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Thursday, 29 December 2011

I love my four year old child. I love eating out at fancy restaurants. As it turns out, recently, I have found that one is not compatible with the other. Its one of the reasons I decided to write this post. This post is not an attempt at sneak reviews of restaurants. I may link to a few, but only if our experience was positive. I am not out to be a vengeful parent here, rather I am trying to understand this wave of kid-unfriendliness that seems to be sweeping about.

Aditi at Scog's in West Kirby
Aditi at Scog's in West Kirby

Before my daughter was born, my husband and I were like any other middle income professionals in England. We ate out a fair amount. It was mostly in pubs, and local eateries, and on special ocasions, we splashed out on fairly expensive restaurants and dinners. We ate lunch at restaurants, almost every day of the week, thanks to an abundance of lovely and low priced places close to our work. We loved the ease of heading out at short notice, and finding new places to eat. I wouldn't call us foodies in a broad sense that its used today, but we knew what we liked, and we enjoyed the experience.

All this came to a rather grinding halt when we had Aditi. Like any new parent, I was a bit shell shocked by having this new person to look after, a responsibility that wasn't going to go away... oh, for at least eighteen... years. I assumed, again, like many new parents, that my days of eating in trendy restaurants was over, and it was going to be Pizza Hut or... shudder... McDonald's in the foreseeable future.

That is, until I realised that having a child did not necessarily mean that your life has to come to a halt. So, Aditi had her first fine dining experience at a lovely family run restaurant called Julian's in Hoylake when she was barely ten days old. Darn child slept through it all, and I, fresh out of surgery, squirmed through it all. (Julian was so lovely though, when I realised I wasn't going to make it through dessert, he actually packed it up for me, so I could rush home. I ate that divine chocolate orange dessert in the bathtub, haha) Our experience at Julian's was such a great and positive one that we thought that this was going to be great, in a have child will still eat out way.

Which, incidentally, we didn't end up doing a lot of anyway, as work, child and life came in the way. And the UK, by then, was being lambasted for being child-unfriendly. Reading articles in newspapers about how mothers were being kicked out of cafes for breastfeeding, children were unwelcome in fine dining establishments, parents were constantly being told that there were lots of 'child-friendly' restuarants (yes, read Pizza Hut and McDonald's here) and they shouldn't be disturbing child-free people eating out in restaurants... all these negatives took a toll on our initial enthusiasm about doing all the things we did pre-child. We still frequented our local cafes and restaurants, and we were lucky enough that there were a few lovely ones that adored children (our favourite was the Golden Orchid, the maitre'd Chok loved Aditi so much, that we always almost ended up having a quiet dinner, while she toured the kitchens) so that we didn't miss the whole experience of eating in fancy restaurants that much + we were almost too tired at the end of the work week, that all we wanted to do was relax.

The big move:

When we moved to Canada a couple years back, I was really excited. Here was a chance to try out restaurants in a brand new city in a new country. I was also excited because I had heard so much about the child-friendliness of Canada, and I couldn't wait to get out and do all these child friendly things that my books said were going to happen. Eating out was a breeze they said, and the only places barred to children were licensed bars. I could live with that, even if in England we were able to take Aditi to pubs (until 8 pm anyway)

In order to get integrated into a city and its life, the first thing I start doing is reading the local newspapers. I read the Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Journal and the local Metro pretty much religiously every day (this is in addition to my addiction to British newspapers/ websites like the Guardian and BBC Online)

So in my fervent browsing of these newspapers, I come across many things that equally infuriate me, and make me think hard about my life. There were two articles in particular that stuck with me. This one, and this one. It was not the articles themselves that made me think. It was the comments below them that really stuck in my craw, so to say. Yes, this was in Canada, that bastion of child friendliness that I was told it was.

When did we, as a society, become so uncaring? So entitled? So selfish? So unfeeling of our smallest members? We all talk about a generation of children who are growing up to be entitled brats. We talk about riots that happened in Vancouver and in London, and how they were a result of overindulged kids, and selfish parents. However, when I read the article above, the only thing that stood out for me was how, as adults, we were so intent on protecting our child-free lives that we were prepared to ban children from places, because, god forbid, they are loud. Or they cry. Or... they are not adults.

Except that we then expect them to suddenly behave brilliantly whenever they go out. And exactly how are they supposed to do that if we don't take them to places in the first place? How do they know how they are supposed to behave if they have no experience of behaving? We expect kids to be miniature adults. We have probably already forgotten our childhoods haven't we?

Messy Messy
Yes, children can be messy. I apologise. But I will clean it up after.

The rant, and I apologise in advance if it offends:

I want to focus on my experiences as a parent with a toddler in dining places. As a food blogger, I love going to various eateries, not just to sample local food, but also to have a nice afternoon out with my daughter. And Aditi and I do head out fairly often, usually for lunch, and ocasionally for dinner. I say 'I' from now on rather than 'we', because my husband doesn't manage to make it into as many places and Aditi and I do.

I have been several restaurants and cafes that encourage children, and treat them well. I also came across many for whom children were/ are an inconvenience and they very subtly indicated it. I am naming no names, as, like I said above, this is not a post that is about being vengeful. Yes, I was hurt when Aditi and I were shoved into a corner and pretty much ignored through the service. Or when my daughter dared to be loud (once!) and we were pretty much cowed down by the tsking. I am not a brave person, and maybe if I was, I would have had the courage to stand up and walk out of the place and say I won't stand for such behaviour from so-called civilized patrons. But to my eternal shame, I didn't... and I even left a tip.

The incident shocked me out of my complacency, and this blog post is the result.

There are many people who will argue that taking a small child to a restaurant is tantamount to the parent being selfish.

I disagree. We all want to socialise our children, and bring them up to be good and productive members of society. If a child was tired and cranky, and the parents dragged them to a restaurant, well, that would be counter productive, wouldn't it? In that case, its down to the parent to understand their child's needs and act appropriately. On the other hand, I am not being selfish when I take my child to lunch at a restaurant or cafe that I've heard about, and want to try. We talk, browse through the menu, have a giggle, drink some juice and overall socialise like we would if we were dining with other people. It's an opportunity to give my daughter my full attention, while also introducing her to tastes and food that she may not be familiar with. In most cases, she's well behaved, relaxed and pretty a pretty good kid. Ocasionally she can be loud, and I explain to her that its not acceptable in public places. And we talk through that.

We enjoy the restaurant experience, when its a positive one. In fact, my daughter now actually asks to go to places like the High Level Diner, here in Edmonton (pictured below) because she knows that she (and I) will be treated with respect and not condescension. Children are smarter than we realise and they know when they are being patronised and when they are genuinely appreciated as customers.

High Level Diner
High Level Diner - Our favourite cafe/ resto in Edmonton. Photo reproduced with permission.

I always say that I stopped judging people when I became a parent. Because, suddenly, I realised what I didn't in my child free days. That children are individuals, and sometimes, well, they can be little devils. So when I see a child behaving badly anywhere, I don't judge. I am sympathetic, and I offer to help if I am able. But judging someone because their child is having a bad moment, in my opinion, is the worst you can do.

Yet, so many people find it perfectly acceptable to tsk at kids in restaurants, and on one memorable ocasion, ask to change seats when they realised I was going to sit next to them with my daughter. How rude it that? In our politically correct society, we wouldn't dare do something like this if we were sat next to say, a black person or an openly gay couple. Yet its perfectly acceptable to do this to children? How low can we sink?

Yes, its the parent's responsibility to ultimately ensure that thier child is well behaved. But making it more and more difficult for parents to actually do this, is not the answer. And outright banning of children is certainly not the answer.

It saddens me today that people find it perfectly acceptable to 'ban' children from various places. It saddens me that a society which was/ is famed for its acceptance is now turning its back on its youngest and most vulnerable members. It scares me to think what we will evolve into being if this continues. The relationship between kids and restaurants is only the beginning. And if we don't stop being judgemental, we are ultimately going to be responsible for creating the 'selfish', self-entitled generation that we are condemning today.

I am not a parenting expert. Or a restaurant reviewer, for that matter. But I am a mother, and while I don't expect any sort of special treatment, I do expect the same courtesy that you would extend to me if I visited you as a single person, to be extended to me when I visit you with my daughter. Is that too much to ask for?

** Please note that this blog post is purely my opinion. I welcome your comments whether in agreement or disagreement with me on this issue. But please, as is usual, be respectful.**

27 comments :

  1. Brilliant write up Mich.

    "In our politically correct society, we wouldn't dare do something like this if we were next to say, a black person or an openly gay couple. Yet its perfectly acceptable to do this to children"

    This, in particular is nailed it. It's definitely basic human tendency to stamp 'authority' on what cannot harm us. You wouldn't dare be racist or homophobic because they person at the receiving end can deal with you physically and mentally, something which a child can't.

    And this considering kids to be a nuisance is not just a problem with restaurants (although I might be deviating here), but sometimes with parents themselves. I saw 2 kids in a summer camp playing around with mouths shut (with plastic nipples). Was left wondering why would you bring your child to such a place and do that.

    To conclude (my rather long comment), IMO, humans as such have grown impatient over the years and we cannot tolerate little (but necessary) disturbances and that includes little kids. The basic thing people don't/ won't understand is that if a 3 year old could talk as well as a fully grown adult, he/she would talk instead of crying.

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  2. That is sad Michelle, that you have had such a bad experience. I think we have been lucky as Cooper has always been welcomed with open arms in restaurants and pubs here in Scotland. The staff always go out of their way to make him feel special and he usually raises a smile from other diners, but I suppose I am lucky he is such a content, smiley wee boy. Then again families do eat out a lot here, so people are used to children in restaurants and pubs. I wasn't made to feel awkward when breast feeding in public either and I was very shy about it at first, so I could easily have been put off. No, I have to go with good experiences here, but maybe I don't go to elite enough restaurants. We were out for an Indian meal tonight and the staff happily heated the meal I brought with me for Cooper as I thought the dishes would be too spicy for him.

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  3. Jac, that's the worst thing. A few bad experiences always sour the good ones. We are lucky enough to have some lovely restos here, and I've linked to the ones we love. But just a few experiences can just change your attitude.

    Like Coop, Aditi is a pretty relaxed kid, and I put it down to having taken her everywhere as a child. But at the same time as soon as we walk in to some places, you know that you are not welcome. She is judged because she's a kid. Which is what I find appalling in a way, because she just isn't given a chance. In fact, a few days ago, after a nice meal, we had a person come up to us and in a tone of complete surprise, say ' you have such a well behaved kid'... it was the surprise that bugged me in a way. Why not give her a chance first?

    There are kids who can be badly behaved, but then so can adults. Judging kids and banning them makes it so much harder to introduce them to proper behavior.

    I wanted this post to be about that attitude. We were lucky in the UK in a way. Living in a small village meant that a lot of people were friendly and happy to have kids around. But unfortunately that's not the attitude we get here... and that's so sad.

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  4. I have always been proud that my kids favorite place to eat is either khazanas downtown or Daawaats. My son first went at age 18 months when I was pregnant with my daughter and craving that butter chicken:). We have always been welcomed with open arms, the kids fussed over and spoiled . The question I pose is how much of this is cultural? The worst place I have come across in Edmonton, who literally told me they discourage kids (which is why I ate there yet was so insulted I never reviewed it) is owned by white single guys. It made me ponder the cultural influences behind child friendly places? Vivo ? Classy expensive italian but I have seen children there. Khazanas? They do magic tricks for my kids And take us into the kitchen to make naan!
    I
    Could go on forever, but suffice to say there are many places I don't give money to. Kids aren't perfect but why should they eat garbage Mc Craps while I taste some of the finest food in Edmonton? They are well behaved enough(most days lol) to sit nicely and enjoy too! I believe my kids should be eating healthy, good food too, and it's not like I am not paying hard earned cash for them too!

    Great write up!

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  5. nice write up....whenever I go to a restaurant ,I always book table in advance and never fail to reserve a seat for my daughter (she hates high chairs and prefers her own seat)...In Bangalore..I have noticed that whenever the waiter places our plates on the table...he/she always misses out my daughter and I always tell them "My daughter is an individual like any one of us,she needs her own plate too"
    thats what every person needs to know-a child is an individual and treat him/her with equal respect

    loved your rant
    Cherie

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  6. My heart goes out to you. No paying patron should ever be treated with disrespect. And, I completely agree that children should absolutely be included in the restaurant scene at all levels. Here is my HOWEVER = there are SOME parents that are so egocentric that they believe their child is so adorable that all of the patrons in the restaurant have come to enjoy the antics of said child. As an Early Childhood Specialist, and a teacher of 30 years - I ADORE CHILDREN, but when I go out, I don't want to have to deal with poorly behaved ones. I want to relax, too - so, if parents have reasonable expectations and work to set them throughout the meal - I DO enjoy having children in the restaurant. I usually enjoy them immensely. However, everyone is not like you, Michelle - or you, Karlynn. There are parents who should not be parents and my heart goes out to their children and I have worked most of my adult life loving and teaching those little ones. Too often those parents bring their untamed children to the restaurant and it is just too much for me at that time of the day. Just offering another point of view from someone of a different generation - while still avidly supporting yours!
    :)
    Valerie

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  7. I have to say in Toronto I've never had that experience with my 2 kids (age 5 and 1 1/2) but then again we don't really do fine dining.

    I would be appalled if something like that happened to me. Our kids do get restless but after all they are kids. The only way they will learn how to behave properly in society is if they are exposed to it. They love going out to eat and I would never want to take that experience away from them.

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  8. Fantastic post! We have eaten out with my son pretty much since he was born, and although it's not a very regular occurance it's definitely not something I will stop doing. I have been lucky enough to always have good experiences, regardless of where I have eaten - which recently included Afternoon Tea at The Langham in London! He was great and the staff were perfect and made every effort to make us comfortable and enjoy our unforgettable experience.

    I really hope I don't encounter anything like you have - it's awful and shocking and definitely needs dealt with. Thank you for writing such a great article and bringing this behaviour to light.

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  9. Lovely write up Michelle. I guess it could be cultural too. This thing never happens often in our place where children are very much loved and cherished. what happened to you is very bad and as you mentioned I'm also not a very courageous person and doubt if i would have raised my voice. But still better to avoid places like this which might hurt your baby's sentiments and yours too.

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  10. Enjoying with everybody is really special, at the same time you need to be very careful for them especially kids so if there is something which can busy them safely then it will be really amazing, yes they are messy but they can give you pure happiness. thank you.....

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  11. What you experienced is what I exp all the time when taking flights, the stares and the glares of OH God let them be seated somewhere else please!!!!! Its a big arrogance problem and I am not a brave person, But once I did voice out my opinion and was told that airplanes should have separate seating for parents with kids, I mean why?.. I paid the same fare as you did....I even paid for my infant and he sat on my lap....Indian trips are long flying hours and this issue is very common, Have never been treated at any restaurants here in NJ, as most have crayons and coloring papers which keeps my kids occupied. There have been many instances when I have been judged by so called Super moms making statements of how i have been ignoring my kids as I work FT, and they are in daycare and how weak they look and how I have been not feeding them rite food. IT bothered initially and made me wonder if I am a bad Mom, but now no more, I now say Sour grapes and move on..My kids are very active and ahead of their peers and they know socializing all because of the daycare.. TOUCHWOOD.. take the bad with the good in a very positive way...and voice out your feelings and stand up when you get the rudeness, a skids watch us and learn. My elder one saw me take the taunting and insults, he is docile, by the time I had the second one, I was so tired of constantly being judged, that I had an Who cares attitude, my younger is like that.. best wishes and a happy new year and lots of love to Aditi, she is a pearl.
    Love Ash.

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  12. Great post. I grew up in the Middle East and one of the most dramatic differences I noticed on coming back to England was how child-unfriendly the restaurants were. One thing that the Saudi's actually had going for them (IMO) was how family oriented life was, you rarely saw people eating out without their children, trips out to eat involved the whole family, no matter how 'posh' or expensive the restaurant.

    Here in the UK I have always taken my son out to eat with me, and from a young age I tought him to order for himself, and I think it helped waiters not see him as something unimportant, by rodering for himself he was making a stance, saying "I am here too, as a customer, and deserve the same treatment as a customer as older people". He is polite and speaks clearly, but even if he was too shy to do this I would expect him to be welcomes in an eating establishment just like any other paying customer. I don't mind other children in restaurants, even if they are loud, messy or don't sit still for as long as us adults. I hope more and more placed become more child-accepting.

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  13. We are lucky enough to live near a fairly traditional english pub/restaurant which is very child friendly. However, the manager is a dad of young children. I think if the owners or managers at these places have children themselves they are more understanding. Shame it can't always be the case!

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  14. Wonderful post and one many mothers will relate to. I know I do.
    I have had a few sour incidents and I was so hurt and annoyed and to a point where I actually felt, don't these people have kids? maybe they don't coz God knows they cannot be good parents.. bitter, I know. I have outgrown that bitterness now, but I still feel bad when 'grown ups' do not show maturity that is expected of them.
    On my last trip to India 1 1/2 yr ago, when my son was not yet 2 yrs old then) we met another Indian Mom with an infant on the 2nd lap of the journey, by then my son was tired and a bit cranky ( heck, so were we!) and he cried initially. The lady put on an expression of 'extreme' suffering and asked the air hostess to change her seat! Well... ! what goes around comes around, i guess, later her child was inconsolable and she was requested by the same air hostess to go back to her old seat.and guess who had to help her soothe the infant...? Yours truly! She was thankful then.. but I wanted none of that, I told her I know how it is, we hv been in flight for over 18 hrs and children will be children, it is ok for them to express their discomfort.
    I am now in dallas and here the restaurants ( tons of Indian) are cool and I am thankful , I do not want to spoil our mood because of some grouches!
    Wish you and your family a Happy New Year!

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  15. I'm with you. Impose yourself,insist on it, and don't feel bad. It's a test of wills. Do them a favour and don't bring them after 7 pm. No romantic dinner starts at 530. Now, if we could work on city hall to allow dogs on patios in the summer.

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  16. Your post made me think so many things past and present related to kids and restaurants.. and all I can say I wish I had your 'Calm'. I don't. I would not have been so calm and mature. My friend's kid is about 1.5 yrs old. He is a sweetheart mostly. But on some days he does throw a tantrum. Once he threw a total tantrum during lunch at trendy Italian restaurant. The place was full of uber chic professionals. you wouldn't believe the looks we got from these people. The very same people who moments ago had oooh aahed over the same baby!!!! And called him precious! This baby is kind of a celebrity here -- his pictures are in the malls, local ads etc.. he is super super cute and friendly too and LOVES the attention. But that day was one off and he was a "crying God Incarnate"
    Anyhoo -- the wait staff came to our rescue and took the baby on a tour and everyone was back to business of eating. BUT I really hated the looks people gave us. That too moments after drooling and gushing about how adorable he was!
    Makes you wonder what the society has become. Doesn't it?

    And yes.. even though the wait staff came and helped us out, it was more to avoid the fuss than anything else. We, very politely, told the restaurant manager that they need to put "not kid friendly" on their website and business cards. and NO we did not pay any tip either :D

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  17. KEEP TAKING HER!!!!! it's the only way they learn to appreciate and understand food and manners. there will always be snooty people who have forgotten what it was like to have young children - don't take any notice. I've had some pretty memorable meals with my lot - some wonderful and some ugly! but it's great when they get older and they know how to behave and really appreciate a wonderful meal - lots of love. Mary oxox

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  18. You raise some interesting points. I am childfree, and I will admit to having a few meals ruined by a child that was simply done in and not able to cope. I will also admit to sitting next to a lovely three year old who was a wonderfully charming dinning companion and was the highlight of my night.
    I think there's a need for understanding on both sides - that children are people too, and they have very bad days, and because they aren't adults they behave in ways that are loud and sometimes disruptive. It’s worth it to give a small child and their parents a few minutes to try and work it out. A single loud noise is not worthy of condemnation – look the other way. Most of the time, I’ve noticed that parents and small children settle things down and everything proceeds normally.

    Equally, I often feel the need for parents to understand exactly how disruptive their children can be in the middle of a quiet restaurant and judge themselves accordingly. When it moves past a few minutes parents need to take action.

    It's not the child's fault - they are behaving as children do. It can be the parents fault, for not getting up and walking around, for not realizing that their child's unhappiness can disrupt a room of 50 or more people, and leaving.
    I guess, I land on this. Very small children belong at family restaurants, with no exceptions. Very small children may well be able to eat at fancy restaurants depending on the child and the day, because they can cope. Small children are people and they need to eat, but more than that, they are part of a family and a society and they should be in public, not kept closeted away at home.

    Equally, there’s a need to balance the needs of a small child against the needs of another 50 patrons in a restaurant. I think most of us accept that the needs of the many tend to outweigh the needs of a few. The problem is this – I suspect I would find myself more than pleased to sit next to your little girl (who looks adorable.) I suspect that you are the sort of thoughtful parent who, faced with a tempest, would give it a few minutes, bring snacks, attempt to distract, take the child for a meander around the restaurant, etc. With those parents and children, the duty of the rest of us is to be polite and pretend the disruption isn't happening, experience shows me in about 3 minutes, if left alone, it won't be happening anymore and the child will be happy again.

    It’s the other parent. The parent whose child screams and throws things (in one memorable occasion threw a pitcher full of cream in my lap) and does nothing. Their child disrupted the entire restaurant, and left a room full of people powerless to enjoy the meal they paid for, at a restaurant that you wouldn’t expect children, at 9 at night.

    After a very long week, I wound up asking for my meal to be packed up, so that I could enjoy it at home, with some peace and quiet. I'm still a bit bewildered at how I had to leave for peace and quiet, while the parent who was ultimately responsible for the disruption remained unaware of their poor wee child, who was tired and hungry and really needed to be cuddled and put to bed.

    I think banning children is a heavy-handed tactic, but faced with the parent above or a loss of custom, I’m not sure what else the restaurant is able to do. It doesn’t seem to me to be so much a pitched battle about the rights of children and parents versus the rights of everyone else as it is the responsibility for all of us to conduct ourselves in a way that everyone around us can enjoy their meal.

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  19. I hope I don't play the role of the "evil" person here!

    I personally don't mind children in restaurants - be it a local pub or fine dining. If they are well behaved, they will be invisible to the other patrons. The issue I have is not necessarily with kids but with parents of those children. Specifically, those who have some odd sense of entitlement and believe that, because they are paying customers, their children are allowed to run freely and make as much noise as they want. Now, if they were trying to take care of them, that's fine. However, when they are just dining care free and, in a way, have the restaurant provide some sort of day care while they are having their meal... THAT'S when I have a problem.

    I might be playing devil's advocate here but is it possible said patron who asked to be moved have had bad experiences with children in neighbouring tables?

    I will relate an experience a couple of years ago when I went for dinner with some co-workers. (The restaurant is a Thai restaurant if that makes a difference). Normally, the restaurant would be full; however, this night, it was oddly empty - I would say 1/4 of the tables were taken. One of our co-workers bought his wife as well as their hyper ~5 years old daughter. She was the only child and, halfway, she decided to run around the restaurant. Since the section we were seated was empty, we thought to let her loose and, actually, the management didn't mind (as long as nothing happened). Had this been a packed full restaurant with patrons, I do not believe that would have been an acceptable behaviour. In fact, I would have commented that to my co-worker. However, given the circumstances, nobody minded that situation.

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  20. As a childless couple, here is why my husband and I are "those people" who tend to want to change seats when a child sits next to us in a restaraunt.

    On several occaisions, we have has the displeasure of sitting next to some extremely poorly behaved children. This included having them running around the restaurant, knocking over my glass of water, and, on one occaision, kicking me in the shin while we were eating - all of this with not so much as a nod from the parents.

    I understand that there are well-behaved children out there (and we have dined with couples whose children are under 5 years of age, and are fantastic), but given our many bad experiences, we choose to either dine later in the evening, or frequent restaurants that don't cater to children. I think it's fair to want a peaceful meal with my husband, where we are able to have an undisturbed conversation. Equating not wanting to sit next to a possibly noisy child to not wanting to sit next to someone of a different nationaility is absolutely ridiculous and overdramatic. If I didn't want to sit next to an adult that is noisy, would that be considered discrimination too? Having children is a choice, and people also need to recognize that there are couples who choose not to have children for a whole gamut of reasons.

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  21. I am the parent of two young boys. I try to use common sense when it comes to dining out with our children. When dining at a restaurant that I know a lot of families don't go to, we'll go during the afternoon for a late lunch or early in the evening when I know that the restaurant won't be very busy. By doing this, we also avoid having to wait for a table, which is also a big problem with hungry children.

    We also use our common sense in not going to really fine dining restaurants with our kids. I save those restaurants for a romantic dinner alone with my lovely wife or with her and some friends.

    The other perspective that seems to have been forgotten is that of the children. I don't think we should assume that they always enjoy being in a fancy restaurant with dimmed lights, expensive china and cutlery. They might not want fine dining food. Our first son loved going out to restaurants with us when he was a toddler. Then, one night we took him to a very good Greek restaurant that was dark and loud. He was miserable from the start and we had to leave.

    Anyways, I think common sense is the key and parents and diners without kids should just be respectful of each other. And, as a parent, I hope we'll have plenty of time and opportunity for much fine dining with our kids as they grow older.

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  22. It's a great opportunity for discovering your blog with beautiful insights. Thanks for this.

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  23. There is a love hate relation between kids and restaurant. Know all about it

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  24. I once sat behind a couple with a child and the child kept pulling my hair and kept poking me with a fork! The parents thought it was so cute and the child kept doing it.Being a coward i dint stand up for myself . Now when i see someone with a child ,i just change seats.
    I dont want to find out if the child is well behaved or not. I just want to eat my meal in peace.

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  25. My children are grown. But when they were small, we took them out, to help with the very socialization you speak of. Before we did so, when they were VERY young, we had "restaurant" nights at home once or twice per month. The restaurant nights were fun, adventurous meals where we had to practice our best behaviour. Indoor voice. No getting up and running around. Please and thank you. Etc etc. Good jobs meant trips to restaurants to practice and things nearly always went very, very well. My children were polite and respectful and we were frequently complimented.

    However - we had some restaurants that told us as we arrived that they didn't really like children. Some restaurants banned children. I find that unacceptable and refused to patronize those restaurants. To this day I will not patronize a restaurant that refuses children, even though I travel without kids now.

    I think just as we wouldn't refuse handicapped people (who can be loud in a childlike manner as well), or any race of people, nor should we ban children. I think it should be legally challenged frankly - it is ageism. It is selfish, depressing and indicative of the isolation and sense of entitlement many people have. So many people pass negative judgement on others when I think we should learn to live and let live. If you want to live in a bubble without the inconvenience of others who are different, or may make us uncomfortable, then stay at home.

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  26. We are a childless couple and we choose to be. I am not a hater, but some children can be very annoying and loud. We've noticed 8 out of 10 parents that will not do a damn thing about their child's behavior. We eat out only on the weekends, may be 2 meals and we don't want our weekend meals to be ruined by misbehaving children.

    On the contrary, they have been instances where the child is really quiet. We always make it a point to walk up to that family, thank them for raising their child the way they did and teaching them restaurant manners.

    In my opinion it depends on how well you raise your children. Be your own judge and ask yourself, Is your child calm enough to be at a restaurant with other patrons for whom it might be a special occasion? Would you like to be poked, screamed, hit, jumped on by other children?

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  27. I know this is an older article...but the topic is still relevant. I wish to speak for the person who asked to move when a mother/daughter was to be seated next to them. Perhaps that adult recently lost custody of their children so anything that triggers memories is difficult. Perhaps they had a horrible horrible day...and they are actually being respectful by moving...because they know their grumpiness will come out against a child they may have noticed is loud enough to be heard clearly when seated next to them. I've asked to be moved - when seated next to children who were NOT behaving well. Their parents were absorbed in their own conversation and allowed the children to yell, run around, climb on the table etc. I've also asked to be moved when seated near a kitchen during clean-up, large group, or very loud guests discussing offensive things...so it's not about adult vs. child...it's about knowing what one expects of a dinner situation. For me, it only happens 2 or 3 times a year these days, so I do place a very high value on the overall ambiance being to my liking. (I avoid child-friendly restaurants or early dinner hours for this very reason.) When I'm at work, I actually engage with children for the very reasons mentioned above...to encourage and teach socially-appropriate behavior, I just do not want to be seated next to misbehaving children. Because, for me, dining out is a rare luxury rather than something one can afford as if it were water, if your child is well-mannered I won't give it a second thought but if they're not - I will asked to be moved.

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