… the parents, not always. Consider this headline: Parents Say They Struggle To Find Kid-Friendly Bars And Restaurants In D.C.
I freely admit that my eyes just about rolled out of my head when I read “kid-friendly bars.” In the United States, where we have pretty strict laws about entry into drinking establishments, I find it weird that someone would expect kid-friendly bars. (In other places, this wouldn’t be weird, but in the US I think it is.)
In 2016, Petworth neighborhood bar and restaurant Slash Run started asking parents to leave by 8 p.m., largely because of incidents of kids running into the kitchen and a parent changing their child on an outdoor table.
So… no. Just no.
Here’s the thing: I am 100% in favor of taking your kids out to restaurants and even bars, if that is a reasonable thing to do where you live. How else are they going to learn how to behave in restaurants and bars and other places where they will be mixing with other people?
For as much as Perrone—whose kids are now 11 and 9—touts kid-friendly establishments, she recognizes there are limits. When she was searching for a bar or restaurant to replace The Reef, she focused on places with extra space like a second floor and no existing happy hour scene for the childless.
“I would like to relax and have a good time too, and if I’m bothering you and you’re making dirty faces at me, none of us are having a good time,” she says. “We wanted a place where our kids could run around, and we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.”
“Running around” is not how you behave in a restaurant, unless it’s a some kind of special child-themed place like Chuck E. Cheese. When I say “learn to behave in restaurants” I mean “learn to sit at a table, be polite, and be respectful of those around you.”
And yes – this can be pretty challenging with little kids.
A pleasant meal at a restaurant? Sure, but you’re on thin ice. Is the baby going to fuss? Is the toddler going to throw a tantrum or toss food all over the floor? (Which would be worse?)
Yeah, these things are going to happen, but it’s the job adults to cope with them.
My nephew, who’s now in high school, has lived his entire life in San Francisco. He’s also lived his entire life being taken places where adults go. I remember a visit when he was a toddler where his mother and father and I took him to the neighborhood noodle place for dinner. And as toddlers, will do, he got antsy and cranky and started making a fuss.
And whoosh, his dad was out on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant to get him settled down.
Parents: nobody expects your kid to behave perfectly. Nobody expects your kid to sit silently through the meal. What we do expect, when we are at the same restaurant as you, is that you will be a parent while you are there. That you will have explained to your kids that when we are at a restaurant, we sit at our table. That we don’t yell and scream. That we remember that there are other people there to enjoy themselves and we should respect them.
And when that doesn’t stick – because it won’t all the time – you have a backup plan (like the trip to the sidewalk).
That’s all. Nobody expects perfection. We certainly don’t see it from adults. Just don’t sit there beaming at your little one while they run through the room screaming.
Finally – there is clearly a market for child-oriented dining, and the article gives some great examples of places where parents can shill while the kids get their ya-yas out in a kid oriented play space. That’s a great idea and an opportunity for entrepreneurs all over the place. I heartily endorse it, and I will never, ever see you there.