I'm A Mom Who Thinks Kids Have No Place In Nice Restaurants

Photo: EvgeniiAnd / Shutterstock
two little boys eating at restaurant

When my oldest daughter was an infant, I’d take her to restaurants and she’d sleep or play with her toes, generally delighting everyone with her presence. I was bursting with pride at what a great mom I was, and that I could take her anywhere.

Then she turned two. During one dinner out she unbuckled the strap on the highchair and, while I was distracted, knocked over her milk, climbed out of her chair, and bolted as fast as her fat toddler legs could carry her toward the towering stack of rolled silverware she’d been eyeing since we arrived.

I was able to catch her before any real damage was done, but her response was to scream. Loudly.

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The silverware survived. My belief in nice family dinners out did not, and my husband and I had to grudgingly acknowledge that it would be a while before we’d again be getting a table for three. We started leaving her with a sitter when we wanted to eat out.

In exchange we were able to enjoy relaxing dinners that didn’t involve chasing, catching, threatening, or blushing. It was lovely. 

Some restaurants are gambling that they’ll gain more adult business if they ban children under 6. Restaurant owners figure that all the single folks who'd prefer not to eat amongst screaming kids will translate to big business. 

As a mom, I should probably be offended by this, but I’m not.

My husband and I are planning a date night out for our upcoming anniversary (go, team), and a sitter is definitely in the works. I’m looking forward to a night without children — and if I’m paying for a night without mine, I certainly don’t want to listen to yours.

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This isn’t because I don’t like kids. After all, I had three of them voluntarily. Really, this isn't an issue about children at all. It’s about parents. Most of the restaurants instituting the ban are the very establishments that adults executing good judgment would never bring their children to anyway. (Stumped? Here’s a hint. If they don’t offer a children’s menu or a highchair, you should probably leave Junior at home. You’re welcome.) 

The odd catch about restaurant banning is that it’s never the parents with the best-behaved children who take their kids to inappropriate public places.

It’s the parents who are clueless that their screaming, tantrum-throwing children aren't cute to anyone. Or even tolerable. Years ago, when sitting behind a family that fell into the "Isn’t my child cute as he’s throwing food in the total stranger's hair?" category, a friend of mine said, "If you can’t afford a sitter, you can’t afford to eat out." 

Truer words have never been spoken, and this has been a part of my life philosophy ever since.

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I’m working hard to raise my children to know appropriate behavior, and part of this effort involves not taking them to places where they can’t be children. (There’s a reason fast food joints have indoor playgrounds, y’all.)

But when I go out for a nice dinner with the hubs, I’m off the clock. I don’t want to have to think about the fact that you need to tell your child to sit down/stop yelling/sit up straight to talk to me.

I’m not gonna lie, as we’re scouting out anniversary reservations for later this month, I’m not looking for a child-friendly place.

I’m looking for a nice restaurant where I can enjoy a quiet conversation with my husband over a glass of wine before returning home to our wonderful, loud, boisterous family. The next day, we'll take them to the park. Where they can run. And yell. And play. And be kids.

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Collen Meeks is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, family, and motherhood.