No matter how much you love kids or how many you have yourself, I’m willing to bet that at some point in your life, you’ve been somewhere where the presence of a crying or whining kid made you miserable.
Maybe it was a plane, maybe it was a movie theater, or perhaps, most likely, maybe it was a restaurant.
One Italian eatery in North Carolina is no longer tolerating misbehaving kids, going so far as to ban little ones under age 5. The manager of Caruso’s told the Washington Post that it’s had lots of issues with pint-sized patrons and decided to draw the line after a little girl blasted the volume on her iPad while her oblivious parents refused to turn it down.
Predictably, the move has drawn wrath online in the form of bad reviews. One mom who left a 1-star rating on the restaurant’s Facebook page said she felt that it was a discriminatory move, as well as a slap in the face toward parents with kids who don’t cause a ruckus. Another woman accused the restaurant of doing it all for publicity, while another said that diners looking for a kid-free experience should stay home and hire a private chef.
But many others wholeheartedly support the new policy. They say they shouldn’t be subjected to screaming kids when they’re paying for a good meal, and they’ll now make Caruso’s their go-to for a night out.
As a mom who’s taken her daughter out to plenty of restaurants that aren’t really meant for kids, I can see both sides of this debate. On the one hand, why should parents have to stay home just because we have a kid in tow? Kids often just want to chow down on their $12 bowl of Kraft macaroni and focus on their coloring. They don’t bother anyone, and if their biggest crime is maybe being a little messier than the average grown-up, most parents I know leave a bigger tip than normal to make up for it.
But sadly, there are definitely some people who are automatically offended at the presence of children in restaurants, regardless of their behavior.
On the other hand, we all know that other people’s children are the worst. Whether you’re paying a small fortune to a babysitter for a night out or you’re child-free and planning to stay that way, kids can definitely ruin the relaxing dinner-time vibe. Enough people agree that Caruso’s is now cashing in, packing in more than two dozen more diners than normal every night.
I totally respect the right of restaurants to have no kids policies if that’s what they feel is best for their bottom line. But parents and non-parents alike would probably all be better off if we could just learn to live with each other.
With that in mind, I have some tips for moms and dads looking to take their kids out to eat, as well as for the adults who end up in the same restaurants.
If you’ve got kids:
- Try not to let your kids be jerks (easier said than done, I know). Remind them to use their indoor voices, don’t let them run around like maniacs, and definitely don’t subject the other diners to whatever show is blaring out of their tablet— especially if it’s Caillou.
- Choose a place that’s at least somewhat kid-friendly. I’m not saying you have to eat every meal at Denny’s or the Sizzler or whatever, but it’s generally pretty easy to tell which places welcome your family’s business. Do they have a kid’s menu? Are there high chairs or boosters? Do they have changing stations? If yes, then go ahead and order the mozzarella sticks.
If you don’t have kids:
- Try not to be a jerk. Don’t start huffing and puffing about how kids don’t belong in restaurants unless the kid in question is actually displaying some questionable behavior.
- Don’t choose a place that’s kid friendly if you’re not cool with kids. If you’re eating at the type of restaurant where the wait staff wear flair or has hot dogs on the menu, you should realize that you’re probably going to run into some families.
Like most debates involving kids and parenting, this one isn’t going to be settled anytime soon. But I hope kid-free diners always know this: the vast majority of us parents don’t go out to eat with the intention of letting our kids run amok.
So if you happen to catch us on a bad night, know that we are way more pissed off about it than you—we’ve gotta take the little monsters home with us.