10.01.2007

Oh Yes It's Ladies Night, and The Steak Is Right

With Nate doing a Madden Football weekend with the boys (that's the dad version of a weekend in Vegas) and Thalia doing a grandma weekend, I had Saturday night more or less, to myself. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

It started with a salad of baked figs, plump and silky, which accompanied a bed of mesclun greens dotted with a smattering of roquefort, sprinkled with tiny bits of crisped bacon, and dressed with a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. Next came the steak frites, medium rare as requested, the warmth melting the dollop of roquefort butter into a salty-sweet pool. The matchstick fries were beautifully crisped and salted, so much so that you could continue enjoying them long after they'd cooled. And the service was warm yet so authentically European that the query "Ketchup? Mustard? Mayo?" for the fries did not surprise.

I picked mustard.

The second glass of Pinot Noir took me straight through to the beginning of dessert, for which I went the distance with a hazlenut profiterole. Oh, mama. The chewy puff pastry was thankfully filled with ice cream and not some airy cream filling (blasphemy!) then drizzled with a bittersweet espresso-chocolate sauce and finished with crunchy slivers of blanched almonds and a little powdered sugar for show.

I had to stop myself from ordering a glass of port - it was hardly 7:30 and I didn't want to pass out before getting my fill of crappy TV for the night.

I walked out of Le Petit Marché (I wish I could link you! I love you Le Petit Marché!) a bit tipsy but not too tipsy, a bit full but not too full, and I felt whole again.

Like a human being. Like an adult.

Like I used to.

And yet there are people out there who would hate me for it.

Not hate me as in "I hate you because I was home eating Lean Cuisine out of the microwave." Not hate me as in, "you total pretentious foodie douche" - but honestly hate me.

Because Sage was there with me.

My little four month old, who alternately slept or cooed or gnawed on a hopefully lead-free rattle would, in some circles, be described as an inappropriate dinner companion. And I, in turn, would be described as a selfish, inconsiderate, breeding bitch who deserves to have my ovaries yanked forcibly through my nostrils for deigning to enjoy a nice meal out in my neighborhood--even at Earlybird Special hours--on a Saturday night.

Who's right?

Since having kids, I've followed the children in restaurants debate with great interest. I can see both sides.

I'm not a fan of rowdy, hyper, disruptive kids outside the playground, much less in restaurants that don't have "E. Cheese" in the name. I am mortified when I see children running underfoot, all but ignored by their parents, while waiters carrying heavy trays or carafes of scalding coffee try to avoid them. It's stupid. It's dangerous. It's entirely their parents' fault and there's no excuse for it. If the children can't behave appropriately, remove them. Get the food you ordered to go and wait outside while the waiter brings it to you.

But then, I'm not a fan of rowdy, hyper, disruptive adults either. I've had more than one meal compromised by some drunken suit at an all-expenses paid table for twenty, some five-top of outer-borough Bachelorettes with penis hats on their heads, or some oversexed match.com couple masturbating each other under the table with their feet.

Well-behaved children and adults alike are welcome to breathe the same 02 as me any time, any place. Pull up a high chair, kiddos, Shirley Temples are on me.

I've written before about restaurant-goers who hate people with kids, the eye-rollers who assume that any family with children under 15 or so needs Supernanny on the case. I used to think it was the issue of a few self-centered childless 20-somethings (raising my hand as formerly belonging to this group), maybe a few self-centered childless 80-somethings tossed in for good-measure. But now I'm starting to think it goes deeper. I'm starting to wonder if it's an American problem--an overall lack of respect for families. Respectful families.

I see it in the pervasive notion that breastfeeding in public is "disgusting," or any of the other angry (Angry! Grr! Let's hate on the boob!) descriptions I've seen tossed about. It's in the painfully short maternity leaves. It's in the guys on the subway who stare at you standing uncomfortably with two kids, all while splaying their legs into a second seat for themselves. And it's in the pervasive belief that once you become a parent you'd better erase that silly fantasy that you are in any way entitled to the world's perfectly cooked steak frites.

Someone (edited to add: Hungry Beans! It was Hungry Beans!) recently pointed me towards this 2006 post from a really lovely NYC food blog called Megnut, about an incident where an inattentive waiter counted infants at a table towards the party of six needed to include a tip. The discussion ranges from thoughtful and articulate to downright infuriating as it veered off into breastfeeding and other parents-in-restaurant issues.

(Some San Diego tourist trap manager declared in comments that if you ignored his server's suggestion to nurse your infant in their bathroom, "your service will be perfunctory or non-existent, your food will be awful, and we won't miss you a bit when you leave and don't come back." )

I found a comment from a reader that summed up my thoughts far better than I could.
Becoming a mom, no one told me, means people will expect you to give up everything you care about. And most of the time you do it. In the first three months you don't sleep, you often can't use the bathroom when you need to, you can't eat more than a bite or two of food at a time and you can be hungry all the time while fat. Then later, you start to get bits of your life back. You have a meal all the way through, you sleep a night, then another night (then you don't sleep because of teething.) Maybe you start to cook again rather than defrost. Maybe you eat out. If you love food, you dream of that first time you can sit down and really taste beautiful food lovingly prepared...You need it in your life, especially when you are down.
Oh, she speaks for me. She speaks for a lot of us.

It breaks my heart to think that I might not wanted in the restaurant culture any more, a world that my father and grandfather introduced me to so many years ago. Some of my dearest memories involve so-called fancy restaurants as a kid. I remember learning to use a finger bowl. Tasting red wine (and hating it). Trying to figure out whether it was cool or creepy that a restaurant kept spare jackets and ties in the coat check for the rare under-dressed guest. It was a magical, special adult world and I felt so privileged to enter it a few times a year.

I knew how to behave, and so I was welcome. No one ranted about it. No one told me that "children DO NOT belong in a place like this!"

(Do people just rant more these days?)

Nate and I don't want our daughters to grow up thinking that all restaurants have a $3.95 mac n cheese special or tablecloths you can draw on. We want them to know that some meat doesn't need ketchup. Sometimes it doesn't even need fries. And sometimes, if you're not going to finish it, you just need to push it around on your plate the right way so you don't insult the chef.

And we want them to know that there are rules when you're in these kinds of places. And that if you follow those rules, people will treat you with the respect you've earned. No matter how old you are.

---

It's weird to think that one night you can sit at an airport gate, crying and banging out a post, simply to preserve your own sanity (and keep from having to make eye contact) and that a few weeks later, someone will email you to say, guess what - to me that post was perfect.

The Original Perfect Post Awards – Sept ‘07

Thanks so much, Bitsy Parker. I'm honored.


62 Comments:

Blogger Lady M said...

I read the first part, rejoicing that you got to savor such a meal again (and also getting progressively hungrier), and then started nodding my head when you said that moms are expected to give up so much. Respect for families and respectful families - both are so needed. Well said.

10/1/07, 1:23 AM  
Blogger Stefania said...

I love the stage where you can still take babies with you to restaurants. When Bunny was a week or two old, we went to dinner at a restaurant that sounds just like the one you describe. It was 10pm, she was still up at night/sleeping days. We were shell-shocked and hungry. I thought for sure they'd seat us tucked off to the side but no. We were stuck at a round table smack-dab in the middle of the restaurant. Just as our steaks arrived, Bunny started to cry so I took her out of her carrier and nursed her while my husband cut my steak and fed me. (I still needed two hands to nurse at that point.) We just wanted to eat and leave when a sweet, grandmotherly woman came over, patted me on the shoulder and said, "You're doing a great job. And you're right where you are supposed to be. Enjoy your dinner." And dang it--those post-partum hormones made me cry big, splashy tears.

I'm with you. Kids *and* adults should behave accordingly in restaurants. Which is why from the time my kids were about 8 months old until they were around 2ish, we ate at lots of divey Chinese places or at family-friendly neighborhood joints. I don't want to ruin anyone's time. Not a waiter's, not a customer's, and most of all, not ours.

Great post.

10/1/07, 1:38 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I liked your recollection of your dad and grandfather taking you out to not-kid places. My dad introduced me to the grown up world, when I was 9, through another door - Contract Bridge. And I too, learned to behave around adults; to be treated with respect that I had earned. It's hard to fathom where else I would have learned to behave appropriately.

I agree with Lady M about respectful families. But I would broaden the statement to respectful PEOPLE. That's what the world needs more of.

10/1/07, 5:43 AM  
Anonymous Raji said...

A really well written piece on a subject which we have been wrestling with quite often on the weekends we finally manage to dine out. Congratulations on taking Sage out with you while you enjoyed a good meal!
Our daughter is 2 yrs and 4 months old now. In India I have seen a lot of places where the kids run around completely unsupervised and had vowed never to be a nuisance ourselves, even though kids in restaurants is quite the norm here.
We do have help at home and there are times when we do go out for a meal on our own leaving her at home. But with both of us working we also like the times that the three of us can go out together as a family. AND we don't really like dining in the fast food restaurants with the play areas for children, since most of our eating out is more of an outing for us rather than grabbing a quick bite.

Its been tough trying to keep her occupied and quiet in a fine dining place and there have been times we were forced to cut short a meal because she got a bit too cranky and bored. But I think sticking at it has helped her understand that there are places where she may have to speak a bit softly, she can't touch the silverware or the glassware, the food tastes and looks different than home.
My Dad was a complete foodie and I have fond memories like you of eating out - Chinese restaurants with the ubiquitious Sweet Corn Soup and red decor particularly stand out in my memory LOL!
I hope that she grows up with some good memories too....and good table manners!

Thanks for sharing!

Raji

10/1/07, 7:05 AM  
Anonymous madge said...

So much has changed since I was four years old and trying escargot and mussles at La Fourchette.

Kids' menus are a giant catch-22. They encourage families to bring the kids, but not to teach them the most important lesson of eating in a restaurant: You Are Not At Home.

These days it seems like going out to dinner has taken on the air of a cafeteria. People are rushed, frustrated, distracted. They're there to avoid cooking instead of actually enjoy a meal. Even fewer seem to take the opportunity to teach their kids the right way to behave.

Since I was in preschool, going out to dinner has always been something special. I could try new things (see above) or go with an old standby (steak). I would get a lovely dessert and the undivided attention of my parents.

Fast forward 30 years: I have HIGH ENERGY kids. I want them to enjoy the same fine dining experiences I had. But, at three-and-a-half and 10 months, they simply aren't ready. I have enough respect for my children and others to not put them in a situation where they are not welcome and that would be very difficult for them. It's not enjoyable for anyone.

I see glimpses of it in the not-too-distant future. The few times we've taken them somewhere nice (when everyone's slept, in good moods and the moon is in Virgo...) it's been almost lovely.

10/1/07, 7:55 AM  
Blogger Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I agree with you completely.

Funny, b/c we just took our two kids (6 & 3) to a nice restaurant last night to celebrate my MIL's birthday. No children's menu, no crayons, no clapping with the birthday song. And it was all lovely. My son had the salmon with risotto after a spinach salad with avocado and mango. My daughter also ate the salad, a lot of bread, and shared my pasta in vodka sauce. We went to the bathroom a few times more than I would have liked.

The waiter and fellow patrons complimented us and our children for their good behavior.

I also have fond memories of dining with my family. It was a treat and I adored feeling so grown-up.

But. I wouldn't have done this when said children were 1 or even 2 (well, maybe my son alone b/c he is such a foodie). There is a time and a place. And there is such a thing as teaching your child the rules and not letting them ruin your meal or anyone else's.

We've left restaurants b/f when our children have misbehaved and had to get our food to go. Not fun, but necessary.

And we loved taking both of them out as infants, anywhere. Although I've never been able to eat and nurse. I didn't even do that at home. Just my incompetence.

10/1/07, 8:14 AM  
Anonymous clickmom said...

Oh pooh, on the people who don't like to see kids at restaurants. I bring my kids everywhere, otherwise how are they going to know how to behave every where when they are grown?

As long as kids are well behaved, I'm happy to see them in any setting (except maybe at 10 o'clock at night, that's just negligent)

10/1/07, 8:16 AM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

Good food can really be good food for the soul.

10/1/07, 8:29 AM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

A comment with SO's:

I am SO glad you got to enjoy a divine meal.

I SO agree that that post of yours -- gutwrenchingly honest and sad -- deserved a PP nod.

And I am SO offended by the suggestion that we should nurse our babies in the bathroom.

10/1/07, 9:39 AM  
Blogger Sunny said...

As a part-time waitress and mom, I can totally relate to this post. Before I had my baby I was the manager of the same restaurant I now wait tables at. It's a family-friendly place, and kids are expected and welcomed. Some parents however, we hate to see walk through the door.

There's a few families that come in and allow their kids to run all over. We don't have a playground of any sort, it's not accepted behavior at this place. The thing is, I am one of those people carrying heavy trays of food, bevarages for a 10-top, hot HOT coffee. It fills me with a dread I cannot explain to see a small child barrelling around while I'm trying to navigate my way through a busy dining room. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt a kid. I also know that if, God forbid, I dropped something on the kid, it would be totally my fault, regardless. I could get sued, fired, screamed at in public. It's a very bad thing to let kids run free in a restaurant.

As a mom, I love to see the kids I wait on. They are all cute, I ask how old they are, what their names are, etc. I'm all for eating out with the family. I don't even care if kids are screaming, it might mean I get a bigger tip if I try to help out with some extra attention. (And really, isn't that all it comes down to for a server? Annoy me all you want, just leave me a bunch of money and I'll forget about you.) Just don't let the kids act like monkeys in the dining room and I'm totally happy to see you!

10/1/07, 9:42 AM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

I definitely found myself nodding along at this entire post - from the description of the food right down to the discussion of children in restaurants.

I have to agree - I hate all bad mannered people in restaurants these days, and there are just as many adults as children. I don't believe for a moment that my child isn't entitled to eat in a restaurant, however we do leave if she becomes disruptive or loud, and we do use it as an opportunity to teach her appropriate behaviour in a restaurant (as best we can, as she is only 11 months old).

And eating in a bathroom is just wrong, and that includes breastfeeding. Ewww!

10/1/07, 9:44 AM  
Blogger Mahlers On Safari said...

It is nice to hear that you and Sage really enjoyed each other's company over some fine wine and tasty food.

I have two thoughts about children and fine dining.

1) It is actually cruel to your child - to expect them at 2, 3 or even 4 to sit through fine dining and behave his- or her-self appropriately. It is a rare child that can do and enjoy it. Those parents are among the very lucky, very few.

2) This is an entirely cultural arguement. Here in Tanzania, Indian (Tanzanian) families routinely take their infants and children to nice resturants and think nothing about taking them out as late as 10 or 11 PM. It horrifies me - and my cultural lens - but is perfectly acceptable to them. This is also somewhat true of African (Tanzanian) families - but their children are usually so well behaved as to barely even notice they are there. I can't explain it.

I never take J and R anywhere they can't run around if they lose interest in the meal. At 3 and 1/2 they are just too young. In a few years, I hope we'll be dining at the Ritz!

10/1/07, 10:14 AM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Mahlers on Safari's comment echoed what I was going to say about Mexico - in Mexico, families belong together. Family means everyone from the tiniest infant to the oldest grandma who hobbles along, supported on both sides. And kids are allowed to be kids. Which leads to a lot more chaos and noise and activity - but because everyone believes in togetherness, it is all ok.

(I don't know about fine dining there, though, since whenever I ate at a nice restaurant, I was there at my dinnertime, which is like 3 hours before Mexican dinnertime, so I was always eating by myself.)

10/1/07, 10:34 AM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

I've given up a lot since becoming a mother -- nice office with a window and view, title on the office door, showering regularly, etc. But I can't give up the "restaurant culture." PunditGirl started coming with us to restaurants as soon as she joined our family and today, she is better behaved at a restaurant than a lot of older kids and adults I see. (Partly because she says 'please' and 'thank you').

Having a meal in a lovely restaurant like the one you described (and I'm putting it on the list for when I visit my stepdaughter!) is restorative and just a matter of mental self-preservation for me.

Don't worry -- the Ritz will be in your future!

10/1/07, 10:34 AM  
Blogger Martina said...

Look, the truth is, some people cringe whenever they see kids in a restaurant or a store because not only do a lot of them do whatever the heck they want to (being destructive, making a mess, yelling at the top of their lungs), their parents ALLOW them to do these things because to them, they're angels. I didn't have a problem with kids until I started working in retail. Parents would let their kids run around the store, knocking things off the shelf (and then leaving the things on the floor!), being loud, and just generally annoying. At my first job at Target, I encountered only a handful of parents/kids that behaved. The other 80% were destructive. It was sickening. So in my opinion, no one can honestly say "My kid behaves well in public" without having worked in retail or a restaurant. You'd be surprised at the amount of parents you meet in a retail environment who seriously believe they have some sort of entitlement, to do whatever the hell they want to do, simply because they have kids. And no, I didn't get paid enough to pick up after bratty kids (including having to clean throw up and poopy diapers). So until I see that a good portion of America's parents are being responsible and unselfish, I'm going to keep on cringing everytime I see a kid in a restaurant. You may be the exception but, unfortunately, there aren't enough exceptions to give you the benefit of the doubt.

10/1/07, 10:39 AM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Ah, that meal sounded WONDERFUL!! And I'm cheering because you brought Sage.

T & I have been unable to give up good food. We both adored finding new restaurants and trying new foods before the boys & we want them to appreciate food as well. So we take them places where others would probably not. Or we go for brunch at the really nice restaurant, where we're tolerated a bit more, instead of for dinner.

With my first, I spent 1 dinner trying to breastfeed in the bathroom. The restaurant (a "family" restaurant) wouldn't seat us in a more private booth and put us in a table in the middle of the restaurant. I was getting those looks & moved to the bathroom, which was a nightmare. After that, I vowed I would breastfeed anywhere I damn well wanted & people could just suck it up!

10/1/07, 11:20 AM  
Anonymous sherry said...

I'm so glad you included the bit about not wanting your kids to think every restaurant's menu appears on a paper placemat and includes Mac & Cheese with franks. We're the same way, and want our kids to experience many different types of dining establishments, not just the McD-types.

10/1/07, 11:55 AM  
Blogger RookieMom Whitney said...

I keep taking Scarlett everywhere with me, knowing as a second-time mom does, that this time will run out. I'm with you - unless she is making a ruckus.

This baby I have, she's colicky. Life is tough with her. So going out to a restaurant with my friends is a lovely distraction to the nights we spend at home rocking, shushing, jiggling and swearing during the witching hours.

I'm glad you went somewhere nice with S.

10/1/07, 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

Blogger ate my witty comment, which I guess just means it got as hungry as I have become after reading your meal description.

To sum, I think that you're dead on equating the unrest of patrons at restaurants against families with general unrest regarding families in any situation. But I also believe it starts at home with one word: polite. People raising polite children will be welcome to take them everywhere and polite children will grow into polite adults who don't behave like asshats in public like some adults I've seen while out with my own family.

Unfortunately there are parents out there who feel it acceptable to let their own enjoyment of a meal overshadow their responsibility to teach their young children proper nice restaurant etiquette. So those annoyed by the few who let the hooligans run spoil it for the rest of us who want to share something special with our kids and show them a proper way to handle having a nice meal without the paper cups with ketchup.

10/1/07, 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Bitsy Parker said...

People, are you crazy?

Cruel to bring a child to a nice restaurant and expect them to behave? Are you shitting me? It's not cruel. It's your job. Teaching children to sit still is not a crime. What do you think the preschool teacher does in circle time? Sit still. Listen.

Eating at a nice restaurant is not akin to sending a child into a coal mine.Has the world become so child-centric and run by the lowest common denominator that now it's not even acceptable to feed the children a nice meal and expect them to enjoy the company of ones family?

You Applebee lovers stay at home until your children are old enough to write CHICKEN FINGER!

10/1/07, 12:05 PM  
Blogger Tuesday Girl said...

We feel the same way. We wanted our children to learn to beahve themselves in restaurant, some fancy, some not. How do you do that? Well you take them out, teach them how to use their manners. You do not go out with two 4 year olds for a 6 course meal, they should not be expected to sit quietly that long at that age.

I will tell you my kids behave well out to eat and we have had many compliments. Once they did not so we took our food to go, and THAT is how to parent.

10/1/07, 12:10 PM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

Thankfully, NYC is blessed with many great restaurants that serve top-quality food and are completely baby-friendly. For starters, try Landmarc, Otto, Roc, Nobu, and Da Umberto.

10/1/07, 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Mona said...

I will second Metrodad and add the Danny Myers restaurants to the list. We had a wonderful big family lunch at Union Square Cafe and they were so welcoming - highchair waiting at the table, very kind questions asking if we needed bottles warmed up, etc. I understand that lots of kids misbehave and parents allow it, but there is also a general permissible hostility towards familes that I find infuriating and saddening. My children are also people and deserve some respect too, especially when they are behaving themselves and we are eating at a "family" hour. As you said, I've had meals disturbed be many things (cell phones) and there is no reason to pick on my children simply because they happen to be children.

10/1/07, 12:44 PM  
Blogger MamaMichelsBabies said...

You nailed it on the head when you asked if people just rant more these days.

They do and they tend to have way to much time on their hands to do it with. I have 5 children and I know when they, as a gorup, are going to act like little heathens or if they are going to act like someone other then a wolf raised them and decide on dinner accordingly. I can and have taken my entire brood out only to have comments made as to how well they were behaved. I also have taken one look at the kids and knew that if I were to brong them in, and expect them to sit for more then 2 minutes they would lose their minds.

As a parent, on the heathen nights, we order in.

Perhaps if more parents stopped thinking that their little angel ought to be allowed to act like a monster every and any where they chose kids wouldn't be looked upon with such disdain in any public place. It's a two way street, when we were young and not looked upon like unwanted monkeys in those places there wasn't such a sense of self worth, and that behavior wasn't tolerated period.

It's a double edged sword really, parents need to take a firmer hand and act more considerate of others instead of having the idea that everyone thinks Jr so cute when he trips up the waiter and the ranters need to see and realize that there are some parents out there that are indeed considerate. They don't see it because, on truly insane days, we don't subject them to what we know to be terrors in need of a nap.

And that dinner sounds oh so so good!

10/1/07, 1:09 PM  
Blogger Feeder of the hungry beans said...

(I apologize if this is a repeat. I think Blogger ate my post.)

I bet Sage was a perfect dining companion! That's a great age: when you can be rocking a happy baby under the table with your foot and no one will be the wiser.

I think I might have been the one who pointed you to that discussion (love Megnut!), but might have been someone else.

I wrote about it because, reading those comments, it sounded like there were thousands of diners barricaded in their homes, unable to grab so much as an appetizer, because NYC had been overrun by CHILDREN.

And then I thought, wait a minute, despite being afflicted with THE CHILDREN myself, I still have some powers of observation and it's just not that big a problem. Most parents still have commonsense.

That said, I'm not a take-our-kids-everywhere advocate. My husband and I have had an argument or two while deciding where to take the kids and I've vetoed his choice because I just couldn't face the stress of minding the kids' behavior so strictly. My vote is almost always for a restaurant where I know there will other families.

10/1/07, 1:23 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Hungry Beans - THANK YOU, yes it was you. I've edited the post to reflect it.

And like you and others here, of course we carefully select our restaurants based on appropriateness, hour of the day, and Thalia's general demeanor. I've dragged her out of the diner screaming before we even sat down, and I've enjoyed a nice 90 minute meal at a quiet foodie spot with her. I wouldn't take her to the Four Seasons right now, but I certainly did when she was 6 months.

10/1/07, 1:50 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

I say screw the people who believe kids do not belong at nice restaurants. I knew how to behave at nice restaurants and I knew how to enjoy the "weird" food. I always called it that, but I also always enjoyed it.

My sis and I took her kids out for sushi last night. At three and five years old, they got some looks. Or I guess we got some looks. But as nuts and wild as they can be at home, they know how to behave wonderfully out. They also adore sushi...and Greek food and pasta and steak and and and ...

If we don't take kids into public and expect them to behave, how are they supposed to learn? If they think every place will serve them a kids meal, how can we expect them to love anything more? That's what the kid free people don't understand. They also probably don't remember that they were once kids.

ps. You made me drool. Yea to you for taking Sage out.

10/1/07, 1:50 PM  
Anonymous LADY LIBERAL said...

AMEN!

Children learn to behave with civility and decorum by being taken to places that require such things and EXPECTED to behave properly. Kids, much like adults, will rise to the level of expectations put upon them. Unfortunately, this Wal-Mart-shopping- McDonalds-eating- Nascar-watching- keep-it-at-a-fourth-grade-level world we live in has lowered the bar for both kids and adults. My parents took us out to eat most Sundays after church. We were expected to dress and to behave properly from a very early age- and they left if we didn't and we found out Chicken Little was right when we got home! And on days when someone was tired or cranky or otherwise ill-equipped, we skipped it.

But with well-raised kids and parents who aren't lazy, it is indeed possible some days. And it should be. As many have said already, it's how they learn to be grown up. I think the folks who complain most about kids in restaurants are worried the kids will steal their rude thunder... :)

10/1/07, 1:58 PM  
Anonymous mrs. Q. said...

I'm having a rather hard time putting together an insightful opinion on this topic, as I'm all hot and bothered reading the first few paragraphs. It's like foodie porn. Man.

I need to go out and get me a good steak.

This reminds me of something my pastor said about kids in church. He says people worry too much that their kids are being figets during mass and rush them to the back of the church to shush them. By doing that, kids grow up not knowing how to behave in church and don't appreciate why they are there. I think the same can be said for restaurants.

I want my children to know fine restaurants and good food. Today, many kids' diets consist of just mac n' cheese, pizza and chicken nuggets, but that's probably because it's the only thing on the menu.

10/1/07, 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

We've always taken our son to restaurants. Like you, trying to be sensitive to time of day and place. Friday night at 8pm for example is not the best time for the local chic restaurant.

I've found that the most important thing as he gets older is that he is hungry, but not so hungry that he becomes cranky and cross.

And as a result he likes sushi and grilled salmon and fish & chips and all sorts of other foods that make it easier to go out to nice places that do not have balloons or meals with plastic toys.

10/1/07, 3:22 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Say it, sistah!

I understand the fuss about rowdy, out of control kids, but well behaved ones who barely make a peep and have better table manners than some of the adults? What's the deal? Why do we have to hate one these kids (and their parents) who will someday be contributing members of society? Contributing member, I might add, who will know how to enjoy the finer things in life with class, even if those finer things are french fries.

10/1/07, 3:48 PM  
Blogger VDog said...

You had my mouth watering and I don't even eat beef!

Before 8pm in NYC? Free reign to bring the kiddos.
7pm seems to be the EARLIEST the kid-free (or parents with babysitters) go out to eat anyway, so I doubt you were stepping on any toes.

Good for you! We have to take advantage of the baby stage as much as possible because it's easier to keep them quiet. Heheh.

Congrats on the Perfect Post. This one was Perfect, too! Love the opening prose.

10/1/07, 4:14 PM  
Anonymous jonniker said...

I have to say, Andrea is dead right. I am a huge fan, actually, of kids in restaurants, provided those kids are well behaved. However, all too often, I see parents who are so focused on enjoying their own meals and enjoying the relatively safe environment for their kids to tool around in to realize that their kids, in fact, are ruining it for *everyone*. The parents may be impervious to their own child's screams, cries and shrieks, but the rest of us hear every. last. howl.

I'll never forget, about a year ago, I was at a super-pricey brunch spot in Southern California, seated next to a family of four. The kids couldn't have been more than five and six -- maybe younger -- but they were so well-behaved and their parents were so focused on ensuring that they stayed that way. It was a delight, and I noticed that at least three other diners complimented the parents on their kids' behavior.

Then, sadly, you have the case of yesterday, in a Fatburger, no less, which is *clearly* family friendly, where a mom let her daughter lick the entire collection of spoons from the condiment station, one by one, and then didn't flinch when she put them all back. I couldn't help myself -- I stood up and threw them all away, because seriously? That may have been entertaining for your kid, but have some common sense.

It's not the kids, it's how the parents choose to parent those kids.

10/1/07, 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

I'd comment, but really, your post said what I feel so eloquently.

So thank you.

I will remember this the next time my children and I sit down in a nice restaurant (which I like to do more often than not) and some biddy gives me the evil eye because I dared bring my children out in public.

It's not like they chew with their mouths open or have their elbows on the table. They even know which fork and spoons to use for appropriate courses!

It's more the insult that I dared disrupt other diner's havens away from the real world.

Get over it, I'd like to say to them. And I would too, if my kids weren't watching every move I make.

10/1/07, 4:35 PM  
Blogger GRAY MATTER MATTERS said...

I might have to deem this a perfect post as well.
Truthfully I'm torn on this subject in the sense that I don't believe there is a definite answer. So much depends on your children's temprement. Some children can eat off adult menus, sit quietly and comment on current events and politics. Others are going to be noisy and gross (licking the spoons and putting them back? Aaaaagh)
I also have to admit that if I'm going to take my 7 year old to a "real" restaurant I do it on the earlier side. When I've spent money on a sitter so that I can enjoy an adult evening out, the last thing I want to see is some else's rowdy kids.

10/1/07, 5:31 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

That was amazing and beautiful and bang on point. You kick ass. The lack of respect for families, for the requirements and needs of parents not just as parents but as people, is unbelievable, and dismally depressing. I am continually surprised in a country that touts "family values" as a key jingo, that families with children can be treated so shabbily in so many ways.

10/1/07, 5:59 PM  
Blogger Chara said...

Thanks for saying all of this. This is my deepest fear as an expectant mother- that I will suddenly become a person unwelcome in many places simply because I have a child who MIGHT not behave the way everyone thinks they should. I totally agree that badly behaved children should be removed, but I don't think that a child is just a small person with the potential to be annoying.

11 days and counting until the "due date." Why should that be a countdown to the end of my life?

Chara

10/1/07, 7:14 PM  
Blogger J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I agree with you 100%. More if you're not a stickler for math. If children are well behaved, they should be welcomed at any restaurant. The key is to know whether your child is ready for that kind of restaurant or not, and to be willing to get up and leave with an apology to those around you if you guessed wrong.

Maya is 11, and now orders food thusly: For my appetizer, I'll have the vegetable samosa. For my entree, I'd like the lamb curry, please. And a mango juice to drink.

She didn't get there overnight, and clearly we eat at nice restaurants FAR too often, since she's so savvy. But we started with fast food, and then with nicer places like Outback or somewhere loud and family friendly, and went on from there. But she never misbehaved, and when she was very small and had colic, we stayed the hell home. And when she was very small, like Sage, and DIDN'T have colic, we brought her along in her carseat.

So far as I've noticed, she's never been unwelcome in any restaurant. No one has given us any grief, at least not that we've seen/heard, for bringing her with us. I'm thankful for that, as clearly some people have huge issues with this kind of stuff.

10/1/07, 9:49 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

AHHH! I JUST finished an essay for Babble about this EXACT SAME THING. All I can say is, great post. And great minds...?

10/2/07, 1:23 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

First, let me just say that my keyboard thanks you for the puddle of drool that the beginning of this post prompted . . . great descriptions!

And second, I agree whole-heartedly with you. Well-behaved anybodys should be able to go out for a special meal and people who automatically assume that your kids are going to be unruly and disruptive are creating a disservice to everyone. How are children supposed to learn to behave in a restaurant if they aren't give the oportunity to experience it? Yes, get up and leave if they don't comply, but for god's sake, don't keep them home or only at some crappy fast food establishment. It isn't fair!

10/2/07, 3:26 AM  
Blogger SAHMmy Says said...

"Nate and I don't want our daughters to grow up thinking that all restaurants have a $3.95 mac n cheese special or tablecloths you can draw on"--YES! It's important to teach kids that there are places besides TGI Fridays, where they can scream as loud as they want and still be quieter than the drunk bozos at the bar. I'm not worried in the least about the opinion of the waitstaff--it is the waitstaff who should be looking to their tip!

10/2/07, 9:53 AM  
Blogger nomotherearth said...

Well, it's no wonder that new moms feel isolated and lean towards depression, when we are forced to breatfeed in bathrooms and avoid everything that we used to love.

Thanks for this - you may have gotten an award for another post, but this one was pretty damn perfect too.

10/2/07, 11:10 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

mmmm. steak frite. MMMMM. you have just got my mouth truly salivating.

I just took both boys to a posh-ish Italian restaurant, and I have to say I was craving the Applebees. Your post makes me feel all indignant and righteous about it now;-)

10/2/07, 11:28 AM  
Anonymous FishyGirl said...

Amen to this whole thing. Amen. (and sorry I've been parked on your site forever - today is a "No-where near a restaurant" day for my monsters.

10/2/07, 2:49 PM  
Blogger Bobita~ said...

Wow, I loved this post. I especially loved how you brought in the point about how society (under)values families and how that might influence your (our) thinking. Excellent post.

10/2/07, 3:17 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Because I have to take Myles with me everywhere I go, or else we don't have groceries and the mail doesn't get sent, and because Jeff travels for weeks at a time, he eats out with me a lot.

My biggest feat to date - Breastfeeding at the table with one hand while eating sushi, with chopsticks, with the other. The Kirin was delicious too. Huzzah.

10/2/07, 4:25 PM  
Blogger Marriage-101 said...

Even as a "self-centered childless twenty-something" I see your point and agree with you. But there's only so much sympathy I can give when the child is screaming its head off during my anniversary dinner at a nice restaurant. I guess what gets me is, isn't it usually someone's choice to become a parent? Shouldn't they expect that their life is going to change and that maybe they should be conscientious of the actions of their child and its effect on others experiences? Just sayin', if I decide to get knocked up, it's no surprise to me that I'll be tired, and run ragged, but I don't think that entitles me to ignore the wants of others. I guess where I'm going with this is exactly what you said - if your kid can't behave, order it to go. If he/she is like Sage, enjoy your steak frites.

10/2/07, 5:53 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

As a child, I was expected to behave at fancy restaurants. I was the only child in the extended family, so I had to act right in those occasions.

We take ours out to eat, but we always carefully consider their moods versus the location. With Cordy's personality, we have to accept some things - like she will spend the first few moments under the table as she adjusts - but we never let her run wild or scream.

Part of it is knowing your kid's abilities, and the other part is teaching a child what is acceptable. I'm a parent, but I don't want my meal spoiled by rotten kids, either. But I've had many meals with kids one table over who were very well behaved.

10/2/07, 6:54 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

In Bossy's experience, the whole kids-in-restaurant thing is a bit like playing the slot machines in Atlantic City. When it's good it's very very good, but when it's bad it's awful.

10/2/07, 7:08 PM  
Blogger Jozet said...

Misopedia is all the vogue.

It's okay to say, "I don't like children".

But, if you ask me, it's no different than any other "ism".

Ugly, ugly, ugly prejudice against an entire group of human beings.

10/2/07, 8:19 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Jozet,

I am totally with you on the "ism" front and in fact I recently pointed out, as politely as possible, to an old classmate of mine who has become a fashionable child-hater, that blanket child-hating is just another form of bigotry, akin to hating a group of people because of their culture, or their disability. And my old friend unfortunately just did not get this comparison at all.

I think you hit the nail on the head, Liz, when you said that it seems American society has become disrespectful, if not downright disdainful, toward both children and families.

I believe one reason for this is the shrinking of the family to the nuclear, two-child-average unit. Because nuclear families have become so much smaller, and extended families have become so much less cohesive, there are many, many adults in our society who have NEVER had to spend any significant time caring for a young child. Adults who not only have never changed a diaper, but who haven't even played with a small child, or even had a conversation with a small child, since being a small child themselves.

No wonder these people find the presence of small children unsettling-- they have no idea how to relate to them.

Being the world is so overpopulated I don't think the solution is for all of us mothers to start having eleven children again, but, I do think it would be a decent idea to require high school students to spend time interacting with preschoolers as part of their education.

10/3/07, 2:20 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Jaelithe, that is a brilliant theory. I had never considered it that way before. Amazing food for thought.

10/3/07, 11:14 AM  
Blogger Katharine said...

Thanks for this post. I love it. I love what you wrote about the fancy restaurant world being a special place, even as a child. I, too, learned to use a finger bowl in a restaurant with my grandparents...and I am thankful that they gave me and my brothers the opportunity to be in that setting.
My husband and I often comment that our culture seems to have two extremes: child haters, and child worshippers (I know, those labels are hyperbolic...but don't they sound better that way?). The child haters are the ones who don't believe that children should be allowed anywhere (we have felt this most keenly while flying with our four children). The child worshippers tend to be permissive, believing that restraining children, or *gasp* disciplining them will somehow quell their spirits, never mind the discourtesy that it is to others (and disservice to the children themselves as they grow up believing that they rule the universe).
Thanks for a most excellent and, dare I say, "fair and balanced" ;) post, Liz.

10/5/07, 2:38 PM  
Blogger Scylla said...

Personally I think children should be allowed pretty much anywhere, if they can handle it.
You are welcome to sit your children by my table anytime! I might even make funny faces at them from time to time!

Sadly, the world is full of selfish people, and the argument is often most vociferously proclaimed by the people most unwilling to compromise.

I will march my daughter out of a restaurant leaving an uneaten meal behind before I will let her ruin the dinners of other diners, but I am not about to nurse my baby next to a toilet or teach my child that fast food is the only place for kids.

Maybe if more people brought their children to restaurants without a play yard and expected good behavior from them there would be more well behaved children in our culture.

I am warmed to know you got to go have a nice meal and feel more human. I think I am going to have to do the same.

10/5/07, 9:13 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

You are right. There is no repect anymore for families. I see the way restraunt staff looks at me when I walk in with my two children (2 and 4). In college I waited tables and all the waiters would say, "You don't want the tables with children. They never tip well and make giant messes." The manager would even sit families in the section where the "less efficient" wait staff was working. Now as a parent I make it a point to tip well and I always clean up after my children. I don't leave their crumbs and dropped food on the floor. I am responsible for my children and I will not leave their mess behind like that. In stores and all kinds of places I find that people are annoyed when mom has children in tow. Families should be celebrated. Instead children are looked upon as something that hold people back or change peoples lives in negative ways. Life may be different as a parent but children have cerainly changed my life in amazing wonderful ways.

10/5/07, 11:30 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Amen. Ditto. And rock on.

Congrats on your well-deserved PP.

10/6/07, 8:12 AM  
Anonymous supertiff said...

humph. i just wrote a really long comment here, but then i went back and tried to read all of the other comments before hitting 'post', in order to make sure i wasn't saying anything that would offend anyone...but then my comment disappeared. so, now i'm just going to post about it at my site...with inspirational props given to you, of course.

(p.s. and, when i say 'now' i mean sometime in the next few days, obviously. dancing with the stars is starting in a few minutes...)

10/8/07, 7:50 PM  
Anonymous kimblahg said...

AMEN! I have 2 yr old triplets so we cannot take them to most restaurants. Even the hostesses at the places with paper tablecloths and cheap Mac n Cheese sigh and roll their eyes if they see us coming.

10/9/07, 9:42 AM  
Blogger D.B. Echo said...

I found this post courtesy of supertiff.

I have never had a problem with children in restaurants, assuming they are reasonably well-behaved. And when the children are not, and instead run around like maniacs while the waitstaff delivers trays full of sizzling hot fajitas to various tables as the parents sit idly by, I have an issue with the parents, not the children. Most of the time I find children in restaurants delightful.

I was surprised during a recent visit to Ireland and England to find that children are prohibited in many restaurants there. I was told that the issue in Ireland, at least, was not that of the behavior of the children, but rather the behavior of the adults: Parents would go into a pub with their kids, tell them to go lie down on a bench somewhere and take a nap, and proceed to get completely drunk. Cheaper than hiring a babysitter for the night, I suppose.

And on another note, I think that anyone who finds breastfeeding in public disgusting, repugnant, or offensive needs to grow up.

10/9/07, 3:24 PM  
Blogger Staci Schoff said...

We take our kids to any kind of restaurant we please. Fuck anybody who doesn't like it.

But then we're really strict, mean, old-school sort of parents and we make them act at least ten years older than they are while we're there. They still enjoy going though.

Usually. Tonight I took them for dessert at Moonstruck Chocolate Bar (which I know isn't quite a French restaurant, but still) and I let them pick a $25 (!!!!!!!) Halloween chocolate something or other. And we sat down and they started arguing, one of them screamed. And I said, "you will share and be kind and be quiet, or I will take that and we will leave."

And they argued and I took it and got up and walked out while they followed me, both of them bawling all the way to the car.

But most of the time it's a good experience!

10/13/07, 11:43 PM  
Blogger Just Seeking said...

Most of the time, I just want to move to Europe---Italy or Spain---where families and children are celebrated. Or even to Mexico. Or to Sweden or Norway where families are truly honored in their political system (not just given lipservice to) with their extensive maternity leaves and long vacation times.
But also in these places, children are expected to behave. Just like adults, you can't be obnoxious and get away with it. Americans are such a--holes sometimes. So arrogant and self-centered we just assume our bratty kid has a right to be bratty. It's annoying as sin.
I wonder what would happen if we all started appreciating and respecting families for real. Think our kids would get less bratty? think our parents would start expecting them to be more respectful and polite? hmm. I'm guessing yes.
But I'm still moving, dang it!

10/14/07, 10:44 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Oh YES. I loved this. It's so true. I have had plenty of meals ruined by people and their unruly kids, but I've also seen people with nicely behaved children enjoying their meals in a most civilised manner. My parents used to take me with them everywhere too, restaurants, operas, whatever, and I was expected to behave accordingly. If you've got a kid who is capable of sitting, it's a great thing to be able to share and enjoy with them the things that you love. (Working on it with Pumpkinpie - some days it's great, some days, not so much.)

10/17/07, 10:58 AM  

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