimed specifically

at you, I should have made that clear, sorry.

I mean it as an observation for an overall culture that

deems children, or any potentially 'embarassing' or 'demanding'

(insert your choice of group here)

group be kept out of sight and hearing until they can meet

behavioral norms set for and by others.....

This is one of the interesting (to me) American paradoxes

that a culture that overtly claims family values etc.

really wants to keep the nitty gritty of raising a familiy

well out of sight.

I still chuckle when I see wedding invitations that say kids

not allowed, it's the bride and groom's big day and no

rumpus please.  I contrast this with weddings in other cultures

where kids run around, elders doze, guests of all descriptions

do whatever, and it's all seen as the tapestry of family life.

I chuckle because when and if this same bride and groom get around

to having kids, their views on invitees may change drastically.....

And I am not surprised that the percent childless in many

societies is going up and up....

Milagai

Milagai, I didn't think it was directed specifically at me, but I thought it was something that needed adressing!

I work in vendor management and spend a great deal of time interacting with companies offshore in India. As part of my general training/upkeep, I took cross-cultural training last year with a group of Americans, one Australian, and about five representatives of one of our main Indian vendors.

It was very interesting to discuss the cultural differences and how those impact business, communications, etc. For instance, we were all asked to introduce ourselves to the instructor at the beginning of the day. The Indian folks, to a person, all gave family backgrounds as part of their intros. I stuck almost entirely to corporate history (college, previous job, etc.) and to geography (born in X, live in NYC, etc.). The instructor used me as an example of the American emphasis on individuality - not on selfishness, but just how our idea of identity emphasizes individuals rather than a collective.

The American attitude toward children at weddings probably has something to do with this; we gear our celebrations toward adults rather than toward whole families. Though, to be fair, our celebrations are typically shorter than those found in many other, more collective cultures. We're not asking people to leave their children behind for more than five or six hours, and weddings are usually viewed as a time for parents to have an excuse to get down and boogie without worrying too much about the little ones.

There are places I go (the park, certain tea spots, Saks' Christmas windows, and so on) where I expect to find loud, rambunctious children. At these times, I am more than happy to share my space with them, and really enjoy watching them experience new things.

However, I still think that a quiet coffeehouse used primarily as a spot to work or read is an inappropriate spot for children to run around like maniacs. That's what the park is for.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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At my wedding, we invited one couple and their children, because although their children are far from perfect --like everybody else's children-- the parents are quick to respond and curb behavior that may become an imposition on others. Their children do not run up and down the aisles in a church; they do not interrupt adults when they're having a conversation; they simply act like well-behaved children. And if they don't, a quick, whispered conference takes care of things.

Another couple and their children were not invited. This couple thinks everyone loves their children as much as they do. They believe that everything their kids do is wonderful, exceptional, and cute. The children run wild at all times; they disturb others; they interrupt others; they have no "indoor" voices. They are ill-mannered because their parents make no attempt to teach them any manners whatsoever.

I have a feeling that this entire discussion summarizes much as I've written above. Seldom do people object to the presence of well-behaved children; even if their behavior slips a little and their parents have to remind them. But there is no reason to be expected to sit in a restaurant, and not be able to converse with one's companion because the children at the next table are unruly and loud. I know people who've had beverages knocked into their laps, been hit with flying food, and have not been able to enjoy their own meals because other people aren't bothering to insist that their children behave. If a parent has to correct a child's behavior, very few people mind; they understand that it's a learning situation for the child. It's when behavior is not corrected, and becomes a problem for other diners, that objections to children in restaurants usually arise.

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This is one of the interesting (to me) American paradoxes

that a culture that overtly claims family values etc.

really wants to keep the nitty gritty of raising a familiy

well out of sight.

I still chuckle when I see wedding invitations that say kids

not allowed, it's the bride and groom's big day and no

rumpus please.  I contrast this with weddings in other cultures

where kids run around, elders doze, guests of all descriptions

do whatever, and it's all seen as the tapestry of family life.

I chuckle because when and if this same bride and groom get around

to having kids, their views on invitees may change drastically.....

And I am not surprised that the percent childless in many

societies is going up and up....

Milagai

Yeh, I dont really see this anti-child culture people are talking about.. I do see the Family being highlighted and praised.. From all the Amusement Parks, to Family Fun Centers, the largest chain restaurants are family oriented.. Having kids meals and menus where only children exclusively can order from.. I sometimes would like a smaller portion and have been denied from ordering off of the kids menu..

I have never seen a wedding invitation that says no children.. So I dont really think you are being accurate by depicting all of America by the things you have seen.. I also dont think its the right of the guest to be critical of the person paying for the party.. For instance, if someone is getting married, they might not want to pay for the children.. I, as a child have been invited to birthday parties where my mother and father werent invited.. And did not claim discrimination..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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