The headline on the paper version of the local area .com (you know the one that wraps up all the coupons with a couple of articles to look like a newspaper- google newspaper if you don’t remember what one of those looks like) read “Dos and Don’ts for Parents Taking Kids to Restaurants and Theaters”. But is was the byline, “Our readers were loud and clear: It’s not the kids, it’s the parents” that caught my eye. Readers being loud and clear was one thing, but parents being at fault is quite another!
Typically this local rag goes from mail box to trash can. For the most part, I am not sure I fit their demographic. I’m not exactly the target for articles on St Patty’s Day parties and New Years events in the city. Being over 40 and in the burbs, their take on the local trendy scene is typically not of much value to me, not to mention the occasional political view that I typically disagree with. So to hear what “those in the know of the area buzz” have to say about parenting deserved a read.
The columnist, Richmond.com’s Karri Peifer, refers to an earlier article along the subject of banning kids from certain restaurants or other places where there is an assumed “adult-centric” theme. This appears to be places where adults go and don’t expect to have the interruption or annoyance of having kids there, with all their noise and running around. She identifies herself as a Gen X-er and admits to not having children, admittedly putting some bias on her point of view. The article mentions several responses to the earlier story and gives some background before going into her Dos and Don’ts for parents.
The article begins with a tone that I found interesting. She tries to make the point that parents these days, Generation X parents (of which I am one), seem to feel they have to take their kids everywhere and have them involved in everything. She uses a few examples, one of which focuses on having kids involved in gossip sessions and participating in discussions regarding a friend’s divorce. The examples and tone seem a little critical and although I do agree that certain conversations and topics are not for our kids to hear or be involved in, the fact that an article focused on taking kids out in public starts with this type of criticism seems out of place.
Let me first explain our personal situation. We eat out quite often, perhaps more than we should based on some people’s budgets, but we find that with our hectic schedules it makes sense for us. So, our boys have always been accustomed to eating in a restaurant and have found ways to behave and fulfill their need to avoid boredom (with books, portable games systems and even conversation from time to time, imagine that). Once they proved their ability to be well mannered during a meal, we expanded the style of restaurant we took them to.
One of our favorite spots, a fairly high-class steak and lobster house called Copper Grill (that closed a few months ago), was the true test for them. This was a two hour or more meal with various courses and a fine dining atmosphere. It certainly fit the bill of the Don’ts in the article as a place that did not offer a kid’s menu (which the article states means the establishment does not want kids there), but like the Do’s state, we prepped the boys, told them what was expected of them and each time we went, they were perfect patrons. The wait staff even commented on how well they behaved and how quiet they were. So I feel we have a good deal of experience on the subject of taking kids to a place that many would consider “adults only”.
Most of the Dos and Don’ts make perfect sense. Keep your kids seated, not running around, make sure you order from the menu and don’t expect special orders for the kids, basically rules you should follow most anywhere – control your kids and don’t expect special treatment, especially from non-parents. Several of the suggestions are a bit on the outlandish side, perhaps for dramatics, but are said to be attributed to responses from the first article. Taking kids to a bar and sitting them at the bar, apparently people actually do this and it annoys non-parents. Another don’t is to sit them at their own table so you can be alone, and also, don’t take them to R rated movies. I don’t doubt that parents with poor judgement have done these things but I argue that they are far from the norm and again, add more sensationalism to the article but to me seemed to strip it from the reality, and impact, of the point.
So yes, parents should be responsible for their kids at a restaurant or movie. Parents should always be responsible for their kids, anywhere. Should Generation X parents do less with their kids or include them less in aspects of their life like going out? As you probably know from our various activities (documented on this blog and on the podcast), every parent needs time to themselves and time together without the kids, but for times when we want to take the boys to a nice restaurant with us, we will. If they are behaving (and I understand that is essential) then they should be allowed. We are paying for them to be there too. Adult or not, they are patrons of that establishment.
Sometimes adults get out of hand at a bar or restaurant and they are asked to leave, other times they just annoy everyone around them. If my boys are not behaving and I haven’t done anything about it (slim chance) then I have no problem with someone telling us to get our situation in order. Otherwise, regardless of the place and who is there, if they are just another set of patrons to the establishment, there shouldn’t be a need for concern or a list of Dos and Don’ts.
Assessing the behavior of our kids at any time is essential. Sure, some people see their kids as doing no wrong or have built up a tolerance that is beyond an acceptable level for anyone else around. We have all heard the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,…” at the department store where you want to go shake Mommy and yell at her “Don’t you hear him?!?!?”. But we have likely, as parents, probably also found ourselves in a daze and waking up to the third, or fourth or twentieth “Daddy”, followed by a quick scan of our surroundings for the looks and glares. It happens. My bad. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones (and if they can’t find stones, then they probably don’t have kids).
So be responsible, be aware and be free to take your kids anywhere (hey, that ryhmes). If you find a place that bans kids, take it in stride (and perhaps look elsewhere even when you don’t have the little ones with you). Gen X-er or not, don’t feel bad about including your kids in a night out within the reasonable confines of your good judgement (R movies are probably not a good idea, and if you can keep a 9 year old interested in a conversation about relationships please let me know, that has to be incredibly rare). Be smart, have fun and include your family as much as you can because there will be a time when they are gone- how is that for a parting suggestion?