Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No Children Allowed

Jake, eating out on his 6th birthday.
There's been some stuff floating around the internets of late about restaurants that refuse admittance to children or ban them after a certain time in the evenings. I'm not sure why this interests me, but it does, and I'm a little flabbergasted by the vehement responses both for and against.

I don't know that I honestly have a strong opinion about it one way or another. And I don't know if my lack of strong feeling is because I haven't any desire to frequent fancier restaurants with my kids in tow, or simply because it seems to me there are more pressing parenting issues to be up in arms about.

Ultimately I think that parents need to know their children and be honest about their temperaments and what they can and can't handle.

The Little Man, who will be seven in a few days, has always been easy to take to restaurants. As an infant, he slept quietly in his car seat or curiously looked about him with hardly a peep. As a toddler he was happy to sit in a booster seat or high chair with some colouring or small toys to play with. We ate out a few times a month, everywhere from chain restaurants that cater to families, to mom and pop establishments, and on occasion a higher end place where excellent behaviour was paramount.

I've read a number of comments from parents who insist that children should be exposed to all manner of experiences and taught to moderate their behaviour to suit the situation. The argument being that they will rise to our expectations and become increasingly well behaved and accustomed to these restaurants.

The Baby Man, now 20 months old, is whole different kettle of fish. Despite being raised in the same family as Jake, with the same behavioural expectations, parenting styles, discipline and teaching, Noah couldn't be more different in temperament.

Where Jake is easy redirected, Noah sets his mind to something and refuses to let go. Where Jake is content to look at books, draw on paper or carry on quiet conversations, Noah wants to run, throw crayons (and food) and call out at the top of his lungs.

Noah, not technically eating out in this photo,
but it pretty much sums him up.
So I've taken all that into account and we now eat out less often - not because Noah would be out of place in the family-friendly establishments we'd likely choose, but because it's a lot of work to stay a step ahead of him. This makes meal time a bit more stressful for me, which is usually the opposite of what I'm looking for in a dining-out experience. And despite the fact that the places we're usually frequenting are very much geared toward family dining, I respect the other folks eating there enough to know that some days taking Noah out just isn't in anyone's best interest.

As a parent I can't fault a business for choosing to be entirely (or in part) kid-free. On the rare occasion we leave our amazing boys at home with a sitter, I'm likely to be first in line for a seat at one of their tables!

How about you . . . what do you think about restaurants that have a no-children policy?


  1. It feels a little like saying I don't like children if I admit that when dining out... and I mean dining out, not catching a pizza or burger at a family joint...I'd like to enjoy my meal. Enjoying my meal is impossible with a fractious or ungoverned child nearby. I've got some experience with children and I can tell when the little one is just having an off day, and will feel all kinds of sympathy for the parents (usually frazzled and struggling) and I can handle that situation. But a truly unruly child accompanied by parents who don't realize we don't all think their little Jimmy's shrieking the most adorable and creative thing we've ever encountered... I'm sorry but a nice restaurant, or theatre etc., is not the place.
    There should be consideration on both sides, me thinks, as well as realistic expectations. You wouldn't bring the Baby Man to The Keg 8.00 on a Friday evening, and I wouldn't expect a quiet meal at 5.00 at Boston Pizza.
    Did I answer your question? I think I just rambled a stream-of consciousness into your comm box.

  2. Huh, this is the first I've heard about these kinds of policies. I like your approach - parents should know what their kids can handle. I think a restaurant should feel free to ask a parent to make sure their child is seated, or to put a family with small kids in a corner, but to ban them? I'm not too sure about that.

    One thing we've done for years since we had kids is get take-out from our favourite restaurants. A lot of places (like The Works, for example) will put together a take-out package for you if you know their menu well enough to call and order. It makes for a nice evening - we do this to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary.