Monday, August 19, 2013

Restaurant Adventure

It's Sunday afternoon. The family and I are still in our summer groove and decide to treat ourselves to a meal at a nice restaurant—not a break the bank restaurant, but a step or two above Applebee’s.

The room is crowded and waiters are scurrying around, yet the atmosphere is pleasant. Darling Husband is enjoying crab cakes, Girl #1 has parmesan-crusted tilapia, Girl #2 and Girl #3 are playing it safe with lasagna, and I’m eating, for the first time, crab and shrimp cannelloni. It’s fattening rich, cheesy, creamy and delicious!

As we’re savoring the last morsels of our meals, the waiters begin pushing tables together that are located behind my back. Apparently, a large party is expected.

When they parade in, patrons begin to look in their direction and so does my family. Of course, I have to turn around to see what the racket is, too. The ten or so adults and eight or so kids are loudly discussing where everyone should sit. A boy begins to cry. A girl dressed almost entirely in pink feathers can’t find a seat, so the waiter squeezes in a high chair for her that she can barely fit in. Somehow, she falls out… and cries.

The boy cries louder. “Why isn’t someone taking him out,” I wonder. I do another U-turn to see him and realize that he’s probably autistic, so I give him a temporary pass. However, another little missy who is dressed in white feathers (I thought all the ballet recitals were over for the year) begins to whine and cry. The mother says a few useless words as she holds her on her lap. The boy stops crying, but the diva continues and continues and continues.

My daughter, Girl #3 says, “They’re like the Jersey Shore cast.”

“No, more like the Cake Boss family,” Girl #2 corrected.

People are still trying to enjoy their food and dining experience, however I can tell it’s an effort because heads are still diverting to the uncouth bunch; maybe because white feathered diva is still going at it… about 3 minutes now.

My kids have ordered dessert and I’m almost regretting it, because now we have to sit through this longer.

To shut up quiet down white feathered diva, the mom takes her to the booth across the aisle from them where four other family members are sitting. As they squeeze in, the little girl begins to scream. A man in the booth suddenly jumps up from his seat and says, “I’m already stuck with these two (referring to 2 boys in the booth); if she’s comin’, I’m goin’ to the other table! I know I’m the grandpa but I can’t take that!” So Mama, wearing a tight dress and high heels, shuffled back out of the booth with little diva on the hip and left.

It’s now restroom time. Two of my girls and I go, which is a good opportunity to laugh at Grandpa. Still giggling as we enter the restroom, who should be there, but the mom and white feathered diva on the hip.


When my kids were smaller, people would look at us as we walked to our table guided by the restaurant host. I didn’t give it much thought beyond assuming that people were saying, “That man has all those girls,” or I’d think, “We must be looking good today.” Sometimes, people would come over to our table as they were leaving and compliment DH and me on our well-behaved children. So it wasn’t that we were looking good or the amazement of our all girl children; it was FEAR! The diners had probably been praying that we wouldn’t get seated anywhere near them.

Which leads me to this question: What do you think about the growing trend in barring children from restaurants?

The Huffington Post reported that a Houston restaurant, La Fisheria, is banning kids under 9 years old after 7 p.m. The executive chef, Aquiles Chavez, told local news station KHOU 11 that “Many customers had complained about ‘noisy and rowdy’ kids overtaking the restaurant. The children… they are crying, some are running under the tables.” The Huffington Post also reported that Chavez “explained that the new policy will help improve business because patrons will now be able to dine in peace from 7 p.m. to the 10 p.m. close.”

While reading the story, I clicked over to the links within and found stories of more restaurants with similar restrictions. The owners, when questioned, seem to have no ambivalence about banning the kids and many patrons are supporting their decision. One of the owners commented on how our kids may be the center of our universe, but they are not the center of everyone else’s.

On the other hand, others have said that “the ban makes it harder on parents of young children who also want a night out, or penalizes parents of well-behaved children.”

A mother was quoted on the restaurant’s facebook page, writing, “Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to eat out somewhere. I don’t eat fast food and I will not feed that garbage to my children. I am shocked that people think that just because you are out with children you should go to Chuckie  Cheese or some other obnoxious and unhealthy fast food place.”




joeh said...

When you have children your life is on hold especially for the early years. If you must, go to Applebees or another such restaurant, but if people go to a finer dining establishment they should expect a certain degree of ambiance. If this means parents of well behaved children are "punished" so be it, their time will come.
I never took my children out until they were old enough to react positively to my evil eye. They were generally well behaved children, but were like many at an early age "antsy" and not that aware of other people.

Mari said...

I don't think it's a bad thing. Usually people get a babysitter if they are going to a really nice place. It's not fair that the people there have to deal with unruly kids. It is a shame that people with well behaved kids get punished for the sake of the others though.

yonca said...

Your dinner night out reminds me a friend of mine in Long Island. Actually it was a short friendship and painful..ugh! Anyway, it didn't end becuse of the kids but the kids and her acting was the reason that I didn't go out with her again and her family though.
When Aria was a little we used to go Bennigans sometimes and he was well behaved but he used to love talking..he still does:)He used to bother only us, not other people..Otherwise I wouldn't take him there. Waiters/waitresses used to love him..Ohh, memories!
I don't remember if Aria cried, yelled or anything..He was always happy and a talker! Now, he speaks two languages(benefit..hahaaa:)

Tabor said...

I think it is perfectly reasonable to set a standard at certain times and with certain ages in a business establishment. The parents have options other than fast food...many chains serve healthier fare. Recently I have noticed that my grandchildren are not as well-behaved as my children were when eating out...but we ate out on rare occasions not twice a week! It was a special treat. After 7:00 is the adult crowd and kids should be winding down and heading for bath,story and bed. If you pay good money for food and atmosphere you do not want it interrupted by the chaos that the family brought in.

Tabor said...

I just wanted to add, that perhaps this family rarely ate out and this was a special treat and maybe the disabilities of one or more of the kids fed on the tantrums of the others. Perhaps the parents were just as dismayed.

Judy Thomas said...

Social life in public is messy, get over it or stay my thought. Yes, some folks could use lessons in civility to others, and use common sense in not unduly disturbing others, but this is one slippery slope we should not go down. I have heard people griping in restaurants about elders and the disabled with feeding problems, about being forced to consort with " the wrong sort," about large and reasonably boisterous celebrations. Really? Use it as a teachable moment, a reminder of all the many ways of being human and move on.

Shelly said...

We've sat through more than one dinner, distracted by ill behaving kids. My kids knew how to behave in a public setting from when they were tiny, just like yours, and it's hard for me not to blame those parents for not doing a good job.

However, I think a ban on kids is taking it a little too far, and it does penalize families like yours and mine. Perhaps a kids' area of a restaurant, much like the smoking areas would help?

Hilary said...

My boys were easy. We went out often and they (almost) always behaved perfectly. I say "almost" because at an early age, my younger one tested us a bit. He once looked around the restaurant from his highchair, screamed (with a smile on his face) at the top of his lungs, put his hand over his mouth and admonished himself with "Don't do dat!" He leaned very quickly that it wasn't acceptable and he was fine after he got that incident out of his system. He even elicited a laugh from nearby diners who heard what he'd said afterward. To this day, it's always about getting that laugh, for him.

My gut reaction is to say that I believe it's wrong to restrict but my more logical side says that people do spend good money to have more of a guarantee that their meal will go quietly and without the interruption of tantrums, kids running around or food getting tossed. My solution-seeking side wants to suggest a kidlet and non-kidlet (anyone over 12) section.. much as we used to have smoking and non-smoking sections in our restaurants before smoking in indoor public places was banned altogether.

Abby said...

From a completely logical, capitalist stance, I think restaurants should be able to define their "rules" however they wish. Banning children is perfectly acceptable.

From my mom perspective, I never took my kids to an upscale place when they were little because I knew they would be bored and fidgety. I just didn't want to put them through that, and knowing they didn't want to be there would make it less enjoyable for me.

In your case, I blame the parents and side with Grandpa.

Rebecca S. said...

Wow. That was quite the scene that you set there. And I agree, just because someone's children are the center of their universe, they should not be expected to be the center of everyone else'. We used to eat out once a week when we lived as a family far out of town. It was a treat for us and it was inexpensive when the kids qualified for those kids meals. Our kids learned how to behave in a restaurant, but then, we were fairly strict. We never ate anywhere fancy, but we did, like that one woman, favour places where we could get a good quality meal. If my baby cried, I would take her out so as not to disturb anyone. It was just common courtesy! I think I would have been sad if we were banned from a favourite restaurant for being a family...
I like those restaurants where they have a special room for large parties. When I was a kid we always had those rooms for a family celebrations.
Like most issues, there are not hard and fast solutions, are there!

Mage said...

Kids are raised differently than you or I were. Maybe it is time to remember baby sitters exist. Maybe kids can stay at home so the rest of us can enjoy our meal. I do like eating out.

What was the name of this place. Sounds delightful.

Barb said...

When our kids were growing up, we took them to fancy restaurants as a treat for us all, and we continue the tradition by taking our grandchildren. That said, they've been taught good manners and know what behavior is acceptable. I don't mind dining with children at all, but I wouldn't like the kind of disruption you've described. I certainly think children should be removed by a family member and quieted if they are disruptive in public. Otherwise, how will they ever learn what is acceptable? After 7 PM, the children in my family would be winding down and getting ready for bed. I find adults who are loud and who speak on their cell phones without regard for others very annoying. Unfortunately, they cannot be banned!

Simone said...

I agree with Shelly and Marge. Times are really different now.My daughters who are now 24 and 25 were taught social graces. It is just like being in the library now where "quiet" is not being taught to the kids. It is a privilege to eat out and not everyone can do it often so it should be an enjoyable experience.

myletterstoemily said...

yikes! i think businesses should be able
to do what they want, but i feel badly for
the parents who have taught their children
some manners.

on the other hand, it might be nice for a
restaurant to have a sign that says, "no shoes,
no shirt, no good behavior, no service."

sorry your nice dinner was ruined, but it made
for a great story!

Chapters From My Life said...

We had a similar experience just few days ago on Rayyan's birthday. Looks like the family you mnetioned there were down in India for a visit. LOL
One of the proud moments for me came when we were dining in. A restaurant in USA with our friends. When we were about to leave, the owner of the restaurant presented my two kids with T-shirts and said they were the best customers she had ever seen in her 25 years of service. She had special praise for Rayyan....

Bryan Jones said...

When our two children were young, we would occasionally take them to restaurants but they would behave themselves. Any messing about, and there were consequences - I don't mean beatings or violence, just losing some privilege or other.

Interestingly, now as grown ups (19 and 23) they often pass comments about rowdy children in restaurants and bars, and why the parents don't do something about it.

Haddock said...

I think barring children from Restaurants will not work as they are bound to loose customers. I think its the parents and guardians who should impose self discipline and see that others are not disturbed.

Linda Hensley said...

The restaurant is banning kids after 7, so that hardly prevents a mother from feeding her kids healthy food if she schedules things right. I don't want to spend my money on a stomach ache.

My niece was very badly behaved in public when she was small. My mom and I decided she needed to learn some manners. We started her on noisy restaurants and worked her up to better dining experiences. She really wanted the better food. When she misbehaved, I carted her out and no dessert. She fell in line. Of course there were a few moments in the parking lot when people thought I was abusing her or something because she could screech loud and long and writhe on the sidewalk, but as I told her, I'm not doing anybody a favor if I give in to that kind of behavior. I should get a merit badge for that public service!

Jenny said...

This subject really upsets me.

Why do some people feel their family drama and presence is the center of any particular universe.

Thoughtfulness seems to be on the decline.

If people have well behaved polite children then by all means, bring 'em on.

If they don't.


What a dilemma.