• Fri, Jan 17 - 1:00 pm ET

STFU Parents: Who’s More Annoying In Restaurants: Babies, Or Their Parents?

This week, a significant amount of media attention was paid to the story about the couple that brought their baby to a high-end restaurant after their sitter canceled. The restaurant, Alinea, is fish-heads-on-a-platter upscale dining and requires pre-purchasing tickets that cost $470 for two. If you ask me, that already sounds like it could be a recipe for “dining with assholes,” which might explain why the parents opted to bring along their baby rather than cancel the reservation and potentially forego the $470. When you’re spending close to $500 on food before figuring in alcohol, tax, and tip, you’re already a calibre of person who may or may not think the world is his oyster. Or fish head, or whatever. Speaking as someone who could, perhaps, be enticed by a $235 meal, I’m not suggesting that every single person who eats at a restaurant with Michelin stars is self-centered or insanely wealthy. But I am saying that restaurants of this nature anticipate a level of sophistication from patrons that some of today’s foodies may not possess.

It’s common sense that parents shouldn’t bring a baby to a Michelin-starred restaurant, particularly when the restaurant doesn’t offer a kids menu. It’s also common sense to take the baby outside if he gets upset. When the Alinea couple didn’t do that, and the chef took to Twitter, a debate ensued that didn’t even exist for parents of a previous generation. Back then, for example, signs like this weren’t commonly seen in sports bars:

1. restaurant sign to parents.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeesh. Good-natured signs about giving unattended children free kittens and espresso are officially a thing of the past. We’ve entered the era where sports bars and fine dining restaurants like Alinea now need to spell out in stern terms for patrons, a few of whom they clearly detest, that their unsupervised or loud children are not welcome. This upsets the rest of the parent population, because exposing children to restaurants early on can be a good learning experience. Those parents get the stink eye when they take their kids out — even when their kids are being good, even when it’s 5:30pm and they’re at a family friendly restaurant — and think it’s unfair to hate on all children in all restaurants or relegate kids to fast food chains.

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  • ytownpiggy

    My husband and I are kidless by choice, but we’re also teachers. We tend to have an understanding of the difference between ‘kids being kids’ and kids acting like tiny axe murderers on speed. He tends to have a higher tolerance than I do because he’s from a large family with tons of kids around and my main experience with kids is from my sister being 12 years younger than me.

    That being said, the mere presence of kids doesn’t bother me, it’s the repetitive sounds that seem to bypass the parents’ ears and drill a hole straight into my brain. Aside from the “Mommy… Mommy… Mommy… Hey! Hey! Hey! Look at me! Look at me! Look at MEEEEEEEEEE!” that makes me insane, it’s this thing that a lot of kids tend to do (I think without even realizing that they’re doing it). I first noticed it when I was working in a grocery store with those gigantic plastic kid carts shaped like a car. They tend to swing their feet (I think because they have short little legs) and you just hear *thump* *thump* *THUMP* against the cart. It never fails that when we’re in a restaurant with booths, there’s always a kid doing that. The parents never seem to notice (tuning it out? Used to it, therefore immune?) but I end up feeling like I’m in The Telltale Heart after about a solid half hour of thumping.

    I can handle the general kid sounds in a restaurant (except the random piercing scream of a toddler who just discovered their ability to do it, therefore it’s the Best Thing Ever and must be demonstrated at random) and generally don’t mind them, but I do tend to wish that I could glue a piece of impact absorbing foam to the areas directly behind their damn little feet.

  • Lackadaisical

    Personally if we take our kids to a restaurant we do it at lunch time or earlier in the evening so that we have left the restaurant before 6pm for adults to enjoy a more civilized dining experience. I would take a crying kid out (and not insist my other diner do it so that I could finish my meal while scowling as one of those examples did). While I took my kids to restaurants for lunch as kids, we didn’t take them there for evening meals until much later. My youngest is 4, hence my taking them home by 6pm, but I think my oldest would be old enough to stay longer (10 years old) if there were ever a reason to eat out with him without the younger ones. Obviously if my kids misbehaved we would pay and leave immediately even if it meant they get sandwiches for tea (at 4 – 7 if they misbehaved in a restaurant then they would be in a lot of trouble when we got home).

    I do think as kids get older it is important to take children out occasionally to teach good public manners, but only after you have taught them manners at home. I have been mortifiedmortified in restaurants by grown up friends with awful table manners and awful attitudes to serving staff because they had never eaten out anywhere but McDonald’s. The poor table manners I could live with, although I wouldn’t want my kids to have manners like that as adults, but the awful attitudes they had to the serving staff was completely out of order. The rudeness appeared to be down to feeling awkward in a setting they were not used to and embarrassment due to other members of the party shaming them on their manners (and I personally think that shaming them was just as bad manners) but that doesn’t excuse making the staff feel awkward or insulted. It made me feel that it is important to take kids out and show them how to behave as they get older, but as I said you have to teach them manners at home so that they are pleasant for other diners.

  • Berry

    A very good friend of mine too her autistic five year old out to eat. And he was making noise and peeking at the other table. He stood up in the booth a few times. But otherwise, he was really good. This really catty lady at the other table was like, “Control your demon child.” My friend tried holding him to keep him sitting down, but he just got louder. So she let him stand up and explained his autism to the lady behind her. And the lady was like, “Maybe you cage him up.” She was really rude.

    • EozS

      Making noise, standing on the booth and staring at other patrons is rude and distracting. Your friend should have removed him if she couldn’t control him. The lady was rude, too, to say those things – but she would not have been if the kid had not been disrupting her meal.

    • Fluffy_1

      Maybe your friend should have brought some paper and crayons, or a book. Even an autistic child can be taught to sit quietly. I know cuz I was that child once, and my parents let me bring my book if they took me to restaurants. Also, if the kid isn’t ready for dining out yet, then your friend shouldn’t be selfish and should just get takeout til he’s ready.

  • Natassia H.

    I was a server for awhile and this was a restaurant where burgers were 14 pounds (20 bucks Canadian). So yeah, not a cheap place, but yet people would still bring their kids and let them run amuck. One time I nearly got burnt because I was carrying a steamed pot of mussels out of the kitchen and I nearly tripped over someones brat. My boss was livid, she told the parents that this isn’t a damn playground.

    • MellyG

      GOOD for your boss!

  • Sara

    My mom once insisted we take my then 2 yr old son to a super fancy seafood place on the coast, and it was the most horrifying experience. He was great for a 2 year old but not for the place we were at. My mother was oblivious to the stares and comment, but I wanted to sink through the floor. I have no problem bringing my son out, I agree they need to be exposed to real resturaunts, not just fast food, but not super fancy places until they prove they can handle Friendly’s. I totally felt for the other diners, and appologized profusely to them.

  • MellyG

    Ayelet? SERIOUSLY?

    When i was little, and i’m talking at least until high school, dining out with my parents was a treat. Our family wasn’t the dining out type, we were a homemade meals around the dinner table, order pizza on friday night type of family. A couple times a month my PARENTS dined out, but it was THEIR time. Occasionally, they’d take me with them, and it was understood that restaurant time meant best behavior, and if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any more nights out with the parents! (and if my parents had to take me outside – i guarantee that would have been my last restaurant for a LONG time).

    When I’m a parent, I’m likely to do the same – going out to dinner (or the movies, or whatever) is an experience. You’re paying for the EXPERIENCE. The ambiance, the fact that someone is waiting on you…….and I COMPLETELY understand wanting to enjoy that experience with a lack of screaming babies or toddlers, or chaos in general.

    My dad also told me, back when there were still smoking sections, he used to ask for them when dining out, except when I was with them. He doesn’t smoke – he wanted to avoid kids. I’m my father’s daughter – when I waitressed in college and law school i wanted to be the waitress IN the smoking section – no kids, bigger drinkers, better tippers ;) (For the most part!)

    • Gangle

      That reminds me of a story my Mother in Law told me. She had three boys, all close together in age, and when they were old enough to follow direction, for special family occasions they would go out for a nice meal. All the way there she would remind the boys that they were to be on their best behaviour, as this wasn’t the farm or McDonalds, and there would be dire consequences for playing up. My husband says he remembers being too afraid to muck up out at dinner, but was glad in the long run for the education on dining etiquette.

    • MellyG

      Yep, that was my parents for sure! And I did enjoy eating out, it was just hammered into me that i had to be on even BETTER behavior at home (i was still expected to have manners at home, but my dad, who is a grown child, lol, allowed him and I to be silly at HOME, just not OUT to dinner)

  • g.strathmore

    It’s not necessary for little children to experience restaurants. That’s nonsense to me. Little kids don’t get anything out of going to restaurants. I didn’t enjoy going to restaurants until I was at least 10. Before that it was boring, uncomfortable, and the food never tasted “right.” Wait until they’re older. Until then, order take out.

    • Fluffy_1

      Agreed. I didn’t even see the inside of a restaurant til I was ten years old, yet I magically knew how to behave at table. Wow, how did this miracle occurr? Well, my parents made my brothers and I utilise table manners every single day at every single meal. We had to sit still and not scream or shout; talking was allowed, but only using an indoor voice. Rather than reaching across the table, we had to ask someone politely to pass the item to us. If we wanted to get down, we asked our parents politely.

      Yeah, today’s parents will no doubt throw up their hands in horror at such effort, but it made the transition from dinner at home to dinner in a restaurant seamlessly easy. And of course, we knew damn well that the slightest hint of misbehaviour and we’d all be going home, missing out on the great treat of eating out. With the guilty child given a discrete punch by their siblings for ruining said treat. XD

    • EX

      It may not be necessary, but my 2.5 year old asks at least once a week to go to a restaurant. Maybe she hates my cooking (I’m not going to rule out that possibility) but I think she just likes to get out and experience something different every once in a while.

    • rrlo

      My 2.5 year old enjoys going to restaurants. And so do we. We are not all the same. Avoiding all restaurants is unrealistic and unnecessary for 10+ years.
      Banning parents of kids under 10 from restaurant is neither now or will ever be the solution. I know you’re probably joking but it’s a little offensive. As if we have committed some heinous crime by having children and now have to forever live in shame and fear of other people.
      Parents best effort at ensuring the behaviour of their children is within the confines of what is considered polite and acceptable by society as a whole should be good enough.

  • ISAWthat

    “We take our kids everywhere so I don’t understand people who are so obnoxious about it”. Does anyone besides me marvel at the ultimate sense of entitlement of this statement? As if what Kit does is automatically what everyone else MUST accept as the ‘right’ thing? I’m gobsmacked.

  • Fluffy_1

    I feel that this video pretty much sums my feelings up on this matter.

    http://www.whoisthemonkey.com/videos/26family-guy-brian-flips-out-on-baby

  • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

    I am always surprised at this debate. I have been taking my kids out to restaurants since they were born. I have never had any dirty looks. One restaurant was borderline fancy, but my mother-in-law picked it. They called to make sure kids were welcome. I have taken them to my mother-in-law’s fancy social clubs where kids are only allowed on certain days. I have never had any complaints or dirty looks. The only time they misbehaved was when I went with a neighbor who doesn’t take her kids out as much. It son was hyper and kept winding up my kids. Once my daughter spilled something, the waitress brought us a damp cloth with a smile and a new drink. Mostly, they sit in their seats, color, or we play tick tack toe. They know they need to stay in their seats because they have always been require to stay in their seats. My 7 year old is now trusted to walk to a buffet, get a roll and come back or go to the bathroom. She knows she is not permitted to run or veer from the course. One Chinese Buffet restaurant we went to had one of those signs that said they were not permitted unattended, so I escorted her to the bathroom just in case. I have never really noticed kids behaving badly either but then there is a sign so it must happen.

    Maybe it helps that my mother-in-law hosts multi course fancy dinners in her home and the kids are expected to attend and sit through it. If they get bored I will make up stories for them. Plus we eat dinner at the table every night and the kids are expected to sit at the table and use proper table manners ever night. We have a conversation. My husband gets mad if they hold their fork ‘like an ogre’ or use the wrong hand for their knife. If they did make fuss in a restaurant I would take them outside.

    They love going to restaurants, and it is a treat for them, so they are usually happy when we go.

  • Alais

    I’m not a parent, nor do I plan on being one, but I am always in a fury when people refuse to PARENT their stupid kids (This is a very irritating subject, so I’ll try to minimize hurtful descriptors). I was at a wedding this weekend and I was sitting with my boyfriend at a table watching the toasting of the bride and groom. What I saw next astonished me: There were kids running around the hall the reception was being held in and during a heart felt speech by the bride’s father, a child was literally WAILING and screaming whilst running around. I wanted to grab that kid by the fucking scruff (He was about five, so he’s old enough to know how to behave!) and toss him in his mother’s lap and give her a good fucking slap. How rude and disrespectful to the bride and groom. And he wasn’t the only one doing it. There were other kids being disruptive, but not nearly as disruptive. During the rest of the evening, the kids were forever running under the guests’ feet, even one time crawling under my chair to retrieve a lost ball that had been thrown at me. When I was standing and waiting for my food, one child even decided to THWACK me on the back of the legs with a toy light-saber. I had never been so mad in my life.
    I don’t mind well-behaved children, and I even commend people when their child behaves like a human. It’s very sad that this laissez faire-style of parenting is becoming the societal norm. I’m not sure if it’s because the millennial generation (Which I am the tail-end of) were just lazy, spoiled brats and don’t think their precious little snowflake children can do no wrong, or because they couldn’t learn etiquette and manners if they were lodged in their frontal cortex. If I was five years old and behaving like that, my mother would have died from embarrassment after she hauled my sorry ass out there and was given a VERY stern lecture. I am sick to death of parents thinking that it’s the public’s duty to watch out for their monster while underfoot of the serving staff, running about in the kitchen (OMFG!!!!), or otherwise misbehaving. I do not and WILL NOT tolerate badly behaved children because their parents won’t rein them in. Babies and kids cry and become upset, I get it. I used to babysit a lot. But what they DO NOT and SHOULD NOT be doing is disrupting a toast at a wedding with their hollering, pushing into wait staff, and most certainly should not be HITTING people with toys. I don’t care who the Hell you are, if you refuse to parent your child and take care of them while you’re out, then I will. And I will have no qualms about it. I won’t watch a child get hot food dumped on them because you’re playing Candy Crush on your phone. But I will crush your phone with my fist after rescuing your kid.

    Sorry, guys. End rant. I needed to get that off my chest.

    • Jamie Shaffer

      Don’t even get me started on the “misbehaving kids at weddings” thing! At my brother’s wedding, his soon-to-be (and old enough to know better) step-daughter ran around the altar screaming and talking to herself while the ceremony was going on. She then knocked over a pillar of lighted candles while trying to play with the ring bearer, one of which rolled across the floor, still lit. The wedding party – including her mother – thought it was hilarious and did nothing. The preacher, who looked completely pissed by that point, stopped the ceremony and demanded that someone pick up the candle before something caught on fire. I guess it was lucky that it was only the parent’s wedding that was ruined, but it was horrible. Most annoyed I’ve EVER been at a kid (well, except for maybe the five-year-old who slapped me in a mall elevator when I tried to push my floor number!). Marriage only lasted six months, too.

    • C.J.

      A friend of mine who has a daughter with many mental health issues got married a couple years ago and her daughter didn’t even act like that. Her daughter who was 9 at the time had ODD, developmental delays, learning disabilities and has been diagnosed bi-polar (don’t remember what the proper term is for bi-polar kids). We had plans, back up plans and back up plans to the back up plans to help her through the day. Her mom was very worried the day would be way to over stimulating for her. I was the made of honour. I took the girl aside the night before and told her we would be buddies for the wedding and if she was having trouble to come to me or my husband. Luckily she trusts us and feels comfortable with us. Everyone else was asked not to approach her if there was an issue. I only had to take her outside once while we were waiting for the reception to start. I could see she was becoming overwhelmed but she was able to avoid a meltdown. My husband brought a laptop, movies and headphones and sat at the back of the room at the reception. When she had enough she went to him and sat quietly and watched movies. There was no running, screaming, tantrums or anything else. If this child could make it through standing in a wedding without disturbing anyone there is no excuse for most other children to act that way.

    • Bec

      I always find it so interesting how people parent in formal occasions and what this says about where they place themselves in the world. At my dad’s funeral we had two 14 month-ish babies present. Both families had travelled interstate to be there and had no one they could leave the kidlets with. One belonged to my best friend who had a long time ago announced that she was ‘adopting’ my parents due to issues with her own parents and the other belonged to my cousin who probably only saw my dad once a year if that due to family issues. During the funeral service, which was long, both bubs obviously got fussy at different points. When my friend’s daughter got fussy her husband got up and took her outside to walk around so the rest of us weren’t disturbed. My cousin and her husband stayed where they were while their daughter whined and jumped and banged on the pew. After the funeral my cousin apologised but said that she couldn’t have coped being in the service without her husband to support her, she was just ‘so upset’. Such a difference in attitude and in recognising how their child’s behaviour (which I am in no way blaming the kids for) impact on those around them.

    • Fluffy_1

      I agree with you, especially on the “brats at weddings” thing. When I get married, my wedding with be child free save for those directly related to me… and those kids will be packed off home at around seven thirty if still young enough to require an early bedtime. I don’t get why people drag their kids to weddings anyway; weddings are boring to small kids who’d much prefer to stay with Granny or a babysitter rather than sit around watching adults talk all the time.

  • nokidswithmysteakplz

    i wish i knew when and where these updates were posted…i have a sneaking suspicion that my husband and I are the B-holes in everyone’s statuses….

  • Tilla

    Have to be honest I wasn’t sure what a “B-hole” was at first….
    Who needs to censor the word butt? Really?

    • croutonthegreat

      I thought it meant bitch-hole. It seemed like an odd and rather unpleasant way to refer to a body part that the two of them both have.

  • h

    I have worked for the better part of my adult life in a restaurant that I would consider family-friendly. Not for kids specifically, but not anti-kid. We have a kids menu and we have a bar. We serve families as well as dates, business meetings, guys watching the game, etc. Typical casual dining place. So in this situation it is never a question of whether kids are welcome (they absolutely are), but what types of behaviors are acceptable or not.

    On the cleanliness issue, I honestly think most restaurant employees are a little unfair in their whining about kids. Anyone who goes out – with or without kids – wants to enjoy a meal without having to cook or clean. It is our job to clean. Kids are usually messier than adults. Is it annoying to clean up a kid-destroyed table? YES, a million times YES, but guess what, it is part of our job, and every job has annoying aspects. Parents, a sincere thank you and good tip are sufficient (if the service was good), please do not worry about every crumb. Take a night off from cleaning.

    HOWEVER all of that is negated when it comes to a biohazard. I had a friend/coworker who was waiting on a family and unfortunately had a toddler in a high chair vomit at the table. It happens, kids get sick. And certainly if it happens, you want to get your kid home, which this couple did, but with no cleanup help. Both parents were present: one could have taken the kid to the car while the other helped clean the puke, but nope. This server was stuck having to detail and disinfect a high chair and booth, quickly so as not to leave it out and spread germs/offend other guests, therefore her service to other tables suffered and so did her tips from them, not to mention her risking getting sick herself while cleaning it all up. :(

    And please do not let your kids run around the restaurant. If they are getting antsy, take a walk WITH them. Running kids are so unsafe around people with trays of glassware and hot food. Yes we should be watching, but in a split second a kid could run into our path. I would rather clean messy tables all day than see one kid being unsafe.

  • STFUParents

    Hi all – I just wanted to make a quick statement on my joke regarding the name Ayelet. I’ve received a couple of private emails from people who were offended by that, and I wanted to clear it up in case anyone else took offense to my calling it out. Here is what I wrote:

    When I said “cultural” I meant “Hebrew,” as Ayelet is a Hebrew name. I myself am Jewish and was bat mitzvah’d; however, if I gave my child the name “Ayelet,” it would almost certainly be because I thought it sounded “different” and I could fall back on telling people it’s Hebrew (i.e. a nod to my heritage). If the parents’ names in the post were Israeli, I wouldn’t have called attention to the name Ayelet. But since they’re not, I’m assuming/choosing to believe the name was given for its “unique” factor, even if the child was named after, say, her Israeli grandmother. Like I said, if my *own* grandmother was named Ayelet and I named my child after her, at least 50% of the reasoning would be because it’s different.

    I’ve brought attention to other names in the past that I think were doled out for the same reason. Not every name remarked on is made-up. Usually it’s about the trendiness of it. That’s how I see the whole blog, as calling out various current trends. I wasn’t mocking the fact that Ayelet *exists* as a name, more like the trendiness of the parents for choosing it. I wasn’t trying to offend anyone, so apologize if you were offended. Thank you for reading.

  • Horrid Baby Names

    Amazing how personal responsibility and accountability have been flung out the window with our corsets and duck shooting hats.

  • Ash

    I have one of these stories, from a sibling’s perspective. When I was about 9 and my brothers were 7 and 2 I was with my family on a vacation in Germany. The hotel we stayed at had two restaurants. On our first night, we went down for dinner and we were led by an employee into the nicer of the two. My mom asked about the other restaurant and he told her, “That’s the restaurant for people with dogs.” We got seated at a table with a nice tablecloth and a candle in the middle. After we had ordered our food, my oldest brother and I were quietly coloring, but the 2 year old was getting bored. My parents tried to keep him busy and quiet, and it worked fairly well, at first.

    That’s when he noticed the candle. He had just been to a friend’s birthday party for the first time a few days earlier, so he got really excited and started trying to blow out the candle while shouting at full volume things like “YAY! BIRTHDAY!” and “WHERE’S THE CAKE?” Us kids thought it was hilarious, but my parents were mortified. He spent the rest of the dinner loudly chatting and laughing to all of us, despite my Mom’s urging to lower his volume (unfortunately, it took him another couple years to develop that skill). My Dad even took him out of the restaurant to walk around for a few minutes to try and get him to calm down, but it didn’t last very long. He couldn’t get up to run around and he didn’t try to interact with other tables, but I’m sure he was still pretty obnoxious to a non-family member.

    The next night we were seated in the dog restaurant.

    • Fluffy_1

      Wow, a dog restaurant? How awesome. I think that once I heard that the next room was a dog restaurant, I would have politely demanded that I go there. And I’m an adult. XD

  • LadyL

    Usually I’m a fully registered card-carrying Mombie Hater, but I gotta say, in some of these I agree with the parents. Or at least I agree with Meg in number 4 that the lady was over the top about flower smelling but then again maybe that’s because I’m a 24 year old who fiddles with table arrangements regularly. I kind of doubt that if I, an adult, were in her restaurant admiring the flowers with my hands, as I am wont to do, she would have snatched them out of my hands in the same manner. Also just want to point out that frequently these things are really gendered. I’ve been out with my SIL and their three young kids and seen people giving the evil to her when the kids start getting loud or fidgety, but if I’m with my brother people love to help him out and tell him they just don’t know how he does it. An for the record my SIL is waaay more attentive and pro-active about the kids’ behavior, which is why I think it’s a gender thing. Moms are definitely expected to be more competent and on top of their kids, while people think it’s amazing a dad would even bother to “babysit” his own progeny. Such a double standard.

  • croutonthegreat

    One of my favorite stories about me as a toddler was when we were at a seafood restaurant. It is not a fancy place, definitely family friendly. I was a generally well behaved kid, but eventually on this night I began to cry. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but eventually my dad carried me outside so I could calm down. On the way out my mom could hear him say to me, “The next time you go out to eat, you’ll be old enough to pay for it!”

    Don’t get the wrong idea, my parents weren’t super strict with me. They just were decent enough to not have other people be victim to my, and later my sister’s, bullshit. And god bless them for that.

  • Greyson Flax

    B-Hole. Classy.

    • Betty

      I wondered if she meant something as innocent as butt-hole, or if B-hole stands for something a little more…descriptive or creative, like buttfuck-hole. Or…well, maybe it’s best if I don’t go into it anymore.

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