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Continuation from New York's Manhattan Board

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This is a continuation of a topic that began on the Manhattan Board. The thread started with an anecdote about parents bringing their small children to a restaurant in Manhattan (Amarone) and, after being served initially, then being asked to leave because their children were disturbing other diners.

In response to one of my posts on this topic, Yvonne wrote:

"...we're arguing at cross purposes. George, you say "Again, my point is that when I go to an upscale restaurant for an expensive meal, I really don't want it interrupted by very young children." IAPMHO ( i am pulling my hair out-thought i'd add one for the list!)-- amarone, where Michele Cindy went is not an upscale place (whether upscale places should accept infants and children is another matter, and probably should go to General Topics, but we're talking about a specific instance here. we're not talking about whether infants should be allowed into le Bernardin at 10PM). It was 5.30 PM ( i know, i repeat myself but the time of day is pretty important, don't you think?).

"oh, jee where's the acceptance of all things small and large? i've an aversion to kids, but funnily enough i like other people's and i've had some jolly nice meals out in europe and latin america with children present. cultural differences--whole other thread."

Actually, Yvonne, we're not talking about a specific instance here: you are, but I'm not. As I said in my original post on this topic, I wasn't there, so I can't comment. My comments are about the appropriateness of very young children in upscale restaurants at all.

Regarding the time of day, no, I don't think it matters, unless the restaurant has a policy of seating families with very young children before a certain time. If it is inappropriate for an infant to be in an upscale restaurant at 7:30 PM or 9:00 PM, why is it appropriate at 5:30 PM? Simply because there are fewer diners? If I'm one of those diners, I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled to the same expectations of a reasonably quiet and private meal.

You say you have an aversion to children but have had some very nice meals with them in other countries. I also have had very nice meals with children present, right her in the United States, but I still react with dismay when a family with infants is seated next to me in an upscale restaurant. Yes, very often the kids are fine. But all too often everyone in the restaurant is in for a "family dinner", whether or not they want it.

I don't think I have an aversion to children in general, but I do have an aversion to the inappropriate behavior of small children in adult settings. I'm not blaming the kids for acting up in restaurants; I'm taking issue with parents who bring six month- or one year-old infants to upscale restaurants and don't make any attempt at controlling the behavior of their kids. It happens so frequently that dismay is my first reaction, as unfortunate as that is.

To quote you, Yvonne, "...where's the acceptance of all things small and large?" All I'm looking for is to have my restaurant meal privately and not have the next table's kids inflicted on me. Isn't that a notion worthy of acceptance?

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  1. George, I think we can all agree that children who misbehave create an annoying situation regardless of the restuarant (except chucky cheese) and the time.
    Two issues remain from you orginal post. First, the jammed up folks at Cafe Luxenburg ruin there meal because they were childish and childless. The potential for a problem that night was much greater from other adult patrons then a sound asleep baby.
    Second, this notion of being able to tell the overtly child friendly restuarants from the not so is just plain silly. With the exception of places like Zoe' who came out in Bon Appetit as child friendly, it is impossible for parents to tell how restuarants will act toward children. My wife and I make it a habit to call ahead. The night we went to Cafe L, management went out of thier way to accomodate us. Calling in advance, they prepared us special table near a sill where we could rest a infant carrier. They keep the formula in the refrigerator. So, your agruement that people getting jammed up is all it takes as evidence to banish kids from restuarant just doesn't make sense.. Restaurants don't hang "child friendly" signs in thier windows the way they might hang "cigar friendly".

    13 Replies
    1. re: Shoeman

      I couldn't agree more. All this child-aversion stuff is strange. A poorly behaved child is different than a well-behaved child. Not all children are uncivilized in a restaurant - a lot of it probably depends on parenting. I bring my infant out with us frequently. He doesn't create scenes and we have always been welcomed by restaurants. We usually don't eat at terribly fancy places and I would find a sitter, as I will this week when we celebrate my birthday at a restaurant. The sight of a child at a restaurant, however, should certainly not send people into convulsions.

      Now on an airplane - that is a different story...

      1. re: Zephyr

        Zephyr, you are absolutely correct when you say "The sight of a child at a restaurant, however, should certainly not send people into convulsions." (I would, however, amend your statement to say "infant" or "toddler" rather than "child". A child could be 10 years old, which to me is a major difference from a six month-old infant or a two year-old toddler.)

        But the fact is that it does, in some situations. You can blame the people who feel that way for feeling that way, but it is a learned behavior. My feelings of dismay from being confronted with infants in what I call inappropriate situations (read: upscale restaurants) are because of my many negative experiences in the past in similar situations.

        Just as you wouldn't want to sit next to me if I were engaged in a bitter and excessively loud argument with my wife, I don't want to sit next to a table that has a loud, crying and disruptive infant or toddler. (Again I hasten to add that if I am in a place where kids and families are welcome, then I have no gripe. But I think parents who bring their very young kids to upscale restaurants place the restaurant in a difficult position and make many adults uncomfortable, including me.)

        1. re: George Lynch

          It has taken me years to get this: as soon as I leave my apartment, I relinquish some control over my environment - especially in public places such as theaters, outside smoky office buildings and, of course, restaurants. I have had many more bad dining experiences with loud, boisterous somewhat drunken diners than with young children. Just the other evening, I was sitting in a garden-style restaurant when a man refused to blow his smelly cigar smoke in another direction.

          Do I like howling children? No, not any more than stogie-puffing men or any other disruption. But to feel so uncomfortable at the sight of children or to say the parents are 'in denial' about their children to me is Silly. Children have a right to be in any restaurant as long as they're moderately well-behaved. If the child starts crying, I notice the mother usually takes them to a separate area away from the table.

          Where does this 'discrimination' end? Next, pompous restaurant managers won't seat you if they don't like your tie, your hat or your haircut. I have a distinct feeling that the manager at Amarone felt the large table of women might stop drinking and ordering food and figured it would be easier to make a stupid remark to the parents.

          Whenever I'm in Chinatown and see a large banquet table of Chinese diners, I notice how well-behaved the children are and how the kids enjoy their food. Let's lighten up - after all, all of us were "Jr. Chowhounds" at some point. -Ruby

          1. re: Ruby

            "Children have a right to be in any restaurant as long as they're moderately well-behaved."

            Yep, Amen.

            1. re: Shoeman

              As someone who lunches daily with a couple hundred of the little varmints, I probably have a high level of tolerance, but I enjoy dining with decently behaved kids a whole lot more than I do boorish grownups.

              At some point in kids little lives they need to begin experiencing public dining in nice places. They need to learn how to eat with flatware (which they don't get at school - one piece only) and take more than the allotted 15 minutes to eat it. (we teachers also need to re-learn eating slowly - I only get 20 minutes for lunch). And they need to realize that the peer expectations in restaurants differ from that in the cafeteria.

              Sometimes we have to be patient with people who are learning new things.

              Betty (who watched a styrofoam bowl of mashed potatoes fly across a room today. The kid was swinging for me and hit a bowl being "traded" instead!)

              1. re: Betty
                j
                Janet A. Zimmerman

                ..."At some point in kids little lives they need to begin experiencing public dining in nice places. They need to learn how to eat with flatware (which they don't get at school - one piece only) and take more than the allotted 15 minutes to eat it."

                Perhaps I'm being naive, but shouldn't they learn this at home? I don't think you can expect anyone to learn appropriate behavior from something that happens only occasionally (e.g., eating at restaurants). If a child can't sit through a meal without whining, use flatware and sit still at home, what makes anyone think he or she can do it at a restaurant?

                1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                  Betty wrote "they need to begin experiencing *public*
                  dining in nice places" and I gather she means in addition to the home.

                  After reading some of these posts, I must admit I haven't seen such zero intolerance toward children in a long time. I am more put off by smokers or loud, obnoxious cell phone diners than a child in a restaurant.

                  Actually, I think it's kind of nice that parents take their kid(s) to a decent restaurant instead of McDonald's or Pizza Hut or leaving them with a sitter. Some of my earliest pleasant childhood memories involve food and being taken to a nice restaurant. Why begrudge this to children if they're well-behaved.

                  1. re: Ruby

                    "After reading some of these posts, I must admit I haven't seen such zero intolerance toward children in a long time."

                    Um, I think you meant zero tolerance. In any case, it's pretty obvious by this point that the discussion no longer has anything to do with food, eating, or restaurants and instead has primarily become a nasty lifestyle debate between those with kids and those without (two camps who always seem defensive about each other). I think it's also obvious that nobody's mind is going to be changed by any further discussion, since people are now talking *at* each other, not with each other. Perhaps it's time to table this debate..?

                    1. re: Paul Lukas

                      Thanks for the correction - yes, I meant 'zero tolerance.'

                      I don't get the vibe at all that Chowhound people are talking *at* each other; in fact, IMO both camps raise some thought-provoking points on this issue. If people want to table this debate, I suppose the posts will cease but they continue because children in restaurants seem to press a few hot buttons both ways.

                      I don't consider people with children an "Us against Them" group. Incidentally, I'm in the camp without children but I like them and welcome them in any restaurant as long as they're fairly well-behaved. I've yet to see a parent who hasn't left the table with their child if their child starts to cry. This is more than I can say for nearby boorish diners who incessantly yak on their cell phone, talk over my dinner conversation, etc. I know we've all sat next to way more inconsiderate adults than loud children.

                      1. re: Ruby

                        I'm also one of the tolerant ones in the camp "without children". And it makes me a little crazy (I am not referring to this conversation) when people "with" children assume people without them: a. know nothing about kids and b. don't like kids, c. didn't want kids or d. don't know how to buy them cool presents.

                        I guess my point overall is - let the kids go to nice places. Put up with it, and hope that one day they'll say - "why are we going to chuckecheese all the time? let's go back to that nice place".

                  2. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                    Perhaps not naive, but no, they often don't learn it at home at all. They don't learn a LOT of things at home. And there are things they Do learn at home I wish they would not.

                    A lot of what we (at school) do has to do with "exposure". We try to give them experiences of various kinds and hope that it adds up to something...like knowing they have access to a larger world than the dark chaos some of them live in every day.

                    Exposure is really important, and not an easy thing, but if we want to have even a slightly civil society, we have to do things that parents are not doing, even if it seems hopeless.

                    I have a student who has pending charges and does court time, etc. I took her to an art museum and rose garden because she met the qualifications for the trip. She behaved beautifully, was completely in awe of all that beauty, and of all the students I have taken there, she's the only one who has ever written me a thank-you note (today - made me cry). Something like that makes it all worthwhile.

                    I hope this makes a little sense. The school year ended a few minutes ago, so it is a miracle I can type.

                1. re: Ruby

                  I agree with you Ruby!

                  Diners that have been so loud as to be disturbing have rarely been families in my experience, but tend to be parties of 6 or more, usually drinking, and single sex groups tend to be louder than mixed for some reason.

          2. Except for the extraordinary case, I think people who bring kids to restaurants other than the most informal of places or places that specifically cater to family groups (Chinatown restaurants or the Two Boots of the world, for example) are in denial.

            Even the most well-behaved kids lose it from time to time. They may go through phases when they conveniently are able to sleep through a meal, or sit still, or whatever, but this is not predictable. MOST kids simply can't moderate their voices, stay neat and not spill or remain in their seats for more than a short period. Spilled drinks, crumbled rolls, jello and chicken skins on the seat and floor, frequent trips to the bathroom or outside to calm down, etc. etc. are all part of the usual experience when little kids are in a restaurant.
            Because they ARE children, going through that developmental stage, there is not very much we can do to moderate this behavior. They are not yet civilized.
            Thus bringing them into what is supposed to be a civilized environment usually does not work. We as parents need to be realistic and responsible where our children our concerned. This means not setting up situations which are likely to be displeasing to fellow restaurant patrons, and extricating ourselves rapidly when our kids become a nuisance.
            None of the above justifies the type of behavior Michele experienced at Amarone, which was neurotic and unpleasant in the extreme.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jen kalb

              "...are in denial" Wow, crazy stuff. I don't deny my son sometimes cry. I've even stood outside and have left restaurants early. BUT, We've NEVER disturb a single patron other then the ones who choose to get upset by his presence. To which I say tough.

              "They are not yet civilized" Again, that seems to be more of an adult problem then a childs. My son is far less likely to present a bad situation then the guy with the unlit cigar dangling from his lip.

              1. re: Shoeman

                "We've NEVER disturb a single patron other then the ones who choose to get upset by his presence. To which I say tough."

                What a lovely attitude. Look, if there's a screaming infant a few feet away from me, I don't *choose* to get upset -- in fact, I have NO choice in the matter except to be upset.

                -- Paul

                1. re: Paul Lukas

                  Paul, You need to read my post more closely. My son has never cried, misbehaved or annoyed any other patrons. In fact, 99% of the time he is asleep or sitting silently on my wife's lap. So, if someone chooses to get upset at his very presense, I repeat TOUGH. Remember, its not my attitude that leading people into this crazy childphobia.
                  It would be like someone sitting in the non smoking section getting upset for seeing a pack of cigarettes sitting ontop of someones purse.

                  1. re: Shoeman

                    I don't really want to get involved in this myself, but just in the interest of fairness, I should point out that the discussion has been somewhat skewed: all the parents who have posted so far just happen to have angelic, perfectly behaved, non-crying children. I think the parents who have uncontrollable feral monsters should be heard from too. So where are you, moms and dads?

                    1. re: Steven Stern

                      Well my baby isn't of course crying all the time, he's almost a toddler now but he is approaching a point that he is asserting himself a lot more and seems to be going through a fit stage, I suppose it can get frustrating but I know it's all part of the course and that if he didn't do these things he wouldn't be normal. Hang in there moms! http://www.naturallymoms.com/member/d...
                      Iliana

                      Link: http://www.naturallymoms.com/member/d...

                      1. re: elsol08

                        This discussion belongs on "Not About Food". This board is for general FOOD topics.

            2. 3 points, although I must declare an interest as a parent of 3, who takes his kids to restaurants.

              1. We pay a lot of money to eat at up market restaurants, so why should there be anything which is annoying allowed on the premises i.e. a 50 year old child paying for a meal for two clients who neither liked the food at the restaurant in question nor wanted anything more than to have money spent on them spoiled a recent celebration. Personally I would take any child over that.

              2. I was in a restaurant recently which accepted a party of 8 mothers and children, without advanced booking. Not only did we have a perfectly nice lunch, so did they. Its not the end of the world.

              3. Go to France or Italy and experience lands where families and children are given proper respect. My eldest once cried in a French restaurant, not only did the proprietor ask us back, he gave us his best table when we returned.

              And another thing, if a place has a adult, child policy i.e. encourages them or at least welcolms ( we would never go anywhere we thought we where not welcolme ) children, you don't have to go there, its not a violation of human rights.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Phil Laurie

                I suspect that you are responding to my statement on this board, which was a lot narrower than my first posting on this topic on the Manhattan Board. Let me begin by asking you to check this thread on the Manhattan Board and read my comments there more carefully.

                If you do you will see that I have taken great pains to say that I have no gripe at all with restaurants that accept and welcome children. I agree fully with your observation that I don't have to go to such a place, and because of that, no complaints from me.

                I also acknowledge that a lot of adults can be as bad or worse than small children in restaurants. However, I don't see that as an argument in favor of parents bringing infants (6 months to 2 years old) to upscale restaurants. I have tried to state all that very clearly.

                I also acknowledge that some cultures (and a lot of American restaurants) have no problem with loads of kids in the dining room. However, I still tell you that when I am in an upscale restaurant and a family with infants is seated near my table, my first reaction is dismay.

                This may be one of the (many) great failings in my life, but it is a fact, and it appears that a number of others feel the same. I think this is so because of the frequent times I have had meals jarringly interrupted by very young children, who, I contend, don't belong in upscale restaurants in the first place.

                1. re: George Lynch

                  I agree, George. We brought up 2 sons and would never even consider taking them to an upscale restaurant..at ANY hour. Children are just naturally energetic and vocal and I don't think it's fair to subject either them or the restaurant clientele to discomfort/restrictions. There are numerous restaurants who make accommodations for children. Even there, I think it is up to parents to discipline their children and teach them how to behave in a restaurant..of ANY caliber. Too often, unfortunately, I see children who are allowed to be bothersome with no restrictions. I wonder what kind of non-thinking adults they will become.

                  1. re: Kit H.
                    c
                    Caitlin Wheeler

                    I am writing not as the parent who did or did not take children to restaurants, but as the child who WAS taken to restaurants. Not all children are energetic and vocal all the time. Children can be taught at an early age that there are times to be quiet and times to be loud (hence the concept of bedtime). As a child, my parents took me out all the time, but they always made sure I had had my nap so I wasn't especially crabby, that I had eaten a decent dinner, and that I WASN'T BORED. Bored children will naturally run around or cry (bored adults probably would too) and my parents always brought my dolls, or my blocks or later my books to restaurants. I think because I was included in "adult" activities at an early age, that allowed me to develop greater maturity and my current chowhoundiness. (When I was five, my parents would take me to restaurants in Paris, where I would order escargots, Duck a l'orange and mousse au chocolat with much aplomb)
                    When I have children, I will take them to restaurants. I am not going to take them to Le Bernardin, or any other very quiet or subdued restaurant, but I won't confine myself to TGI Friday's either. There are several restaurants in Manhattan whose "vibe" is noisy, and if my child starts crying, it shouldn't unduly break the quiet in the short time it takes to get him or her out of the restaurant. If you never want to see my kid in a restaurant, don't go so early. I'll be out of there by the time most people eat normally. And I'll take stuff for the child to play with. I don't think restaurants are or should be an "adult" activity, though they are a well-behaved activity.

                    1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                      Great post! Excellent perspective.

                      My parents treated us the same way as children, which is why I think I'm such a foodie now.

                  2. re: George Lynch

                    George

                    As one of the people who has disagreed with your original post (at least, as I read it) let me state that I *DO* agree with your narrower position above.

                    Parents should not bring babies to "upscale" restaurants (if by upscale, we mean places where there is quiet, where there are few large groups, and where sitting for a long time is expected).

                    Your original post, as I read it, was more like (and I am paraphrasing) "Children should not be brought to restaurants unless the restaurant explicitly welcomes children".

                    I also agree that, at any restaurant, children who misbehave in ways which would disturb reasonable other patrons should be removed by their parents. I think ADULTS who misbehave in this way should also be removed, but that is harder to arrange, logitistically.

                    My experiences at upscale restaurants don't conform with yours, however. I've eaten in a fair number of upscale places, and I've yet to have a meal disturbed by a baby or toddler (indeed, I've rarely SEEN a baby or toddler in such a place). What restaurants are you calling "upscale"?

                    1. re: George Lynch

                      In the interests of trying to introduce some relative objectivity into this discussion. let me try the following:

                      If the restaurant in question

                      - offers booster seats
                      - or has a kids menu
                      - or provides paper table cloths with crayons on the table

                      then feel free to take your kids of any age.

                      For any retaurant that does not meet some of these criteria (as subsequently modified by ensuing posts), at the very least call ahead and make sure you will be welcomed.

                      If, on the other hand, you can truthfully answer "yes" about the children you are proposing to take to a restaurant to ALL of the following questions, feel free to take them wherever you like:

                      - Does the child use appropriate utensils when eating?
                      - Is the table and floor surrounding the child reasonably clean when they finish eating?
                      - Has it been at least three months since the last "zero to sixty" episode in which the child went from smiles to unconsolable tears in a few seconds?
                      - Does the child know how to modulate their voice and keep it modulated?
                      - Does the child remain at the dinner table at home until the family has finished the meal, or do they need to get up and run around?
                      - Are there things on the resular menu that the child will eat happily - or at least without fuss?

                      I don't think this is strictly a question of age - parents do and should have different theories of child rearing and children therefore reach this point at different times. Our 6 1/2 year old granddaughter is getting there, but has not quite made it -- the three-year old seems light-years away. On the other hand, I was recently at a wedding with a 5 year old who clearly could be taken anywhere of interest to his parents.

                      Of course, you could also apply these criteria to family and friends when deciding whether to invite them to dine out with you!!!!

                      Pat

                  3. "I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled"

                    i realize i'm quoting this out of context, but nonetheless it's an attitude that drives me nuts. the family is paying the same as you too, and they think they're entitled to eat wherever they want!

                    this sense of entitlement is really problematic. what exactly entitles you to anything? the fact that you want something? what if a family with small children feels that since they're raising the next generation of adults who will make the money that supports you in your old age they're entitled to eat in restaurants? does their feeling that way make them entitled?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: emily

                      I'd like to say that you are responding to a quote you definitely are taking out of context. You are taking me to task quite diligently for something I didn't quite say. The original quote is: "If I'm one of those diners (an early arriver), I'm paying the same amount as if I were dining at a later hour and I think I'm entitled to the same expectations of a reasonably quiet and private meal (as someone dining later)."

                      All I said was, and I quote myself here: "...I think I'm entitled TO THE SAME EXPECTATIONS..." (caps mine). That's not quite the negative implication you attribute to me.

                      Just like anyone using the word "entitled" drives you nuts, people who attack a partial quote taken out of context drive me nuts.

                    2. George, I've followed this thread as it evolved over the last few days. You've stated your position logically and with great flexibility. While some of the people who are on the other side of the issue have responded in kind, unfortunately there appears to be significant minority who seem to be responding out of emotion and self interest.

                      In short, they choose NOT to hear you. So be it. I think you've taken this discussion as far as it can go.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        "....unfortunately there appears to be significant minority who seem to be responding out of emotion and self interest."

                        Thanks goodness! I'd hate to participate on a board where people didn't care (emotionless) and didn't offer thier own individual opinion (self interest).

                        1. re: Shoeman

                          Shoeman, I don't object to the emotional content of this discussion. It's the absence of logic that frustrates me. George Lynch has made his points logically and thoughtfully. He leaves plenty of flexibility for "kid friendly" restaurants and other special instances. But some people choose to grossly distort his position and then beat up on a straw man.

                          This discussion isn't about children - it's about adults, and I speak out of experience as the father of 2 grown children. When you have young children your life changes. You no longer have the same level of freedom as before. You constantly have to remain aware of their needs and, if you are considerate, the effect your children have on others. Sometimes those effects are positive - most people like to see a cute baby. At other times those effects are negative - nobody likes to be seated near a screaming infant on a long airplane flight.

                          Tough as those flights are, I deal with it. It's neither the parents' or the babys' fault. Restaurants are different. In that case the parents are saying "I want to go to Restaurant "X" and I choose NOT to get a baby sitter. My little dumpling is a marvel of decorum so anyone who objects is a heartless fool." They believe their desire to have a restaurant meal outweighs my right not to have my meal spoiled by the real possibility that their children will behave badly. (According to them, badly behaved children are some kind of urban legend cooked up by snobby child-phobic adults. What amazes me is the number of posters whose children are all wonderfully behaved. What a coincidence.)

                          Let me sum up. If you want to go to an upscale restaurant, get a sitter. And if you can't get a sitter, rent a video and order a pizza. Being a parent is sometimes inconvenient, but you are being selfish by transferring that inconvenience to others by asking us to take a chance on the behavior of your child.

                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            For the hell of it, I'll give my take on this:

                            As a single man with no children, my attitude is that I don't care what the ages of the other people in the restaurant are, as long as they behave themselves. I feel the same way at concerts. I'm a musician. I know that it is likely that a baby will cry or scream at some point during most of my performances (at the rest of them, someone will probably have a coughing fit - one hopes it's not me, suffering from allergies at this point). Now, if someone decides to KEEP their child in the hall while s/he continues to cry, scream, or talk incessantly in a normal conversational voice or louder, I get very angry, whether I am a performer or a member of the audience. Why? Because the adults are the ones who are supposed to know better. So let's take the example of a restaurant. If small children go to a restaurant and behave, there's no problem, and I generally find it quite pleasant to look at cute kids and, if they're old enough to understand, talk to them, if the occasion arises. If they disbehave, their parents/guardians have the obligation to get them to promptly stop misbehaving. If they are unable to get their children to cooperate, they should leave voluntarily. If they do not leave, the restaurant should throw them out. I don't spend time worrying that babies in restaurants will cry; that's the restaurant's job, in my view.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              The logical extension of your argument that life becomes less convenient for parents once they have kids and therefore they must limit their choices of where to eat is that they also should not fly anywhere, knowing there is a possibility that their child might "act up". Why is it OK in your mind for parents to fly with children, instead of driving or taking a ship, but it is not OK to eat at a restaurant? Where any person draws this line (if indeed a line should be drawn at all) is a very subjective issue.

                              For myself, I tend to agree with Pan (see next post). There is no reason that children of any age should not be permitted to eat at any type of restaurant, particularly at a relatively early hour, but it is the parents' responsibility to recognize when the child is becoming a burden on the restaurant staff or other guests. The sacrifice that parents should make is not giving up the opportunity to dine at a nice restaurant with their children, but rather the opportunity to eat their meals hot (or even in the restaurant at all). If your child is seriously infringing on others' enjoyment of the meal, then it is your responsibility to take them out (temporarily, one hopes) until they can get it back together.

                              1. re: Abrocadabro

                                I am a parent of two kids, 3- and 1-year old. The oldest flew once a month during her first year. We fly because it is practical. Likewise, we do not take the two of them out (except very fast food), because it is not practical.
                                It is much easier to keep them entertained on a plane than it would be in a restaurant. On the plane, they are our focus. Further, reading to them, and whatever else we do on a plane, is unlikely to interfere with other passenger's "enjoyment" of the flight. (We can still sit in a row for three since the little one does not have to buy a seat.) If we took them out to eat, that focus would necessarily be comprised by our own meal. And entertaing them would interfere with other's dining experience.

                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                Thanks, Bob.

                                I've been reading this thread with interest and have started and erased a couple of notes expressing the same ideas you captured so nicely.

                                I find that people with one very small infant are quite intrepid in taking her/him out into the world. I was the same way with our firstborn, 20 years ago.

                                First of all, there's an eagerness to show off the baby. And, as Bob pointed out, nearly everybody smiles, which is a nice little bit of positive reinforcement for the poor sleep deprived parents.

                                Then, too, new babies are very portable -- if they're fed and warm you really CAN prop the infant seat in a windowsill and enjoy a romantic dinner for 2. This can lull you into the smug conviction that you're the best parent in the world, that all those OTHER parents with crying babies just don't have your talent and skill, that all those childless people are cranky, anti-family so-and-so's for scowling when they see you come through the door with your big honkin diaper bag, stroller, Snugli, and crib gym.

                                But another reason people tote their firstborns to KMart and hockey games and all sorts of restaurants is that the realization of just how much your life has changed dawns slowly on most of us. As the mom of 5 with 20 years of smug-busting child-rearing under my belt, I'm guessing that Shoeman and other new parents will have a different take on this in a year or two. The little darlings are simply NOT as portable at 18 months. They DON'T sit peacefully in the high chair while you take your time enjoying appetizer, entree, dessert, and coffee. They actually PREFER their own bowl and cup and their Telletubbies tapes and the comfort of their familiar surroundings. And when there's more than one of them, it's tag team midget wrestling. You don't stand a chance.

                                I love my kids and I love good food in beautiful settings, but at some point I was forced to admit that the the juxtaposition of those two concepts was not for us. We didn't enjoy entertaining them by playing I Spy With My Little Eye till our little eyeballs bled. We chose not to triangulate our conversation -- Do you want a piece of Daddy's duck breast, honey? Wait till I cut that for you, sweetheart. Look! Here's another escargot!

                                Bottom line: We didn't like spending money on meals that got cold while we were busy Bringing Up Baby. Been there, done that, bought the Wet Ones.

                                So: We hired a sitter every Thursday night and went out on our own. Babies were happy. We were happy. The marriage (so far) survived.

                                And when a party of two and a half (complete with bottles of Similac and wind-up music box toys) sits down next to us in the restaurant of our choice, we smile at the baby, play peek a boo with the baby, sometimes offer to hold the baby, but never hesitate to ask for another table if the baby makes a fuss.

                                What Bob said: good parents accommodate the children's needs. Your life changes. The limit on your freedom is not forever, but don't ever kid yourself that it's not for real.

                                Suky

                                1. re: Suky
                                  m
                                  Michele Cindy

                                  Suky - so well said! We too have someone who watches our kids and go out every Saturday night. I'm still am the "I can manage them stage with diversion stage" one of our best tools is my brother-in-law who loves to take them out for a walk if they get antsy.

                                  1. re: Michele Cindy

                                    That's great that you have babysitters you can rely on, because spending time together as a couple is the best thing you can do for your children. (Well, aside from feeding them and stuff...)

                                    It's also great that you take them out with you. Don't be put off by one crummy experience. You're a reasonable person, right? If you pick and choose your restaurants, and you pick and choose your times (not, for example, on the way home from getting a DPT shot) your family will have many happy meals WITHOUT eating happy meals.

                                    If you ever notice a conservatively dressed and otherwise dignified older woman making silly faces at your baby from the next table, it's probably me.

                                    Suky

                                  2. re: Suky

                                    Your point about my postion changing as my son reaches age 2 is well taken. I don't know how he will be but if it becomes a chore, we will curb our restaurant going. However, for now, he poses no threat other then to those who choose to be uncomfortable being in the presense of well behaved baby.

                                    With respect to offering to hold the baby of the strangers sitting next to you. Please don't do that. No parents like being ask, even if they hand you the child to avoid an awkward situation. I'm sure you wouldn't like someone putting their arm around you as you walk down the street. It no different.

                                    1. re: Shoeman

                                      I didn't say that I ask to hold the baby, but that I've offered to hold the baby. As in...would you like me to hold your little one while you strap the big boy in that high chair? Staff at restaurants can't be expected to help parents seat their children, and tables can be so crowded together that I might be more conveniently located than another adult in their party. I was thinking of one instance in particular when I wrote that note. It's not something I make a habit of.

                                      Sorry I didn't make myself clear. I am LOL at the image you must have of me...snatching babies and smooching them against their parents' will. But I will be on the alert in the future to avoid offending people with my offers of help. There are certainly enough germs and bad guys in the world to justify parents' cautiousness about peek-a-boo-playing middle aged matrons like me.

                                      Suky

                                    2. re: Suky
                                      b
                                      berkleybababe

                                      You are a wise woman--I agree, totally.

                                    3. re: Bob Martinez

                                      "It's the absence of logic that frustrates me."

                                      I don't think that this an If A = B... type discussion. Logic doesn't differ between "kid friendly" and "non kid friendly" restaurants, common sense does. And as you can see from my above Gramercy, Gotham...post, the answer is not as "logical" as George or you may think it is.

                                      "They believe their desire to have a restaurant meal outweighs my right not to have my meal spoiled by the real possibility that their children will behave badly"

                                      Absolutley!!! My desire to enjoy a restaurant outweights the POSSIBILITY of my son misbehaving. However, at the exact instant that a child misbehaves, the onus is on the parents to mind, tend to and ultimately remove the child, so not to interfer with your meal.

                                      "Let me sum up. If you want to go to an upscale restaurant, get a sitter."

                                      If you want to go to upscale restaurants, lighten up.

                                      "And if you can't get a sitter, rent a video and order a pizza. Being a parent is sometimes inconvenient, but you are being selfish by transferring that inconvenience to others by asking us to take a chance on the behavior of your child."

                                      This one implodes itself.