Do Grandchildren Belong in Restaurants?

Grandkids eating out

Recently, two restaurants in the U.S. made headlines with new policies regarding children. One restaurant has simply banned children under the age of six completely from his fine dining establishment. The other has made it clear that the management “will not tolerate” families with noisy, screaming children disturbing the dining experience of others.

Am I just old and cranky with a fading memory, but aren’t children noisier and more annoying now in restaurants than they were when I was taking my perfect children out to dine? And let’s add airplanes here too, where the child sitting behind kicks the back of my seat for the entire transatlantic flight, sitting with parents who seem to be completely oblivious to my discomfort.

As much as I adore children, I applaud at least the restaurant in the U.S. who will not tolerate screaming children who disturb other diners. It may be maternally incorrect to applaud this new policy, but since a recent survey indicated that 60 per cent of travelers would like a separate area for families with children on planes, I have a feeling I am not alone in suggesting that there should be rules for children’s behavior on planes and in restaurants.

Weren’t we all chastised to sit up straight, chew with our mouths closed and stay at the table until everyone has finished eating? Didn’t we raise our children to follow the same set of good manners? Perhaps it’s a loss of courtesy in this generation of young parents, but it seems there’s an attitude that just because they have spawned these miracle offspring makes them immune to consideration for others. It seems that these parents regard restaurants, airplane aisles and even grocery stores extended adventure playgrounds. I think the operative phrase these days is ‘sense of entitlement.’

That’s a kind phrase for just plain rude!

There is a plethora of family-style and fast-food restaurants where children are welcome and catered to with indoor playgrounds, coloring books and crayons. My stand is that if parents insist on bringing their children to a restaurant that fits more aptly into the fine-dining category, they need to insist their children exhibit appropriate and considerate behavior and manners.

We don’t expect diners to suffer from secondhand smoke anymore. We expect pet owners to keep dogs on a leash and pick up after them. We wouldn’t tolerate disorderly behavior from an adult in a restaurant. Why can’t we expect the same courtesies from parents with disorderly children?

How do other grandparents feel?  Christine of Moose Jaw takes her grandchildren out for restaurant meals frequently. “With my grandkids under the age of 10, I take them to a kids’ restaurant,” she says. They have a limited attention span and a limited palate, so why fight it? But once they’re teens and can appreciate the pleasure of fine dining, I will take them to fancier places.”

Tom of Montreal adores his grandchildren, “but when I go out for dinner with my wife, I frankly want a quiet dinner with a good bottle of wine. That is not the atmosphere for my grandkids, and to be honest, I don’t appreciate other diners bringing noisy children either.”

George and Marie of Toronto have been taking their children and grandchildren to their upscale golf club every Sunday for dinner since the grandchildren were toddlers. “But, the parents bring crafts to keep them busy while we wait for dinner,” he explains, “and the kids are all really well behaved. Their parents make sure of it. So I would be very offended if my club suddenly banned children.”

While living in Europe 30 years ago when my children were young, we dined out a lot like other Europeans.  Maybe they’ve just been civilized longer, but Europeans seem to have the solution for family dining. There were usually children’s playgrounds as part of the restaurant, or often someone would come out from the kitchen and take one of our children back in with them so we could enjoy our meal.

There may not be a solution in North America that pleases everyone, unless restaurants close off ‘family-friendly’ sections behind a soundproof glass partition, similar to those partitions when restaurants had smoking sections.

Apparently, the U.S. restaurant refusing to tolerate screaming children has seen a drop in families frequenting the North Carolina establishment, but actually has enjoyed a significant boost in clientele numbers in general. Isn’t that interesting?