My Etiquette for Eating Out with Small Children (Or : Why Can't We all Just Get Along?)
From time to time there are articles in the media about Restaurants/Cafes/Fellow Diners who can't tolerate kids dining around them VS Out There Breastfeeding Mothers with uncontrolled kids running around. It amuses me to read them but I can see where both sides are coming from. Adults out for an evening meal, either having a night out getting away from their own kids, or who have no children of their own, have a right to a peaceful and enjoyable time without being disturbed by screaming kids running around. Yet adults with families of young children should not be barred from dining out and be the recipient of death glares just because they are now parents. And most businesses obviously want the patronage of families who spend money, but don't want kids who run amuck scare off their other diners.
I love dining out, and have probably done so since I was a kid myself. I have fond memories of eating out at restaurants with my parents on saturday nights from when I was young, learning to use the right fork for the right course and trying out food from different countries around the world. (I loved Escargots and thought they were some sort of seafood until I was 9, then I stopped eating them when I learnt the truth!!) From learning how to drink soup politely from a soup-plate, to learning to read the menu and mastering the art of keeping the napkin from falling off your lap, these are all important things I'm glad I learnt from my childhood; and I hope to give my kids the opportunity to learn and enjoy these experiences too!
Here are a few things I do to try and minimise the stress of eating out for us and for the restaurants and their patrons too:
- If the restaurant needs to be booked, I will always ring ahead and warn them about how many kids will be attending, and whether I will have a pram along. Most restaurants endeavour to give us a table which is a bit out of the way, with room for the pram.
- Aim for earlier meal sittings. The kids get home early to bed and you avoid most of the non-parent date-night couples. It's a win-win situation.
- I often bring some kids cutlery and a pair of scissors in a tupperware box just in case. My kids have not mastered chopsticks yet and sometimes having the cutlery on hand in a busy restaurant ensures I don't have to wave the staff down 15 times to ask for different things.
- I try to bring some sort of entertainment for the kids, be it a game, some crayons or a book, so that they can be occupied and be (relatively) quiet while waiting for the meals to come.
- If there are "accidents" and there's food dropped on the floor or there's a bit of a mess, we will try and clean up as much as possible. Hard enough having to clean up after your own kid, let alone the poor waiter who has to clean up after yours!
- Wet wipes, always bring wet wipes!!!