Monday, August 1, 2011

Kid free restaurants and movie theaters? Bravo!

Not so long ago I wrote about travel with children and advised those who don't want to fly near small kids to purchase their own planes. I stand by that sentiment. Commercial air travel is mass transit, and in countless instances, the only practical way to move from point A to point B.

In that post, I also said I would never in a million years take the Grape to a five star restaurant.

If a new trend picks up steam, I won't have that option much longer.

A number of restaurants and movie theaters across the country are doing what hundreds of small hotels have done for decades: they've banned children. And I say, Hooray!

I love my kid. I love eating in restaurants. And I'm blessed with enough self-awareness to understand that other people don't find the Grape as charming as R. and I do. We've bolted from neighborhood restaurants because he was disturbing other patrons. But we've also left restaurants without ordering more drinks or dessert that we would have otherwise purchased, because someone else couldn't (or wouldn't) shut up and/or remove their brats.

Parents often say, we need to practice dining out, so Junior learns to behave.

Absolutely. We're with you. A hundred per cent.

But may I suggest that certain establishments are more suitable "practice restaurants" than others? And that if you need to ask if a place fits the bill, you already know the answer.

We take the Grape out to eat often, and we tend to choose places with children's menus. Because let's be real. Last Friday night, we ate out with another family. It was duly early, around 6 p.m. The place offered an extensive kids' menu, plenty of high chairs and even crayons. The Grape and his little friend (who will also celebrate her second birthday soon) had a ball smearing butter into their hair with their spoons, while her parents and R. and I tossed back a couple of beers and pleaded with the waiter to bring out the kids' meals pronto.

Here's the thing that gets me: I'm okay with this kind of behavior before seven p.m. in a self-described family restaurant. I am not okay with seeing it, even from across the room, in a fine dining establishment. Every once in a while, in response to an innocent request for restaurant recommendations, some SanctiMommy or other posts on GardenMoms about how she takes her less than two-year-old to a five star place after nine p.m., and "It's totally fine!"

Let me be crystal clear: It is NOT fine.

People who shell out upwards of fifty bucks a nose for dinner aren't just out to get fed. They expect a certain ambiance with their food and wine. One that does not include children of a certain tender age. Even if they're relatively quiet. And yes, it's still obnoxious if your kid is watching a movie on your iPad in an establishment of white linen caliber. Especially after the blue hair and high chair hour.

Why? Because the kid with the movie or Angry Birds or whatever isn't learning to behave in a nice place; he or she is learning that mom and dad must provide kid centric entertainment at all times and in all places.

Sometime last year, an indignant world-revolves-around-my-kid parent attempted to incite a boycott of a wildly popular sushi bar because they refused to seat her and her (under three-year-old) children at eight o'clock on a Friday night.

R. and I immediately added the place to our date night rotation.

I also expect that movie theaters offering adults-only screenings at evening show times will rake in more money. Wouldn't you pay a teeny bit extra to avoid the dolts who think it's okay to bring their newborn to a late night action flick? It's kind of the same concept as the restaurants: If you go see Winnie the Pooh, you should be happy to sit among squirmy, chatty children. If you're there to see the latest Oscar winning picture, you're within your rights to expect an audience mature enough to sit quietly through a two hour feature.

This really shouldn't be controversial. At least not in my humble opinion.

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