Dinner Gone Wrong

Banning children? Maybe by now you’ve heard about the restaurant near Pittsburgh that is banning all children under the age of six. The owner’s week-old announcement has definitely made waves in pop culture throughout the U.S. I heard about it while working-out this morning as Q104 took calls from people weighing in on the ban. I was surprised when I later Googled it to find out that even the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had picked up the story.

My reaction has run the full gamut of thoughts and emotions.  At first, I saw the merits of the ban. I reasoned that it’s his restaurant; he can do what he wants. No one has to eat there if they don’t like his policies.

But, then I started thinking about the civil rights end of things and wondered if it’s even legal for him to discriminate based on age. I mean, we don’t let owners ban certain customers because of their skin color or belief system. And, last time I checked, most of us believe that is a GOOD thing for us to stick to.

But, then again, I could site other examples where age is a qualifier for certain admissions or places. Usually because of the mature content in those places. But, perhaps there are more grounds for limitations based on age than on race or creed. For a while, my thoughts just swirled there – around the legal and moral implications of it. Honestly, I’m still not sure where I’ll land on all of that.

But, do you want to know what really shocked (and disturbed) me? It wasn’t the owner or his decision or even the news outlets that picked up the story. It wasn’t even that 60% of the readers polled by WSJ thought the ban was good idea. Whether I agree or disagree, I can see their side of it – especially when a lot of parents let their kids run rampant in public.

No, those things didn’t disturb me.  The thing that floored me was the commenting by readers on the WSJ site and by callers on the radio show. I was shocked by the utter disdain expressed regarding children. Seriously. It was gut-wrenching to read some of these comments. Let me share just a few to give you a feel:

“Bravo to this restaurant. I have no children and do not like children for the main reason these days there are many more unruly, rude, undisciplined children and their parents out there inflicting themselves on people like me who have to travel by air and are stuck with them. (These horror stories could fill a book.) Go to a nice wedding and it is ruined by children running around totally out of control…  Children are everywhere and there seems to be a modern family way now of letting the kids do and say whatever they want…to the expense of others. Enough! Bravo!”

“Nicely done. When spending $50-$75 on a meal with a friend, the last thing I, or anyone else wants to hear, is the screaming, squealing sound of a baby/infant. Here’s a counterproposal for the liberal minded thinkers out there who know d#@ned well that the sound of a baby howling is the most God awful racket known to humankind.”

“When I go to a restaurant and they ask “smoking or non-smoking,”  I simply tell them “no children.” I do not want to see them, smell them, or hear them.”

“No one should endure an evening with disruptive children present.”

The basic gist of most of the negative comments was that families with children should be relegated to eating at McDonald’s and stay far away from sit-down restaurants. I found the whole discussion disheartening. I actually read a comment on another site that suggested that restaurants simply are not for children at all. That they should only eat at home with their parents.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand. Just last Fall I was in Taco Tantos (LOVE that place) and had a family come in that basically let their children run wild. Part of Tantos’ charm is that it is a small space. But that charm changes a tad when undisciplined children take over the place. My date-time discussion with my husband was definitely derailed by their presence. (So, we did the only rational thing possible in Tantos – we just stopped talking and focused on our burritos instead! Silver lining.)

I’ve been on planes with whiny toddlers. Been shoved by kids trying to get to their seat in the movie theater.  I do get it. Kids can change the ambiance of a place. Especially when those kids are ill-mannered and inconsiderate.

But, I’m just not so sure that it’s healthy for us to embrace an anti-family mantra that is motivated primarily (in this case) by convenience and entitlement for the diners. To say that a screaming baby is “the most God-awful racket known to humankind” seems a little over the top.

Do you catch the implications of some of these comments? Children are being viewed as annoying barriers. Like pests that should be brushed aside. Is that really how we want to treat other people?  To despise their presence just because they aren’t as refined as we would like? And it bothers us?

Eating out is a cultural norm in the U.S. These small people are an important part of the fabric of our society. While I will grant that some venues aren’t best for them, I will not treat them like they are annoyances to be endured. And, yes, I realize that means you have to take the unruly ones along with the good ones. But, our children don’t need shoved to the margins just because they make life a little, ummmm,  challenging at times.

Oh, and BTW, today is my birthday. The family is taking me to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. I kind of like that we can all go out and celebrate together. I hope the presence of my children can be tolerated. I’ll try to keep them from climbing over the back of the booth and ruining anyone’s meal. *wink* Hopefully only one or two  greenbeans will get launched across the room. *double wink*

How about you, any tricks or tips or words of wisdom you want to share with other readers about ways you enjoy a meal out with the kids in tow; BUT without ruining it for the people around you? I’ll collect your suggestions and list them in a future post along with some of our best practices!

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  • Rick McKee

    I’ll just point out that, while she can write “*wink*,” Shannon can’t actually wink in real life. It’s actually sad to watch her try. It comes out as more of a blink, or what one might call a “*double wink*.”

  • http://calminmychaos.blogspot.com J Duncan

    I just read the antithesis of the article you are referring to earlier this week… I couldn’t have said it any better.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/motherhood-is-a-calling-and-where-your-children-rank

    And I do have to say I’m with you where I can see WHY people have this opinion of children especially when parents these days think so little of their children to actually discipline them or train them how to conduct themselves in public!

    First time commenting, but I thought it was too crazy to have read such paralleled articles in less than a week! Blessings on your day!

  • Shannon

    Thanks so much for the link to a great article! A refreshing perspective! I’m glad you commented!

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