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Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)


Mark Sommelier
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Some parents know how to deal with their kids, are sensitive to the experience of others, and everyone behaves accordingly. Some (dare I say the majority) are either blissfully unaware or, worse, think the world should revolve around their offspring. Don't dream of stifling little Tarquin by suggesting he shouldn't run screaming around a quiet restaurant tripping up busboys. Shouldn't little Trixibelle be allowed to throw her toys onto other diner's tables? Why should I remove my adorable children if they behave this way? Other people should understand. What's the big deal? Weren't they young once too?

This is simply wrong, a grossly inflated stereotype. I am myself soemthing of a proto-yuppie -- though not of the excessively affluent variety -- and the vast majority of my friends and acquaintences fall under that demographic as well. I cannot think of a single one with that attitude; if anything it's the reverse, with people hypersensitive about their kids' behavior. I know that there are "not my precious little Madison"-type parents around, but they are a distinct minority.

Not in Park Slope, Brooklyn, they're not.

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I don't think it matters whether they're the minority or not. It's not about numbers; we have laws not because so many people's behavior necessitates them but because we know there will always be the few from whom we need protection.

So, fine, quite likely many parents can be trusted to bring their babies/children to restaurants. But that doesn't speak to the question of how to address the problems caused by the minority.

And I really wish this whole area of discussion left children, per se, out altogether. They're not a cause of the problem. I'd rather frame it as "disruptive adults," a group that includes some parents but also other adults whose behavior can be just as intrusive.

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

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I just don't understand how my experiences can be so different from everybody's here. Really, a majority of parents let their kids run wild in restaurants? As in, more than half? Here in Charlotte, people bring their kids along everywhere, and even fancy restaurants have kid menus and high chairs. I just haven't seen much of that behavior - either before or after I became a parent - and I spend way too much time and money in restaurants. This week, I took my mother and my son to a medium-upscale place that has a kids menu, but in no way is kid-targeted (no games, toys etc.) It was early evening, and at least a third of the tables had kids there - but no one was making a fuss, running around, or being obnoxious. That's been my experience all along.

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

-Harriet M. Welsch

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I just don't understand how my experiences can be so different from everybody's here.  Really, a majority of parents let their kids run wild in restaurants?  As in, more than half?  Here in Charlotte, people bring their kids along everywhere, and even fancy restaurants have kid menus and high chairs.  I just haven't seen much of that behavior - either before or after I became a parent - and I spend way too much time and money in restaurants.  This week, I took my mother and my son to a medium-upscale place that has a kids menu, but in no way is kid-targeted (no games, toys etc.)  It was early evening, and at least a third of the tables had kids there - but no one was making a fuss, running around, or being obnoxious.  That's been my experience all along.

Honestly, most of the obnoxious behavior I see takes place in coffeehouses and places like that, where the etiquette is fuzzier. In the daytime, in a coffeehouse, it's harder to work up the nerve to complain about the child who looks in your purse or spills juice on your pants while doing sprints around the couch.

I've been lucky to only have witnessed a few situations in which children (or, rather, their discipline-impaired parents) took away from the experience of other diners in an actual restaurant. Most of the kids I see out are either older and well-behaved, or tiny little babies asleep in their bassinets.

"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 bad behavior I see the most isn't a kid running around -- it's picking up the silverware and clanking it, playing with the water glass and clanking and sloshing it, pouring salt and pepper into the water glass, and loudly pounding toys on the table. And that's just what my in-laws allow their grandson (my nephew, not my kid) to do when we eat out with them. And unfortunately, I can not be the one to tell him to stop or redirect him -- they already think I'm allergic to kids. If we were in fast food joints, that might be okay, but this behavior happened in two places we were trying out for our wedding rehearsal dinner.

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The bad behavior I see the most isn't a kid running around -- it's picking up the silverware and clanking it, playing with the water glass and clanking and sloshing it, pouring salt and pepper into the water glass, and loudly pounding toys on the table.

See, that behavior would not have disturbed me. The kid's at the table and it doesn't sound like any more noise than what a typical adult loud-talker would make, or the ruckus made by a boisterous bunch of grown-ups. As far as what's appropriate at-table behavior, I saw a woman unpin, rearrange, and repin her hair during dinner at one of our city's top French restaurants last weekend. If that's what an adult can engage in at the table, fiddling with silverware doesn't seem so bad.

And again -- kids aren't making the decisions about being in the restaurants so I see this as a parental-behavior issue, not a kid-behavior thing.

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

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Well, I find it awfully hard to not be disturbed by behavior like that. You can't even talk to each other at the table, the level of noise and activity is so loud and distracting. I'm not saying it's the child's fault, but I don't think a child who acts that way belongs in a restaurant. It's typical toddler behavior and there's nothing wrong with it ... in the right context.

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Well, I find it awfully hard to not be disturbed by behavior like that.  You can't even talk to each other at the table, the level of noise and activity is so loud and distracting.  I'm not saying it's the child's fault, but I don't think a child who acts that way belongs in a restaurant.  It's typical toddler behavior and there's nothing wrong with it ... in the right context.

And I totally get that it could disturb someone -- it's a subjective standard. The problem is that I see a fair number of adults in restaurants who are just as disruptive as the children described on this thread. And they're a whole lot less cute, to boot. I would prefer the approach be to address behaviors rather than identity, i.e., loud voices, cell phone usage, roaming, to name a few, rather than making a class of people (children) feel unwelcome solely on the basis of age.

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

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Adults (or I should say parents, as nobody so far has identified nannys or babysitters as being problematic in this way - but of course they are getting paid to watch the children which somehow makes it different in our society, doesn't it . . .) who are too busy doing "their own thing" (talking to each other, using their cellphones, whatever) to supervise their children in restaurants or more often coffeehouse-type-of-places are (to my mind) the indirect subjects of two recent stories in the NYT. One is about the culture of multi-tasking that pervades our society at various levels (sometimes, maybe, this *can* be geographically sorted to a point) and another is one step further away, but speaks about the desire to succeed.

The second article focuses on young women, who still even today generally more than their young men peers, will have to struggle with whether they will be mostly a career woman or mostly someone who raises children, or whether they will get up on the high wire to do the lovely acrobatic act called "having it all".

We've got a lot of mixed messages going on that affect these young women. Obviously these mixed messages will ultimately affect our society at large (yes, in restaurants, that most public place where we show ourselves to the world and to each other) and will affect their own families as those families grow.

It's sort of hard to have it all. Yet somehow the seed has been sown that indeed, it is possible. I wonder, myself, how possible this is for how many, ultimately. Can the best cellphone and the right shoes make life flow in some special way?

This, is what it seems to me is happening, mostly, when disruptions occur with children and their adult attendees in restaurants. Kids, often enough, are just not as well loved as a cellphone and a double latte with the perfect haircut. Or maybe its not that they are not as well loved, but they sure can be more difficult to deal with.

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Ok, all you servers and FOTH staff out there, I have a gripe for you. When I come into your half-filled, not quite white-tablecloth establishment for lunch with my 4yo and 19mo, try to avoid taking 20 minutes to fill our drink order and then another 20 minutes to serve our pasta and sandwiches. It really tempts me to let my toddler run ramshod over the freestanding wooden screens you've set up around the bridal shower and other random 20-top whose order you took before getting us iced tea and juice.

Can you tell I had a bad experience at lunch yesterday? Our waitress made one strategic error -- letting our drinks and food order wait until she'd taken orders from the 20-top. I blame management for letting us sit and stew. And I blame us for not seeking out the management to get our order in sooner.

However. I DID NOT let my toddler run laps or bang on the fish tank. How about some appreciation for the parents who keep the kids under control despite the odds, eh?

Bridget Avila

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However. I DID NOT let my toddler run laps or bang on the fish tank. How about some appreciation for the parents who keep the kids under control despite the odds, eh?

I've read some posts here and there from servers who claim that the reason they are in the business of being servers is *one thing*. One thing only. Not as a career choice, you know. Unless it's somewhere where the tips will be very very high (and then of course it really is the same thing in a way but shaded just a bit differently . . .). They are there to *make money*.

Some servers see a table with children and they think: Not as high check average. Chinka-chinka-chink. The decision is made. Pay attention to another table first.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Adults (or I should say parents, as nobody so far has identified nannys or babysitters as being problematic in this way - but of course they are getting paid to watch the children which somehow makes it different in our society, doesn't it . . .) who are too busy doing "their own thing" (talking to each other, using their cellphones, whatever) to supervise their children in restaurants or more often coffeehouse-type-of-places are (to my mind) the indirect subjects of two recent stories in the NYT. One is about the culture of multi-tasking that pervades our society at various levels (sometimes, maybe, this *can* be geographically sorted to a point) and another is one step further away, but speaks about the desire to succeed.

The second article focuses on young women, who still even today generally more than their young men peers, will have to struggle with whether they will be mostly a career woman or mostly someone who raises children, or whether they will get up on the high wire to do the lovely acrobatic act called "having it all".

We've got a lot of mixed messages going on that affect these young women. Obviously these mixed messages will ultimately affect our society at large (yes, in restaurants, that most public place where we show ourselves to the world and to each other) and will affect their own families as those families grow.

It's sort of hard to have it all. Yet somehow the seed has been sown that indeed, it is possible. I wonder, myself, how possible this is for how many, ultimately. Can the best cellphone and the right shoes make life flow in some special way?

This, is what it seems to me is happening, mostly, when disruptions occur with children and their adult attendees in restaurants. Kids, often enough, are just not as well loved as a cellphone and a double latte with the perfect haircut. Or maybe its not that they are not as well loved, but they sure can be more difficult to deal with.

There's a lot of lip-service in the US about how wonderful children are and that mothers (specifically) are doing the most important kind of work there is. But that doesn't jibe with the 76-55 cents being earned by women who are mothers, compared to 90 cents by women who are not mothers, and the dollar earned by men. The Center for Work Law Life at UC Hastings College of the Law has reputable information about the real pressures mothers/caregivers face, and how those pressures short-change children.

I think much parental behavior today -- in restaurants and elsewhere -- is heavily influenced by guilt. One reason is workers in the US work longer hours than anywhere else in the industrialized world, and it's not often by choice. When time with a child is limited, parents don't want to spend it in conflict. The other reason is that some women who leave the workforce to take care of their kids say they feel they need to be the "best" mothers or they would feel guilt for not excelling at their job; maybe they think a squalling, angry kid means they're messing up.

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

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There's a lot of lip-service in the US about how wonderful children are and that mothers (specifically) are doing the most important kind of work there is.  But that doesn't jibe with the 76-55 cents being earned by women who are mothers, compared to 90 cents by women who are not mothers, and the dollar earned by men. The Center for Work Law Life at UC Hastings College of the Law has reputable information about the real pressures mothers/caregivers face, and how those pressures short-change children.

I think much parental behavior today -- in restaurants and elsewhere -- is heavily influenced by guilt.  One reason is workers in the US work longer hours than anywhere else in the industrialized world, and it's not often by choice.  When time with a child is limited, parents don't want to spend it in conflict.  The other reason is that some women who leave the workforce to take care of their kids say they feel they need to be the "best" mothers or they would feel guilt for not excelling at their job; maybe they think a squalling, angry kid means they're messing up.

I'm in agreement with all of the above, Ingrid. But added to "guilt" I'd add simple tiredness and overstress . . . and added to women that leave the workforce I'd add women that remain, too.

And those that have no truck with any of this would respond "Anyone that chooses to have kids should know this."

I turned fifty years old this year, and am still learning things that I *should* have known. :wink: Goodness knows how those people who mouth quotes like the above "you should know this" manage to get through life knowing it all, and so very early and securely. Wow. :biggrin:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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And yet, I can remember being a manager in a corporate setting and in actuality, having to find solutions to work problems caused by . . .guess what . . .children. Those things that require care by the parent, those things that do *not* go away. Children.

And yes, children don't always act like adults in restaurants.

Do we live with that as a part of life, as Miligai suggests? Not usually, in our culture. We push harder, to make them *not* be a problem, for anyone. And we push harder with less support, often. For the traditional systems of being surrounded by family and neighborhood supports are often not there, as well as the reality of more of us actually being "one" raising the children rather than "two".

"No problem!"

A shiny happy people life is our goal.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
There's a lot of lip-service in the US about how wonderful children are and that mothers (specifically) are doing the most important kind of work there is.  [snippety snip]

And a lot of that lip-service is being handed out by a woman with no kids, herself (Oprah). Does that woman know her audience, or what? :rolleyes:

OT, sort of: A mother, a parent, is what I am, not what I do. I don't abdicate that responsibility, no matter how tired I am. But I'm one of the weird ones, I know.

Just got back from Maui -- dinner one night was at Hail'e Maile (sorry for the spelling,I'm sure) General Store. Abridged version: The restaurant was high-energy, full of families on vacation, and we didn't go in expecting to dine in quiet. Table next to us was a few generations of a family. Littlest girl was taken from the table by whomever was finished with their plate, to cruise around the porch and jump up and down and clap and whatever adorable things children do, and then brought back when she was ready to sit down again This happened several times during the dinner.

Her father, when they were leaving, apologized for all the activity next to our table. We said, "no problem, cute kid, wish we had that energy, and honestly, we hope you weren't taking her out on our account." His reply? "Never too young to learn manners!" ::but she wasn't doing anything but being a kid!:: "Oh, that'll change one day ..."

edited for clarity.

Edited by FabulousFoodBabe (log)
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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My ex and I took our kids everywhere(she also nursed discreetly anywhere) sometimes the experience was great, sometimes not. We were always ready to get it to go at the sign of trouble, and often only one of us ate, while the other handled the baby(s). But now at 3 and 5, they are good restaurant kids.

Loud and obnoxious, whether adult or child, whether in a subdued setting or a loud place is still loud and obnoxious.

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Mmm. Good point. It's the fourteen TV sets blaring ten different sports at the same time, and the college kids (oops, the college men and women) guffawing about their latest conquest of whatever or whomever, and the server that seems to be able to remember to tell us their name but then not remember to get the orders right that don't belong in restaurants. And yet across the land these things grow and flourish.

Loud and obnoxious. Yes, I live in a college town. Higher education apparently brings this along with it, as a standard of behavior and place.

:rolleyes:

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But if those same children are running around the restaurant and making a ruckus, I don't think he'd welcome them.  I wouldn't welcome them anywhere other than a picnic table!

Actually, thinking about most of the restaurants here in town (except for the Chinese take-outs)(or except for the quieter vegetarian place where "sanitation" is a word not yet discovered by the BOH staff from what I hear from those who have been BOH) my picnic table is actually a much more polite place. Especially if you don't want your own ears or your kids ears filled every five seconds with ongoing shouted conversations filled with what we used to call "foul language". (But I hear that being offended by that sort of language used in a ongoing patter is out of style, so it just may be me that it bothers.)

Here, it is the restaurants themselves and the supposed "grown-ups" who mostly make the ruckus. I'm not sure what message this sends to younger children who continue to see this when walking into a place to eat.

Heh. It's not just the college students, either. I never really realized just how very much professors (most usually the ones that are shortish men with longish tousled hair) love to hear themselves profess. Loudly. :smile:

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Thing is, when I pay for a "nice" "high-end" meal, I want to relax and enjoy it. If I'm full-time monitoring my kid's behaviour, then I cant. If I'm leaping up to take the kid to the porch to blow off steam, I'm losing the flow of the meal. Since not full-time monitoring my kid's behaviour makes it likely that folks at other tables cant relax and enjoy their meals, I cant have the kid present and not monitor. Therefore the kid stays home on these occasions, which makes my life easier, if more expensive.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Thing is, when I pay for a "nice" "high-end" meal, I want to relax and enjoy it.

How dare you.

( :laugh: )

(Almost forgot to add my laugh. How dare *I*. )

Oooh baby, I dare! :wink:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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To bring kids to restaurants really depends on the kid and the restaurant. When my son was an infant, he was the best. We would put him in his bouncy seat and he would bounce and stay happy during an entire meal which was a joy for us. When he was 2 1/2 and older, he would slip under the table and just take off. I would be constantly chasing after him. At that point we quit taking him out if we could and just did beach vacations where we could rent a room or condo with a kitchen. The experience of constantly being on top of him when we were out just took away all the enjoyment of going out. No doubt this behavior was disruptive to people around us. Just like anything else they grow out of it and at age 20, I can take him to a restaurant again.

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  • 3 months later...

Oh, how I hate to bring this topic to the forefront again, but our own "bavila," aka Bridget Avila, has published a quite sensible look at the challenges of dining with the younger set What's Up Annapolis -- complete with a couple of quotes from the people whose opinions in some ways matter most: the restauranteurs who have to make delicate decision in this regard in order to make a living.

Good work!

The salient point brought up by restaurateurs and frequent diners alike is that adults bringing children to a restaurant need to know how the kids will handle the situation and when they need to call it quits. As Buckley puts it, “You just have to know when the kids have had enough and be prepared to leave if need be.”

Jamie Adkins, general manager of the Severn Inn (those gracious hosts who helped me hold together that November dinner with my children) echoes that advice. “While some patrons ask not to be seated near a party with children, I've never had anyone complain about children. Parents just monitor their children and take them outside if they get unruly.”

As a parent and a former waitress, I would add that restaurant staff play a part in how well children can handle a dining experience.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I never thought I would see something like what I witnessed on Friday on the upstairs section of "Babbo."

Around 6:30--7pm, there was a little boy at Babbo with his own sippy cup. By the time I got there, the parents and the baby were already having dessert. I was totally shocked. The kid was a kid and he started acting up a little....

I really do not care for kids in nice restaurants. I actually do not think they should be admitted. They can ruin the atmosphere that a restaurant might be trying to achieve for the customers.

Fortunately, the food was glorious, as usual.

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