A blog about ramblings in my head

Dining out with our children August 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — scorpiomamma @ 1:08 am
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Yesterday an online discussion about children and their behavior while dining in restaurants caught my attention, the gist of the conversation was that if taught early by their well-mannered and thoughtful parents it was quite possible to create perfectly behaved children whilst dining out. My friend Mark wrote a blog on his positive experiences.

This discussion evoked a very powerful response and I found myself wanting to jump down the screen defending not only myself but all the other parents in my position yelling that it is not always that simple.  I am one of those parents belonging to children that invite the stares and misunderstandings and just because a child appears to be ill-mannered or badly behaved does not mean that the parents are always irresponsible.

Of the parents that I know with “highly sensitive” children we are only too aware of the disapproving looks we get when our child has a melt down in public. As a baby and toddler, there are understanding nods and smiles from fellow parents, they are in the club and understand all too well but as these children get older the understanding nods start changing into disapproving glares.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the theory in principle but now having lived it I realize it isn’t always as simple as teaching our children appropriate behaviours and them suddenly responding appropriately.  Some children just don’t get it, some children like mine don’t always get the consequences or pick up on the subtle nuances that other “normal” children pick up on.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t have our rules but the way we teach them or police them is different.  There has to be give and take, some days you need to pick your battles.

My youngest child is easily overstimulated and his senses can lead him in all sorts of directions, he is more interested in his particular want of the moment than any consequences that befall him.  It can be very challenging as is trying to find toys/games that will occupy him long enough to sit at the table and be quite.  We use many techniques and will resort to using electronic gadgets as this will keep him entertained just long enough to enjoy a meal.  Some people may call this bad parenting we call it a necessary distraction.

We would not take him to a Michelin star restaurant as that would be very inappropriate for us we aim for family friendly establishments however sometimes that can simply mean they allow children to be present and are not so friendly at all.  Some of these venues don’t really cater for children other than supplying high chairs and at 4 he is just a little too big.

There are times of course when it is totally appropriate to remove a child from a venue so as not to disturb others, funerals, weddings and concerts, just to name a few.  We have been known to pack up and scuttle out as fast as humanly possibly remembering to jot down the name in our book of places we can never return and it is also possible to calm a child down discretely so as not to draw unwanted attention. However, there are times when we don’t  want to care about other people or whether we are bothering them, when we want to pretend we are normal and eat our meal without interruptions or distractions.  So what if the Munchkin is spreading food all over the table or his person, so what if the children are becoming a little rowdy and bordering on being a nuisance. can’t we just have this one moment?  We are after all paying customers and we are all human.  Why is it okay for the man at the next table to have a tantrum that his meal was late and not for our child to have a tantrum that he can’t have blue ice cream?

For many reasons parents are not always in a position to leave the  children with family on a regular basis, a babysitter on top of dinner is often way beyond the budget or the child is too unpredictable to inflict upon the unsuspecting baby sitter. We are all trying to do our best and learn different coping skills and rather than judging people for their lack of parenting skills or unruly behavior I try to be compassionate, perhaps they are simply having a bad day and like me they are merely trying to pretend that they have an otherwise normal existence and they can be like the other perfectly behaved families eating at the other tables.

We might be disturbing your dining experience but you get to go home to your quiet and neat little lives, we have to take our noise home.  Is a little compassion and understanding really that much to ask?


2 Responses to “Dining out with our children”

  1. Mark Says:

    Thank you for showing it from your point of view. I do, of course understand that it isn’t a perfect world and that even the best kids get out of control from time to time. And not every kid is a perfect angel. It certainly is more expected to happen in an establishment that caters to children, and anyone eating there should expect a certain amount of that type of behavior. One thing I have always said is that I never get upset with the child when that happens. In fact, if a parent is a caring parent, and does make an effort to keep the child from disturbing others, even if it is unsuccessful, I have no problem with that parent (or parents) either. It’s the parents who don’t care at all and never make even the most fundamental attempts at educating their child that I have a problem with.

    I haven’t known you long, but I do know you well enough to know that you are a caring parent who has to deal with the realities of the situation. And I agree, it’s not always children who act inappropriately in restaurants.

  2. So glad you told the other half of the story. I am like you in both respects. When I am out and about without my kids I save up big smiles for parents out with their kids, especially when the kids are not coping so well. I do this because the last thing you need when it is all falling apart is that judgemental stare that we have all experienced, maybe some more than others. What parents need, and if we are truly a village, is support from the community around us. And understanding. And the realisation that kids belong in the world, they are part of the community, and rather than making kids (and mothers) feel that really they should have just stayed at home, what would be better for everybody is that we did our best to make the world as child friendly as possible.
    I am v happy to say that in California most restaurants are v child friendly, much more so than in Sydney where we basically restricted our eating out to a very small number of places.
    My experience with babysitters is basically zero. My oldest child had extreme separation anxiety and up until the age of 5 we lived overseas. So going out and leaving the kids with somebody was just not an option. Now we are family with 4 kids and again living overseas. And with a strong strain of aspie running through the family I am not confident about leaving my kids (now mainly my youngest) with somebody who we do not know incredibly well. Basically for me that means family. So if we want to go out it is an all or nothing affair.
    These days my kids do pretty well when we are out. But I am sure we have irritated many – what is funny is that the disapproving looks seem to come regardless of actual behaviour. Same with smiles. I have the sense that some people embrace kids, and that means kids in all their glory, and some only accept kids when they are being very unkid like.
    I agree with Mark that obviously as parents we need to be sensitive to the impact our kids are having. And sometimes we do indeed need to take them for a run outside while waiting for the food to arrive. But in general I think most parents are doing their best under all the circumstances.

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