Unless you’ve been taking a break from social media over the past few days, you know all about the face-off between a diner owner in Maine and the mom of a crying toddler.
Was the owner out of line for scolding the kid who disturbed her customers, or was Mom the bad guy for not removing her noisy child from the restaurant? Everyone has an opinion on that diner scandal, right?
As for me, I have an opinion on kids in restaurants in general. I’m not talking about the mom with the screaming kid in Portland, Maine. I’m talking about the people at the table next to ours in an upscale restaurant in a small town in Texas two Saturday nights ago.
We were out on our monthly(-ish) date night, which means I shaved one leg and wore pants with that, buttoned and zipped. I’d shelled out a craptillion dollars for babysitting so we could pay $38 to drink the same $9 bottle of wine we had in our fridge at home in blissful peace. It promised to be a fabulous evening: I would be served a plate of hot food I didn’t cook. I would eat without fear of being interrupted to wipe someone’s butt or to answer questions about why fish don’t have eyebrows.
Unfortunately the couple at the neighboring table seemed to have a different definition of blissful peace. This attractive, well-dressed couple also appeared to be enjoying date night. They canoodled over cocktails, engaging in murmured banter that was clearly not about poop or carpools, oblivious to everyone and everything around them.
Including their kid.
The small human seated at their table appeared to be about 6. She had an iPad that she’d lost interest in, although it emitted beeps that could be heard from space.
This kid had ditched her electronic entertainment in favor of the super-fun pastime of smearing butter on the tablecloth. She’d occasionally whimper something about chicken fingers as she kicked the leg of the table with her adorable little foot. I’m not sure what kind of la-la land these parents lived in to be able to enjoy each other while their unhappy offspring finger-painted with condiments, but they were tuned out.
Is it just me, or isn’t the purpose of date night to escape annoying kid noise and… well, annoying kids? I love my children, but I’m clued in to reality enough to realize the public at large may not think they’re as adorable as I do. I don’t recall having ever seen an “adults-only” sign at any restaurant in my area, but I wish more parents would use more common sense when deciding it’s a good idea to take their kids to eat at a place that doesn’t have a drive-through or games with tokens.
The average price of an entrée at this place was $35, which isn’t exactly pocket change. When an establishment touts an award-winning chef and cultivates an atmosphere of sophisticated ambiance, that’s a clue that no one wants to sit next to a noisy kid. Or maybe any kid. If you can’t or won’t get a babysitter, I say your dining choices need to be family-friendly. See also Chuck E. Cheese’s. OK, fine… maybe Applebee’s.
I understand that taking kids anywhere is a gamble — even the most angelic child can morph into a demon in a nanosecond. If your family is like mine, you’re juggling soccer practice, school events and trips to Costco. Sometimes eating outside your own kitchen is necessary. Sometimes you just don’t wanna cook, and pizza delivery gets old. I get that. But fine dining isn’t kid-friendly, and parents need to be more discerning and more considerate about where they take their kids.
Try asking yourself, “Should I really take my kids here?” It’s not hard. And, if I ever find that “adults-only” gourmet bistro in my neck of the woods? I am so there. I might even remember to shave both of my legs.