For those that know me well, you know that my kids made their first trip to a restaurant within weeks of being born. I love eating out and that was something I didn’t plan on giving up when I had kids. We ate out frequently, and always on Sundays after church. On one Sunday, just after Claire was born, we went to Olive Garden for our favorite– soup, salad, and breadsticks. Our church service ended at 11:00 so we were usually the first to a restaurant. We had just been served our salads when an older couple was seated at the table next to ours. One look at our three year old happily eating black olives off of his fingertips and our infant asleep in her carseat/carrier and the man asked to be moved to a table not near the children. The hostess moved him and came and apologized to us, and we assured her that we didn’t care. Another older couple was sitting nearby and walked over to tell us how glad they were to see us out with such well behaved little ones. I probably should have mentioned that our son had happlily colored the children’s menu and our daughter had slept, neither talking/screaming, etc. I smiled and said thank you. Eating out with little ones was difficult, but my husband and I worked hard to ensure that we could do so in peace. We made our son sit at the table at home while we ate. He listened to our conversation and he used basic manners at home. When we went out, he understood how to sit, eat, and be quiet [the coloring on the kids’ menu was such a treat because we didn’t allow playing at the table at home]. When we left the restaurant that day, we saw the couple who complained about sitting near us. The hostess had her revenge and sat a table near them with a family of loud, rowdy kids.
Unfortunately, there are more tables of rowdy, loud kids eating in restaurants than there are ones playing quietly. While I hate the idea of banning kids at restaurants, I totally understand why. The problem doesn’t lie with the children; rather, the problem is a lack of parenting. People have always complimented me on my children. When they were little, it was their behavior that garnered praise. Now, it’s their character. I love to joke that they take after me, but honestly, both of my children are much better than me or my husband. However, we have worked hard, from the day they were born to help them develop into the amazing people they are today. We rarely took an easy path in parenting. Every “offense” was an opportunity for a life lesson. They certainly are not perfect, even today. There have been many “life lessons” taught over the years, and I am confident there will be more in the months and years to come.
My point? Parenting is hard work. I think my style on parenting was forged by one of my friends having kids before I did. We went out to lunch with her three year old in tow. She let him run around the restaurant while we chatted. When he screamed, “that looks like doggie poop,” she laughed it off and told me, “he’s only three once! I want it to be fun for him.” I vowed that day that my kids would never do that! As hard as it’s been, I think I found the balance of letting them enjoy being a kid and understanding how to comport themselves in public.
If, as parents, we want to be able to take our kids out to nice places, we must work to teach them how to behave properly. It’s not fair to other patrons who are paying for a nice meal to have it interrupted by rude children. However, I do wish restaurants would consider just asking the obnoxious children to leave rather than banning all kids. Then, maybe, their parents will finally start doing their job – parenting.