I recently read an article about a restaurant that was under fire for posting on Facebook that it would no longer allow “small screaming children,” adding that the establishment is “an adult themed restaurant that caters to those who enjoy food and are out to enjoy themselves.”
The armies amassed on social media, and the owner soon issued a lengthy apology.
My wife and I were discussing this when we were out to dinner the other night. And even as the parents of former “small screaming children,” we both agreed — thank goodness there weren’t any here tonight.
Now before you send the social media brigade to my virtual door, I can point you in the direction of quite a few columns over the years where I have been a staunch defender of kids in restaurants. I know what it’s like to try and get that one night out where you’re just trying to get through one single dinner without having to walk a kid around or go change a diaper or WHY WOULD YOU TAKE ONE OF HIS CHICKEN FINGERS!?!?!?
I’ve been there. And I stand united with parents with small kids at restaurants. Assuming it’s the right restaurant.
The night my wife were out was a rare treat when the two of us get a night out by ourselves. We were at a very nice restaurant enjoying very good food and actually getting time to peruse the wine list. We had conversations about all kinds of things that did not involve children or any of their interests. It was two hours where we got to be a couple and actually enjoy each other’s company and some very good lamb shanks and snapper.
Had there been a crying baby next to us, we would have probably taken it in stride, as that’s how we roll. That said, there’s a pretty good chance it never would have been our crying baby, as we know how to pick and choose restaurants that are appropriate for families. And it’s not all restaurants. That’s just a fact of life.
And really, parents are to blame for the need of these kind of rules. Sure, it’s not all or even most of us. But one crying kid and some unresponsive parents paint us all with the broad brush of annoying. And if you’re dropping a chunk of change for a nice evening out, I think it’s reasonable to expect the ambiance to be a smidge different than Chuck. E. Cheese.
And there are plenty of places you can go where kids are not only welcome but encouraged to come. I was eating lunch the other day at a fast food restaurant that had a perfectly good indoor playground to use. Rather than use said playground, one mom decided to let her two kids sprint laps around the restaurant, one making airplane noises and the other making a noise that sounded like a cross between a boat motor and a barking dog. I did not find this pleasant or relaxing, but I was also eating a $5 value meal in a strip mall. For what it’s worth, the one person in the restaurant who was not annoyed by the kids was the mom, who had no problem carrying on her phone conversation.
But I finished my meal and left, as the kids continued to make laps around the restaurant. You get what you pay for. Sure, I wouldn’t have let my kids run free in the joint, but that 20 minutes of my life was really not adversely affected by it, so you kinda move on.
That said, transplant those young sprinters to the restaurant my wife and I were in the other night, and most of the diners would have probably been less than fine with it. And they’re not bad people because of it. There are places for kids, and there are places not for kids. A fine dining restaurant, should they so choose to be one of those places, has every right in my book to be one of those places in my book.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.