Wednesday, June 30, 2010

new discovery eaters

so, there is a big old discussion about kids in restaurants happening again.

this time it is the parents of a 3 month old versus a wine bar ( i am not using names because ultimately it does not matter - the article is in the ottawa citizen if anyone wants the details).
this is a topic that comes up often enough, rousing arguments about the rights of babies, their parents and the restauranteurs.

i have conflicting views on the subject. i have been both the childladen and childfree diner in good and bad situations.
i have 3 kids, it is inevitable that we will need to eat.
sometimes we are not the ones to dictate location or time.
and when we travel, restaurant meals at "adult times" are sometimes unavoidable.

as a rule, i have always brought the baby with me if they were under 8 months old and i was breastfeeding. over 8 months old...i have left them at home in the care of their dad or babysitter or i have not gone.
i have missed more dinners out that you can imagine, especially with this last child.
i have left restaurants with meals unfinished with cranky toddlers.
i refused to eat out between the ages of 2 and 4 with one child (the girl child, for the record ) simply because we KNEW it would end badly. every time.
and as we speak, we debate meals out now with the baby...for at 22 months, he has been known to launch cutlery across dining rooms. we can not, in good faith, put other diners at risk;).

however, many of you have actually been out with my kids for dinners...we rarely have disasters.

because we recognize the limitations of our kids and respect the right of other diners.

i get that we may be sitting next to a couple who are out for the first night since their colicky child was born and that the last thing they need to hear is someone else's child crying. i reeeeaaaalllllyyy get that. trust me. then again, we may be sitting next to baby haters. and that is okay as well.
i also remember sitting in a restaurant, after my third miscarriage, heartbroken and watching the parents of an infant coo over their newest one. the baby did not make a peep. and i did not eat a bite.
my issue not their's...but reminds me that you never know what people are reacting too.

it come down to respect.

the owner of the restaurant in this case likely approached these client the wrong way. perhaps she could have used a little more tact?
bringing the breastfeeding into it? big mistake, BIG MISTAKE. she has just guaranteed herself ages of bad press in the LLL and attachment parenting circles. which, if she was not completely aware, make up a large part of the community she just set up shop in.

and the parents in question...well, if they are going forward in the media and with the human rights complaint with this purely over the breastfeeding issue, then fine. but if it is to simply vent? because they are mad at being denied a restaurant reservation? it certainly is a lot of drama.

and that is where the arguments get frustrating. it will turn into a happy hipster vs self absorbed parent debate and then drown in verbal rhetoric. it is already happening. and the tone is one of derision and definitely lacking in respect.

it will be interesting to see what happens...i am betting on "not much".

all this brings back our most memorable terrible fabulous dining experience in paris last summer.

it was late, we were weary from walking all day, unable to find a family friendly restaurant with space for us and the baby (10 months old at the time, with major food restrictions).

we finally found a relatively upscale spot willing to take us - the owner, a woman laden in jewels and obviously enamored of our little boy set us up nicely. However, the babe was not tidy...and the nice lady's husband, the maitre d, every time he passed our table, would grab a busboy by the cuff and demand loudly that  they clean the crumbs up off the floor from around alex's highchair.
he was less than thrilled with our presence. and let us know it.

but then his wife would come by and squeeze our "petit cochon americain", our "leeeeedle peeeg", cover him in kisses, take him out of the highchair and squeeze him some more. we ate as fast as we could, left a huge tip and tried to get out of there. the husband could not have been happier to see the back end of us;)...

but his wife?

she followed me out of the restaurant (i left before mark), cooing after alex the whole time. i thanked her profusely but then alex reached out his arms to her and she grabbed him from me one last time, surrounding him in her perfume and parisian enthusiasm.
mortifying and wonderful all wrapped in one restaurant:).

it is all in the delivery...

(the link to the original post on flickr about this night is here - )


AntiJenX said...

Now, just as when I first saw the photos of Alex with Parisian woman, I have such a vivid little vignette playing in my head of her loving him up and it makes me smile.

We've never had too many problems with the kids in restaurants issue, but we really never went out much when w was smaller. (of course we don't go out much now either ;) It just seems like it was a bad business move on the owner's part and she should never have even brought up breastfeeding.

nelly said...

I can tell you as a child-less person that enjoys going out, hearing out of control children shouting and throwing fits is irritating. and i will look at the parent and let them know they ought to keep their kid in line. Most of the time, the parent gathers the kid and everything is fine.
That's if I'm at a place that's doesn't scream "family diner".
If it's a casual family setting, then I don't really mind because I half expect that and I hope when I have children this will be the type of place I feel comfortable in.

It all comes down to the reaction parents give; if it's the hippie crowd with "let him/her show his personality and shout" type of parenting - they're getting a glare and a judgmental look.
If the parent is aware (or acts aware) of what's going on, I cut them some slack because it's hard to reign in little ones. And I don't judge them either. In fact, if I have a lolly - i'll share it.

In the citizen article - I think it's a combination of scorned visitor who still thinks restaurants should bend over backwards to accommodate everyone - and a restaurant owner that picked the wrong way to fight this.

I wont go to that venue after reading this because to me it signals rudeness. if you're rude towards one group, you'll be rude towards the other.

in general: going out takes a lot of give and take. I don't see screaming children any more offensive than swearing teenagers and drunk office weasels. But no one wants to write about the dining groups with the largest dispensable income :)

Finola Francis said...

I love how you wrote this and you captured my thoughts on this exactly. We didn't go to restaurants when my girls were little because they were the fussy and not portable kinds of kids and I never wanted to impose that on other people, nor did I want to have to try to keep them happy exhaustingly through a meal.

I was wondering if anyone else picked up on the fact that the parents wanted a chair for the baby's car seat. Someone could turn around and accuse them of not being safe as that is definitely not a good practice. I am nitpicking now, yes. But I think if the parents are going to make such a fuss then they are opening themselves up to criticism too.

I think both sides should have shown some flexibility and empathy.

Natasha said...

My son Baby H is soon going to be a year and we take him to restaurants all the time. We have been very fortunate that Baby H has been good 99% of the time. We always time it after he has had a nap or is hungry that way he is more focused on eating then getting into mischief.

On the off chance he does get cranky we address the situation immediately. If we cannot calm him down we simply leave. We do not like our dinner interrupted and we certainly do not like interrupting anyone else.

I don't agree with the restaurant in the article but I don't think I would be bringing my child to a wine bar and that is just our choice. We tend to stick to the family style restaurants and if we want to go to a nicer restaurant we would get a babysitter.

I do think that some parents need to control their children a little more in restaurants. We were recently our for dinner and the kids at the table behind us were throwing spit balls through a straw. The parents said nothing to the children.