Fun fact: the proverb “children should be seen and not heard” actually dates back to the 15th century when it was a medieval saying specifically aimed at young women, who were expected to keep quiet. Well, in the dying stages of 2014, I say, f*** that.
The proverb is offensive in all its forms and meanings; we do our children (not to mention young women!) a great disservice by treating them like second-class citizens not worthy of our time, attention and company.
And so to the ugly child-free dining debate: I was recently shocked to find a local café, brimming with what my three-year-old lovingly calls “fancy Nancy” style furnishings and gifts (after the popular children’s books), also had a large, obnoxious: “All kids must be seated and noise kept to a minimum” sign at great odds with its welcoming, girlie surrounds.
And while this café wasn’t outright banning kids, its churlish sign certainly did put a dampener on my dining experience.
It’s rogue, irresponsible parents to blame for unruly kids in restaurants, not the kids themselves; I reckon most little people are inherently good-natured and eager to please, just like my cute, little three-year-old, whose excellent manners put many adults to shame.
She happily and quietly chatted away to me, firmly seated, while enjoying her babyccino, and even flipped through a women’s magazine, just as I did. Meanwhile, groups of adults at tables nearby made much more noise than she did.
Why ban kids from restaurants, or make parents of small children feel unwelcome and uncomfortable with rude, repellent signs? Here’s a big heads-up to café owners/restaurateurs and childless couples or singles: we once walked among you – it ain’t easy being shut up at home with small people – where’s the empathy?
Wouldn’t it be kinder, not to mention more profitable, to welcome tired, harassed parents (and their offspring) rather than shame them? And from my experience, and I do so love dining out – I’ve seen very few instances of naughty, rowdy kids actually running amok in cafes/restaurants, but far more instances of adults behaving badly. Where are the rude, bullshit signs for that, too? “Any adults caught speaking loudly and drunkenly will be asked to leave.” Now, I’d like to see that.
Not all little kids are badly behaved arseholes! What’s more, parents need to be able to teach their little ones good manners, social etiquette and sensitivity to other people’s needs and personal space in public, free from the mean-spirited “tut-tutting” brigade. How else can they learn how to respect their fellow diners and what’s right from wrong?
However, I do think parents with small kids need to exercise a bit of common sense when it comes to dining out with littlies, especially at night. Go early, well before the rush hour, and your little person’s own in-built “cactus-hour” tantrum-time – maybe even ask the restaurant to give you a quiet, more private table, away from other diners. And if an inconsolable toddler tantrum ensues, apologise and abort.
I much prefer dining out with my toddlers during the day, rather than at night (hello, date night!), but working parents sometimes find themselves in unavoidable situations and I’d like to think a restaurant would make my little people feel comfortable if necessary. And I love that my little girl has learnt to handle herself well in any environment or social setting (I’m still working on the one-year-old), and I’ll damn-well continue to take her to any restaurant or café I please.
What do you think? Is child-free dining the Antichrist or a necessary evil?
Main image via www.mommyish.com; pram image via eatability.com.au; and final image via couriermail.com.au.