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Griffin to Go: Kids! Why Can’t They Be Like We Were …

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To some diners, that's just not a pretty sight.

Kids are a touchy issue when it comes to dining. Parents looking for a little time off from kitchen duty can often be seen at restaurants trying to get a moment’s peace and quiet, while the kids play. Sometimes it’s in the aisles, though a few places offer some diversion. Willie’s Ice House, for example, offers a sandbox for the tots. Others offer crayons and pictures to color or arcades filled with video games and occasionally and old-fashioned pinball machine.

But what happens when the restaurant is not equipped for kids? I recently sat behind a small child who was about 2 years old and who delighted in shrieking at the top of his lungs. His slightly older brother noisily tried to get him to hush, which caused the youngster to scream all the louder. Dad was seemingly oblivious to all this because he let both kids raise a ruckus without saying a word.

I was ready to either to clobber one of the kids or ask for my money back — I face enough stress elsewhere, whether it’s in the traffic coming home from work each evening or listening my parrot’s deafening squawking  — but the little dears thankfully left before I could inaugurate a re-enactment of “Sweeney Todd” with me as the barber.

It seems that a growing number of diners have had enough of the noise from unruly youngsters. A national website, Happily Childfree, lists restaurants around the country that “don’t cater to the Chuck-E-Cheese crowd.” It starts off with a list of places to avoid, which is strange, because five places in Manhattan, including Gramery Tavern and Cafe Boulud, are displayed followed by one place in San Antonio: Gourmet Burger Grill.

I haven’t had any enfant terrible problems at GBG. But I was pleased to find at least one place in town singled out for praise: Alamo Draft House, which does not allow children under age 6.

What's your opinion on allowing children in restaurants?

In days gone by, higher end restaurants were not places where children ran amok or made too much noise, with the exception of whatever restaurant was twirling atop the Tower of the Americas. But children are popping up with greater frequency at linen table-topped places. At Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse recently, a family with three children sat across the aisle from us. They were made to feel as welcome as we were, and the younger set were model diners.

It reminded me of an evening at the fondly remembered Le Rêve. Dinners there could last more than three hours on occasion, depending on how much food you ordered and how much fellowship you wished to share. So, imagine my surprise when I saw a table with a mother and her two children. Both of them ate everything set before them and appeared to love every last bite. In fact, they behaved far better than most of my party did. So, who’s to say what should be the grounds for allowing children into a restaurant? And should it be by age?

I know you all have opinions on the subject. Please post them below.

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7 Responses to “Griffin to Go: Kids! Why Can’t They Be Like We Were …”

  1. shimarella says:

    I think it depends on the place. The Friendly Spot Ice House has a playground and a loose vibe that’s perfect for families. I hate to sound like a cranky old lady but my parents would never have taken us out to eat as little kids if they knew we couldn’t behave. I understand that parents these days have babysitting issues & would like their kids to “experience” fine dining but I resent having to put up with ill-behaved children that don’t belong to me when I am paying for a nice dining experience.

  2. Edna says:

    As the mother of a toddler, sometimes he is a perfect little diner and sometimes he is NOT. We enjoy going out to eat and taking him with us as a learning experience on how to behave when we are at a restaurant. It is certainly every parent’s responsibility to remove your child if he or she is misbehaving but I also think that the restaurant manager should engage in trying to help the situation politely — whether they can rush out a quick mac-n-cheese order, move the family to another table, or offer to help process a to-go order instead.

  3. Judy Baum says:

    I agree that it’s an annoying distraction when kids misbehave in a restaurant when all you want is a good meal and pleasant conversation. Parents should be responsible for their kids’ behavior or patronize kid-friendly places. My own pet peeve is the mess on the floor the little ones leave behind – total turn-off to see the mess under the highchair!

  4. JohnnyF says:

    I don’t mind little ones in restaurants – I do mind their lazy, unattending parents who are so self-important or too busy acting busy on their iphones & blackberries to tend to their children’s needs. Children aren’t misbehaving in restaurants because they’re trying to wreak havoc on our dining experience, they are misbehaving because they are lacking something and that is usually the attention of a good, solid parental figure in their life!!

  5. Ann says:

    I enjoyed this article very much! It brought back memories of when my son, now 13, earned his nickname “soupfoot”. He was not a noisy infant but was extraordinarily active. To be a good patron, I held on to him instead of letting him crawl around. That had some drawbacks, however. In two different Chinese restaurants, in two different cities, he managed to squirm enough to kick over my bowl of soup. Thankfully, the waiters and waitresses immediately cleaned up every stray drop of soup. In fact, in our hometown, the waitress asked me if she could please hold him. I was so relieved to be able to attack the amazing food without being attacked. What I learned from the experience was that she and many others who worked there had children or nieces and nephews back home in China that they missed terribly. They enjoyed cuddling and spoiling my son, and I learned to appreciate the great sacrifice that they were making in order to help provide better opportunities for their families in China. So, to weigh in on your question. The restaurant and infant mix helped me in an unexpected way to learn more about our global family and appreciate my privileges in the US.

  6. Karen B. says:

    John, I for one don’t think children should be “banned” from restaurants. Having raised my own children, I understand about noises from kids, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it did before I had kids. I think the people who should be asked to leave are the parents who don’t have enough manners to teach their kids manners. The folks you described as having well-behaved children have parents that care enough to make sure their children know the difference between good and bad behavior.

    Great post!

    • John Griffin says:

      Thank you, all, for writing. It’s interesting to read all your views on this issue. When Christ said to “suffer the little children”‘ he wasn’t talking about a particularly noisy restaurant. But until the issue is addressed by the managers and restaurateurs, suffering will be had.