Parent and fomer restaurateur, Cathy Marston delves into this rather contentions topic.
As we come to the end of the festive season and people start to wind their weary way back home after the holidays, many of us will be hoping that things return to normal – certainly in terms of dining.
One of the problems with people eating out whilst on holiday is that it is very difficult to get babysitters and this has resulted in some unpleasant experiences for us and other diners when people have let their infant brats ruin our carefully-planned meal. Now, I’m as kid-friendly as the next mum but should there be a line drawn between eating out with your ickle darlings and leaving them behind? Mmm – maybe, maybe.
It’s fine-dining, not the Spur
The first point to understand in this debate is that we’re talking about fine-dining restaurants here – not kid-friendly places where a child is an essential accessory.
I spoke to a few of the current Top Ten restaurants in SA to get their views and kids should be at least 12 if they want to dine in places such as The Test Kitchen, Greenhouse or Rust & Vrede, simply because the menus are more sophisticated and they feel that children need to be of an age when they can appreciate them because alternatives (ie kids menus) cannot be offered.
Get a sitter
It seems there are two schools of thought when it comes to this debate. One side says that if you can afford to pay R1000+ for dinner, you can afford a babysitter and it’s better (for everyone) if you have some quality adult-time without your little angels. It’s hardly fair on other diners (who may well have forked out for a babysitter themselves) to have their relaxing evening ruined by the presence of other people’s kids.
Children need to learn how to behave
The other school of thought is that children need to learn how to behave in a restaurant and if they are taught this by their parents, then they won’t be disturbing people anyway. I tend to agree with this – but how do you know that your standard of behaviour is the same as the next person's? You don’t and this can cause friction, as can their behaviour whilst they are learning what is acceptable.
For what it’s worth – here are 5 rules my son abides by when we eat out. And these apply whether he eats at a Top Ten restaurant (and he has) or a family café.
1. Never, ever, ever run inside a restaurant
Cardinal rule - waiters are carrying hot food, glasses, sharp knives – do you want these things dropped on your kids?
2. Don’t play with/waste the condiments
Making a soup of oil, vinegar, ketchup, sugar sachets, salt cellars is not funny or cute. It’s disgusting for others to see and it’s bad manners.
3. If you can’t talk, play in silence
Yes, it would be lovely to think that my child will chat knowledgeably with us on the topics of the day, but after a certain point, we have been known to fall back on something electric to occupy him as we linger over our meal. Turn the sound OFF – nobody else wants to hear pigs being thrown at rickety buildings.
4. You eat at the table, not elsewhere
Is there anything more disgusting than seeing a child wander around with a mouthful of food spilling out? Bad for digestion, bad manners, bad habit. Sit and eat, or leave and don’t.
5. Ps & Qs
Since he’s been old enough to speak properly, my son has asked for his own drinks and food. And he asks with a ‘please’ and he says ‘thank you’ to the waiter when it arrives. Or he goes hungry and thirsty.
Or should we all just chill?
Perhaps we are all making too much fuss about this and if everyone just relaxed, remembered they were also kids once and had a bit of tolerance, then this wouldn’t be such a big deal? What do you think – tell us below!
So tell us what you think below and vote:
Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter @CathyMarston
By: Cathy Marston