Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Restaurant Parenting

A Chicago cafe owner's sign for parents made the front page in many newspapers today. It read: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices." This sign has sparked a heated debate.

I bet if the cafe owner could do over he'd write the message to "people of all ages." Is there not a tacet expectation for adult behavior? Why should there not be a standard for child behavior as well? Most of us probably would tolerate a certain elevation of noise and activity from a child in a restaurant, but truly, some parents don't seem to know where to draw the line. When other patrons are being distracted by the child(ren), then the parent has failed.

Yes, children are people too, and our society sometimes treats them like nothing more than nuisance. And even the best parents on earth sometimes face irrational outbursts from disgruntled offspring. That's why I limit my restaurant parenting to Chuck E. Cheese and Wendy's. In the former, no temper tantrum would register even the slightest blip on the radar screen, and in the latter, the point is to ingest as much fat, sugar and salt as possible as quickly as possible, so it works for the child as well as his potential audience.

I have a sad memory of one of my only attempts to take my child to an eating establishment other than the above. It had been a long, challenging day at work and I knew I wouldn't have the patience to cook, so after picking up my then 3 year old from the sitter, I had the brilliant idea to go to a little Indian restaurant which I'd been dying to try. My son was not in the greatest state of mind either, having spent the day with his least favorite sitter. I should have ordered carry out, but was too exhausted to drive all the way home on an empty stomach.

After ordering, we sat down at one of the few tables, and that's when the endless crescendo commenced. I did everything I could to squelch it. I was desperate. I sang songs, I made up stories, I made funny faces, I ran out to the car to get books, I bounced him on my lap, I bribed. The crescendo continued, oblivious to my efforts. By the time the food arrived, I was in tears. I couldn't stop the tantrum- I had no choice but to leave. I couldn't even wait for a doggie bag, so loud was the screaming. I threw my money on the table, picked up the monster and rushed out, leaving that luscious Indian cuisine behind.

As a single parent, I am especially careful. Single mothers are judged harshly. The last thing I want to do is provide fuel for the fire, so I grab my child's hand and tread lightly through this society of ours, notwithstanding the above Indian incident. We stick to Wendy's and Chuck E. Cheese and leave fine dining for the rest of you.

12 comments:

Sideways Chica said...

Great Post. Sometimes though, I think the "finest" dining is with the family in tow...little ones and all. You know the saying...what to do if "they" can't take a joke. My point exactly! Besides...cell phones are the worst. AGHHH!

Ciao,

Teri

www.herestohappywomen.blogspot.com

Betty said...

I keep hearing about people rudely using their cell phones in restaurants. I've not yet experienced that. (It may have happened in Chuck E.Cheese, but who'd know? You can pretty much get away with anything there!)

Someone Anonymous said...

Nicely said.

Betty said...

Someone,

Thank you!

Technicolour Nightmare said...

I'm one of those parents (a single one at that) who has a disturbingly well behaved child and can take her anywhere. But since meeting my landlords kid I know how hard it is to keep some kids in check because she would be one of those annoying brats that ran around, screamed and never listened to her parents.
But at least I can look at kids an feel sorry for the parents now.

Anonymous said...

I must say that this is the first time I have heard a parent say that sometimes their child's behavior is not appropriate for the environment. Kudos! We all love kids, but sometimes they can act like wild beasts!

Betty said...

Technicoulor Nightmare,
You are blessed, and it's good that you realize how unusual your situation is!

Betty said...

Anonymous,
Thank you. I must give credit to my mother, who, in her own words, hated kids, and was frequently appalled by their public behavior.

garnet david said...

They should have cones of silence for hungry parents with loud children.

Anonymous said...

The sign said "children of all ages" .. that includes those of adult ages who behave themselves like unruly children!

Betty said...

Good idea, Garnet.

Annonymous,
I wonder if the restaurant owner had that in mind- it's possible, and often appropriate!

Anonymous said...

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