Now before you shout at your screens I should point out that I fully acknowledge the fact that some people don’t want to sit in a restaurant with kids running round, that they’ve paid good money for a relaxed dining experience with quality food.
I get that.
What I also acknowledge however, is that in our modern world, where children have rights protected by laws and are now (supposed to be) viewed as valued members of society. Where research has proved that if you get the early years right, you are pretty much on track to nurturing a happy, empathic, responsible and general all round good egg of an adult.
So my argument is, are children viewed as valued members of society in all walks of the public domain, or are there still those who believe they should be seen and not heard, (yes there is) and more importantly isn’t it about time that more public places, like restaurants, stepped into the modern world and welcomed them?
I’ve had the pleasure of eating out as some great restaurants (Jamie’s Italian & The Loft in Sidmouth, Devon if you’re wondering) They weren’t the type of restaurant which you’d typically associate as ‘family friendly’. There were no ball pools, no free balloons and no designated play or kids area. But what they did do was make me and my family feel welcome. We were treated exactly the same as the other diners, and why not! My money’s as good as their’s. (I have my mother in law to thank for drumming that one into me.)
As a family we like to eat out, it gives me a break from cooking and a chance to reconnect and spend time together. But above all, it teaches our toddler the rules of restaurant etiquette.
I once had a friend who was a nanny for a wealthy family and each week she took the two younger children, a toddler and pre schooler, out for lunch to teach them the familiarity and rules of eating in a restaurant (I’m avoiding the word behave here.)
I loved that idea and had I the money to do the same with my children at the time, I would’ve.
The situation I find myself in now, as a mum to a teenager, tween and toddler, is not wanting to be confined to fast food and defined family restaurants, we like the freedom to eat where we fancy. So we do just that, and in doing so, we are also taking a leaf from nanny friend’s book and teaching our toddler son restaurant etiquette.
But the sad tale in this story is that not all restaurants have cottoned on to the whole general lets-welcome-children-thing. And that stinks. Surely if you know your child is going to sit nicely at the table and enjoy the experience of eating out, then they should be treated like every other guest and it’s down to the parent to decide if toddlers in restaurants is a good thing that day or not?
Only recently we were scurried away to a cold, empty skittle ally posing as a function room in a nearby Inn. Taking one look at the younger member of the group, they clearly feared for total mayhem and complaints from others diners. Not only that, they sent 3 waitresses to take out plates before we’d finished in an attempt to get us out ASAP, worrying that other families might see our toddler friendly dining experience and try to follow suit. (despite stating that children are welcome on the website!)
I can think of a 101 excuses for their appalling service and behaviour (I’m using that word on them!) having worked in the catering industry for a few years myself. But what they clearly didn’t realise is that by having us join the rest of the guests that day, we could have enriched their dining experience and what they didn’t know is that my son is a happy, sociable child who lights up a room with his smile. A child who could provide them with some a warm, feel good feeling, maybe even some gentle entertainment and ultimately, a reputation as a welcoming, modern, forward thinking, warm and friendly restaurant.
So my point in all this is; how are children EVER going to feel valued members of society if Luddite style restaurants continue to make them feel so unwelcome.
And I’m left pondering the question Are toddlers in restaurants still a social no–no?