In the past few days, I have been hearing many stories of children in restaurants and the discomfort that comes about because of them. In response to this, I have found myself relating - or wanting to relate - this story a number of times. Since the topic seems to be making the rounds now, I thought I would share it with you.
My daughter was 3 years old, and we were in Manhattan (henceforth referred to simply as "the city") to see the circus at Madison Square Garden. My son was only a year old at this point, so it was just my wife, myself and my daughter.
After the show, we decided to visit a small, out of the way Spanish restaurant that we often frequented. It is not in a location where tourists to the city would be, and unless you actually knew about this restaurant you wouldn't simply walk in off the street. It is in the back of what looks like a seedy bar from the outside ... probably because it is a seedy bar on the inside. However, in the back of the bar is a wonderful restaurant. Not high on ambiance, but the food is terrific! It's run and frequented mostly by folks from Spain, though some of us Americans go there as well.
When we entered, we were seated in a small room which can accommodate three parties. One table was empty and the other was occupied by a woman in her 30's (?) dining alone. When we walked in we could see that she was upset by our presence, but continued with her meal and her book.
We ordered, and our food came. As we were finishing our main course, the woman had finished her meal and got up to leave. As she passed our table she stopped and asked us if she could ask a question. "Are you and your daughter American?" I thought that was an unusual question, but was pleased to answer, in the affirmative of course. She then responded by telling us that she had never seen an American child, especially one so young, sit through an entire meal as well behaved as ours did. Needless to say we thanked her and were properly proud of our daughter at that moment. (Not the first or last time we were of course. We still are!)
In our case, with both of our children, we started bringing them to restaurants, and other places, when they were very young ... well under a year old. As such, they were used to being in those places and situations, and were not overwhelmed. They were also taught right away what was acceptable behavior and what was not. We were lucky parents in that they learned those lessons early and well. Today, I see children being brought into restaurants who clearly do not know how to behave. I have seen video players immediately placed on the table (and played at high volumes!) to keep the child occupied. I suppose this is easier than actually teaching the child restaurant manners and proper behavior. Video players have a time and a place, but I don't think a restaurant is one.
I will admit that there are times I do see parents trying their best to have their child behave in an appropriate manner, but for one reason or another their efforts do not work. However, all too often I see parents who simply allow a child to do whatever they want, regardless of the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of the behavior. These are the parents who have stopped parenting in my opinion and are deserving of the dirty stares and harsh words they may encounter. Though my children were generally well behaved in restaurants, there were times when things did not go smoothly, perhaps they were tired, or not feeling well, or just plain uncomfortable for some reason. In that case, either my wife or myself would remove them from the surroundings so that they would not interfere with the dining pleasure of others.
How do you feel about this?
For another take on this topic, please read my friend Tania's blog.