Dining Out with Kids
Dining Out with KidsOne of the rules my father had us when we were growing up was that we "were to be seen and not heard". Meaning that it was ok for us to be around as long as we kept quiet and didn't bother the adults. This rule was in effect when they had company over. My dad taught me his version of how kids should act around adults. We went to church and had to behave appropriately while we were there. We rarely went to restaurants for dinner but when we did, we were well behaved. But times have changed.
With the restaurant industry predicted to "reach a record $537 billion in 2007—a solid 5.0 percent increase over 2006 sales" it's obvious that we are dining out more and more these days. People have busy lives, parents are working, kids have their extra after school activities, play dates, homework, school projects, leaving little time to make a home cooked meal. "The industry is heading into 2007 as an economic powerhouse and an essential part of Americans' lifestyle, with Americans spending 47.9 percent of their food budget in restaurants." (source)
As more and more families are dining out at restaurants, I'd like to offer some friendly advice/commentary to make every one's experience a little more pleasurable. In my experience dining out at restaurants I have come across a few different types of children. They are:
- The Roamer - The Roamer ranges in age from "just learned to walk" to about 3 yrs old. Roamer likes to walk up to roughly 8 ft from his table. Just enough to come hang out at my table. I don't mind the Roamer too often as long as they don't want to touch me with their often dirty hands. Most of the time a smile will send them running back to their table to shy away from the looks. But then the game begins where the Roamer will creep back, make eye contact and then run away again.
I'd prefer at least a simple gesture from the guardians of the Roamer to coral the child. Many times I have witnessed the guardians who don't say anything and let the Roamer do his thing. The Roamer can be cute but can also get annoying at times...especially if they have the sniffles like Coughy.
- Coughy - Coughy actually ranges in age from infant to adult. Coughy is an annoying child for me. I don't like sitting near a child that has the sniffles or a bad cough. No matter what the parents say "oh it's just allergies", "oh he's not contagious", not acceptable. Germs = bad. Take your junk to-go please.
- The Pitcher - "Oh he's going to be a baseball player" I hear as chips, fries, dino-nuggets, go hurling across the table bouncing off the floor and end up resting near my foot. No, no he/she is not going to be a baseball player. The worst is the spitball Pitcher. Once food enters the mouth, I would prefer that it stays there. Throwing food at the table is only acceptable when the child is too small to hurl the projectile past your party. Once it enters another patron's circle of trust, action needs to be taken.
- Pig Pen - I like Pig Pen especially since I don't have to clean him/her. That girl chomping away on her corn dog all the while with her hair in her mouth...that just cracks me up. Pig Pen leaves such a mess on the table and floor, I just hope the 'rents tip well for the extra clean up.
- Poltergeist - This scary child lives exclusively in the booth next to you. Her head spins around while the adults are not paying attention and next thing you know, BAM, there's a 3 yr old's face two inches from the back of your head. Scary. I normally handle Poltergeist as I do with the Roamer, a smile and hope for parental guidance on the other side of the wall. The worst is when Poltergeist makes physical contact...or has a bit of Coughy tendencies. Eyes front!
- The Screamer - This innocent child is usually the youngest of the bunch. In its infancy, the screamer is actually rather cute. Newborns that don't have the lung capacity to scream loudly is adorable...but once they get that second wind...its time to take it outside. Wrap that meal to-go and enjoy it at home.
- Stinky - Oh man, nothing worse than that kid that's just a little too old to still be in diapers dropping a deuce in the middle of the restaurant and the parents being oblivious cause they are used to it. This needs to be a hazard zone, bring in the Hazmat team and sanitize the building. Oh it's that bad and you know it.
- Hey Mom - hey mom...hey mom...hey mom...hey mom...mommy...mommy...hey mom...hey mom...hey mom...hey mom...mommy...mommy...mommy...ANSWER HIM!!! I know you can't hear him anymore as your ears have tuned this phrase out but the rest of us heard him the first 13 times.
The point of all this nonsense is that I feel kids these days (yes, I just said "kids these days") have been given, or maybe have slowly taken, some sort of equality as adults. They seem to think that they can say NO to their parents now. That it's ok to express their unhappiness really loud in public places. There seems to be way too much freedom and acceptance or tolerance with kids now. I don't get this.
It's purely my opinion but I think that the above characteristics are annoying for people with and without kids. A couple of these are not really a big of a deal for me (Coughy is just not right) but could be an issue for many. Obviously with the Baltazar's conversation the comments showed that there are some people who have strong opinions about the subject of kids in restaurants.
I'm not saying that your kid is annoying. I like kids. Kids are great. I just think that SOME parents and SOME kids should display a little more common courtesy to those around them. You know who you are and you are NOT hansei. Most parents I've witnessed dining out at restaurants actually do a great job with their children, it's just those few that ruin it for the rest.
Eat or die,
Setting a Counterexample