Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Children and Restaurants

The locals of Monroeville, PA are in an uproar.  Why?  Because McDain's Restaurant has banned children under the age of 6 from dining.  This is not an unprecedented move - Olde Salty Restaurant in North Carolina banned screaming children from its premises late last year.

Disclaimer: I am not a parent, nor do I particularly like children.  I do, however, realize that children are people and, as such, I have to tolerate their presence.  At least in certain situations.

Personally, I don't understand why some people are so upset about it.  McDain's styles itself as upscale casual.  To me, the word "upscale," when referring to a restaurant means don't show up in jeans and know how to behave yourself.  You don't treat an upscale (no matter how casual) establishment like you would your local dive bar or McDonald's.  There's a difference.  Parents should realize that.

I was out for dinner about a month ago at a slightly upscale restaurant and there were 3 children, all in the same family, who spent a good 15 minutes running around the restaurant (and I don't mean just getting up from their seats and moving from an adult at one end of the table to an adult at the other end of the table.  I mean running.  Near my table).  The adults in their group did NOTHING.  They sat back, let their kids run around the restaurant, and casually sipped their drinks and nibbled their appetizers.  I was irritated, and, because this observant food blogger was taking in everything around her, I noticed that I wasn't the only one. I don't know why the kids finally calmed down, but eventually they did.  But it really put a damper on my dining experience.  If I'm going to a nice place, I don't expect people to be shrieking and running around.  To be honest, I don't really expect people to be shrieking and running around even if I don't go to a nice place, but I'm certainly not going to judge if it's in a more kid friendly atmosphere.  I might be annoyed, but, once again, if I choose to go somewhere that is kid friendly, I'm going to deal with it.

What boggles my mind is the people that are all up in arms about this.  A shrieking child is not pleasant no matter who you are, whether you have kids or not.  I would hope that parents can remember a time before they had children, when I'm sure they were annoyed by a youngster who didn't know how to behave.  The only thing worse that a child screaming and acting out in public, is a parent who screams at said child in public.  Take your kid outside, do what you need to do to get him or her to calm down and be quiet, and then come back in.  Don't add to the din with yelling at your kid, or worse yet, threatening or hitting them in the middle of a restaurant.  And seriously?  Doesn't that kind of behavior embarrass you?

My point is that if your kids can't behave for extended periods of time, they shouldn't be at a nicer dining establishment.  Go someplace with a kids menu and crayons.  Something to keep them occupied.  And yes, I realize that there are exceptions.  Everyone gets cranky at some point or has a bad night. But if, more often than not, your kids run around and scream, they shouldn't be there.  Take them to a chain restaurant or a casual dining establishment.  Don't bring them to a place where my dinner costs the same as my electric bill.

The opposition will probably make a fuss and ask me how their kids are supposed to learn how to behave if they aren't taken out to eat.  I would tell them that their job is a parent is to instill good behavior.  That starts at home.  If you let your kid run around your house screaming, chances are that behavior is going to carry over outside of the house.

I'm sure I'm also going to get a lot of flack from parents of special needs children.  I understand that children have a bad day, and that some things are unpredictable.  But again, an upscale restaurant is not the place to test out what triggers your child.  There are more appropriate places to go.

The other thing that really gets me about this issue is that some parents don't believe that this should apply to their children.  In my experience, these are the children who are the worst behaved.  Years ago, there was an episode of Sex and the City where Samantha is at an upscale NYC eatery for lunch.  She is seated at about 2 tables away from a mother and her toddler, who is screaming and crying and being ignored or indulged by mommy.  Samantha is on a business call on her cell phone as she is eating.  The server comes up to her and informs her that cell phone use is prohibited in the restaurant.  She asks the server why it's not ok to use a cell phone, but it's ok for a parent to not control her screaming child.  Same issue.  Of course, I think cell phone use in restaurants is also extremely rude, but that's a topic for another post.

Bottom line?  Children do not belong everywhere.  There are simply some places that are not kid-friendly.  So hire a babysitter, leave your kids at home, and enjoy a night out without getting withering looks from diners like me.  If you feel bad about leaving your kids at home, then I really hope you enjoy your meal at your local Applebees.

You can read more about restaurants banning children here, here, and here


  1. I agree completely- nothing worse than kids everywhere. I have even seen people with their damn kids (one small enough to be in a carseat) in the Wild Hare in the Vista at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, believe it or not! I asked a bartender why they didn't card that kid, they didn't think I was as funny as I did.

  2. That's pretty funny. Especially since I bet their 16 year old wouldn't have been allowed in.

    But why in the world would anyone think it's ok to bring a kid to a bar at any time, let alone late on a Saturday night?