Will That Be For Here? Or To Go?

I've been on both sides. I've been seated at a table in a restaurant with my honey, carefully pacing the meal so that we don't finish up too early or take too long as to have to add another hour to the babysitter's rate, when a family, with children (young ones like ours), sits right next to us, so close that I am flinching in anticipation of the macaroni and cheese flying at the proper trajectory to hit me in the head and leave a sticky residue behind.  I've also been the mom who is carefully balancing a child on each hip with a bag of "quiet" toys and "kid friendly appetizers" while trying to keep the Human Cannonball (note: from hither-to-forward, the four-year-old will be known as the Human Cannonball) in line. When we sit down, I paste my apologetic face on and make sure it stays put as all the adults at the surrounding tables place their eyes carefully on us. I can see behind their eyes, they are wondering how this is going to go.  Because I've been them, I know how it feels.  Guess what, I'm wondering how it's going to go, too.

I've gone 'round and 'round with folks about kids in restaurants, or really kids anywhere. People have very strong opinions about where kids do and don't belong.  Some of them I even agree with. I have a rule that if a restaurant doesn't have high chairs (and specifically, enough for multiple children) then I will not bring my children to that restaurant.  I also have a rule that if I do bring my children to a restaurant that we will vacating our table by 6:30 pm, at the very latest. I don't believe that children belong at any old restaurant at any time, I believe that children belong at family restaurants before 6:30.

I will even go so far as to say that kids belong at family restaurants before 6:30 pm OFTEN.  We may be a little extreme, but we go out to dinner as a family once a week.  Here's why, if I don't take them out, how will they learn to be out? Katie K-9, who hosts a radio show on My Talk 107.1 (the same station you can catch me talking on) says of dogs, "don't hide them, train them." I have to say, I sort of feel the same about children. We try to teach the principals at home, and then take the show on the road so that they can try out their skillz.

So, here's what happens when we take our children out to eat, sometimes they are big old sweet bundles of super-awesome, and sometimes they forget all their manners and make me embarrassed to be in public.  I do not know until we are in it what the heck the outcome is going to be.  When they are awesome, I watch the people around us relax in relief (and then I thank God that we have been spared a nightmare). On the occasions that they eat like cookie monster and experiment with their pitching hand, I watch the people around us get irritated. I cannot tell you how many times we have pulled the ripcord mid-meal just to put the other patrons of the restaurant out of their misery, but we are there in the first place so that our children will learn how to behave in public - it is a process.

This is my wish for all of human-kind, it's really a simple wish; for those dining without kids, please be patient and trust that the parents near you will handle the situation to the best of their abilities. And for those dining with kids, please be respectful of those around you while you do your best to teach your children manners in the moment (FYI, these little reminders are for me too, because like I said, I've been on both sides. I really have to remind myself not to tense up when a table full of kids ends up right next to me, after all, I don't have to parent those kids!)

All that being said, I think kids are super great.  I like them. So much that I made a bunch of 'em. However, when I don't want to be around them, I go to a place where I am sure they won't be and I'm so very thankful that places like that exist, because this mom needs a break from time to time.


  1. Ha ha, i never used to mind children in restaurants until I had my own. Now I just want a break when I go out to eat without her and I get irritated when other people's children are out! Totally irrational - ummm, yes. That's me.

    This is a great blog that i read (and she's also from MN) - http://julia.typepad.com/julia/2011/06/travels-with-patrick-v1a-c.html

    She touches on children everywhere (not just restaurants) and says pretty much what you're saying - they need to learn to behave in public. But it's a shame when adults don't behave in public (read some of the stories in the comments - hysterical).

  2. I am usually the mom crawling around under the table cleaning up the gigantic mess and apologizing profusely to all the wait staff. We only take the boys to places like Red Robin where it's noisy and family friendly. There is only so much time I can spend locked down with the boys at home, sometimes we need to get out and sometimes I just have to give them a pass. Yes, I'd love for them to behave (and for the most part they do) but they are 2 and they have autism...they aren't listening to reason. They aren't listening to me at all. So I clean up and apologize and I put on my blinders and ignore any dirty looks.


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