Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire
I can admit it. I’m not very patient when it comes to misbehaving kids in restaurants.
When we go out to eat, I’m the person who will boldly ask the host/hostess for a table as far away as possible from a boisterous family. I know, it’s probably wrong of me to expect a calm, quiet meal conversing with my friends/husband when so much of the world is in turmoil – but, hey, that is my quest. And, since I’m paying for my dining experience, I’d like it to be a pleasant one.
That said, I certainly understand that the families I’m avoiding are spending just as much (if not more) to rent their assortment of tables, chairs, booster seats and/or high chairs. They have the right to expect a good experience, too, with friendly, courteous service, tasty food and no clean up or dishes afterwards.
We all enter the restaurant with those same lofty goals.
Herein lies the difference: I won’t knock over my chair, leave it laying there and run off, circling around the restaurant holding the remains of a chicken leg in one hand (it could be a crayon, toy or anything, really), wearing chocolate milk mustache above my lip and screaming as loudly as possible while no one…NO ONE…does anything.
(Can you imagine what would happen if I did do that? Well, someone would inevitably record it on their phone and it would be an internet sensation within the hour. Hey – my blog may get a few more hits for a day or two! *snickering*)
I realize that expectations are different for adults and children – and they should be. Kids will be kids and laughter is very, very good for the soul. It’s asking a lot of children to expect them to stay in any one position for the length of time, let alone the time it takes to have a meal in a restaurant. So, bringing kids to restaurants and expecting them to behave for the duration is stretching the boundaries of rational thought, to say the very least.
In fact, I’ve been a parent in that position. I’ve dealt with crying, cranky kids who are too tired – or revved – to really care about taking another bite of that burger. When that happened we’d take the little one out of the dining room to see if we could calm down the situation. Sometimes, that’s all it took. Sometimes, all they needed was to cry on my shoulder, cuddle for a moment or two, or to tell me they really weren’t hungry. We’d go back to the table after that and limp through the rest of the meal without too many problems.
But, when that didn’t work and things turned ugly, the outcome was much, much different.
We were the parents who (don’t be shocked) actually removed our children from the restaurant (or church or store) if their antics were publicly unacceptable. We would get up from the table, quickly collect our children and our belongings, pay our bill, and head for the exit. It didn’t happen often (twice, as I recall and both memories are vivid), but when it did, we cut our losses and took our miscreants out of the situation. I imagined other patrons breathing a collective sigh of relief as the door closed behind us.
I have no problems with kids who listen when their parents say, ‘that’s enough now, put down your toy and eat a little.’ I have no problem with normal, active kids’ behavior. And, if I’m out with friends who have kids, I have a great time – because my friends are good parents, and their children are fun to be around and interesting to talk with. We’ve actually asked to be put in a section away from other diners so the kids COULD get up and move around without disturbing anyone else. The kids were happy, we were happy – and the rest of the restaurant was oblivious – a great dining experience for everyone.
McDonalds has literally built a marketing plan around that idea. Many of their locations offer a play area combined with seating for meals. When people go to McDonalds and choose to eat in that enclosed section, they should have different expectations of their dining experience compared to, say, Olive Garden. There are many other kid-friendly restaurants and even web sites that offer kid-friendly dining information. I applaud them, because they fill a great niche.
It’s not that hard to understand – but somehow, a lot of parents today believe (selfishly, in my opinion) that it doesn’t matter whether their kids’ behavior is bad and affecting other people. They deserve a meal in a good restaurant and, damn it, they are going to have it, regardless. If that’s you and I’ve touched a nerve, I won’t apologize and I need to tell you: that’s just wrong. Stay home with your children until they (and you) can behave better. Or, head to a restaurant that caters to kids and families.
People eat 64-75% of their meals away from home, according to online sources. That’s a lot of restaurant/take out and a lot of opportunity for improvement. Here’s hoping for good dining experiences!