Dear fellow parents: Why babies & restaurants don’t mix

The other day, a colleague and I went out to lunch at our favorite restaurant. It had been a long week full of crazy work stress, and we just needed a precious hour to decompress, chat about our lives and stuff our faces with juicy pork dumplings and garlicky green beans. A few tables over, another group of ladies were doing the same thing. There was just one problem: one of them had brought her toddler.
Now, listen – before you bring out the pitchforks, I’m a mom, too, and I’ve been around the block for awhile now. My daughter is 18 and my son is 7. I remember life as a mom to a toddler and though it was mostly an awesome experience, there were definitely moments when I was frazzled and needing a break and would jump at the chance to connect with my friends over a meal.

I would pack bags of Cheerios, a multitude of Puffs, a Costco-sized crate of organic applesauce. I’d bring every set of BPA-free plastic keys and teething rings, every rattling giraffe. My phone was full of ‘educational’ apps so I could justify electronically pacifying my kid while SuperWhy taught him to read. I brought enough diapers and wipes to clean an entire daycare full of kids well into the next millennium. I. Was. Prepared.

Even with all my preparation, if, once at the restaurant, my child simply could not deal, I would leave my money with my friends and I’d hightail it outta there.


This was not the case at Din Tai Fung. I watched as this woman’s toddler screeched and screamed her way through an entire meal. I sighed a lot. I was not having a fab time. I wanted to enjoy my meal, too, but I couldn’t even hear myself think, let alone what my friend was trying to tell me. And yes, I’m guilty – I gave the disapproving dagger eyes to this poor mom who was probably just really exhausted. However, I’m just gonna say it, Top Chef style: if your little one is melting down in a restaurant, please just pack your wipes and go.

I’m sure there are many who disagree with me. Go ahead, let me have it in the comments below, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Find a sitter if you want to enjoy a meal out with your friends – you’ll enjoy it more, trust me! Schedule your lunches during a time when your child is well-rested if you must bring them along, but please…if your baby can’t hang, it’s time to exit stage left and at least let the rest of us enjoy our chicken fried rice.
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18 thoughts on “Dear fellow parents: Why babies & restaurants don’t mix

  1. Too close to home. I just took my 4 kids there tonight after going to the Lego movie. Four kids under 9. One that was 3 and didn’t care for his seat too much, and I was too busy to notice because my 6 yo was distracting me.

    We might have been noisy and a bit crazy at times, but admittedly no melt down, I’m glad we didn’t feel uncomfortable there.

    Its a loud and busy place, and I felt that it was a good place to blend in.

    But I do have to say, if one was having a really bad time, I would have slipped some of my margarita in their sippy cup. Okay, I wouldn’t have done that, but probably anything else on the planet to calm him/her down. But I’m eating my dumplings.

      • jmm415 says:

        Oh wow. I know a screaming child is no fun but a kind, sympathetic smile probably would have been appreciated. I hope that’s what someone does for you the next time you’re having a rough day! πŸ™‚

    • Carissa says:

      I have experienced this many times. You go to a restaurant to have a nice meal, or go on a long plane flight, where there is a screaming child. I understand children do not behave every time you take them out in public, and I understand they need to be socialized, but I understand the dagger eyes part. What really irritates me, is not the children who wine for a few minutes, but the parents, who let there child scream at the top of there lungs for 10+ minutes, while doing nothing. I have been on flights, where the mother does nothing and lets the child scream, or do something with NO correction. They act as if they have never had something like that happen before, or act as if it is not their child to begin with. I have been in places where I myself have wanted to get up and tell the child to sit down and be quite (nicely), and I have seen parents go over bored yelling at their children, which makes matters worse. I have been at times more than willing to try to go over and color with the child as long as they stop crying, screaming, or nagging, and I have had times where I have seen mothers with babies let the child scream. Keep in mind I understand it is good for babies to scream to help develop the lungs, but before this happens, you should check to make sure they don’t have a poopy diaper, there not hungry, or that they just want to be fed. I can not tell you how many times I have been at Wal-Mart, where I am in the canned food area, and I can hear a child screaming all the way back in the electronics store, or on the other side of the store. So I understand this author/person completely when it comes to children in public, and parents handling the situation. Also when you are paying for a meal, you pay more for the atmosphere, and dining experience. If you didn’t want somewhere that you could hang out with your friends in a nice place, then you would have ate at a fast food restaurant, where you can watch kids play and scream as they play on the little playgrounds that some fast food restaurants have to offer. When your paying extra for the nice atmosphere, that doesn’t mean you should have to put up with a screaming kid for 30+ minutes, while the mother/father sit there doing nothing, or allow there children, depending on the age, to be very rude, load and disrespectful. Good manners and well behaved children start at a young age. Even though animals and children are different, they are similar in many ways. You don’t wait for a child to be 13 years old to start potty training, nor do you wait for a dog to be 3 years old to be house broken. Young children can be taught at young ages to be quite (use your inside voice), and polite saying please and thank you, as well as help cleaning there toys up around the house. I remember singing the clean up song as a kid in school, as we cleaned up and put our toys away when we were very young children.

  2. Towanna says:

    I completely agree with you. There is nothing more irritating that trying to enjoy a meal and listening to a crying child. I am also a mother. I do understand that kids cry. However, when they become disruptive in the restaurant OR the movies (yes, that happens too), take them out. It’s not about you. It’s about being courteous and respectful to those around you.

    • Thanks, Towanna! I’m a compassionate, supportive person in general and I’ve just never understood making others miserable so that I can selfishly enjoy something. My son HATED restaurants as an infant and toddler so every time I’d try and venture out, he’d cry and I’d have to get my food to go, even when going out with friends! It sucked…and I did it anyway, because I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s time or meal. These are the things responsible parents do. That said, if it’s a Red Robin or something, maybe that’s different. In this case, it was relatively quiet and we couldn’t even hear each other talking over the noise this little one was making! Anyway, thanks for the support πŸ™‚

  3. Linda Atkinson says:

    Yes I hate listen to someone else kid scream and cry the entire time I am eating. I pay for the food and the ambiance. I really there should be restaurants that do not allow children. When my kids were little, they are all grown now, my husband and I had the good sense and common decency to take them outside for a little walk in the parking lot to clam down. Now even my kids say things like “I wish they would shut that brat up. If we acted like that you would have killed us.”

  4. j in AZ says:

    While I agree with you that certain restaurants are off limits for young children and babies (I’m not going to take my kid to Ruth Chris or that romantic French restaurant by the ocean), I have been to a number of Din Tai Fungs. This definitely is a place that is fine for families. It’s not fancy at all (although definitely delicious). Its an Asian chain restaurant where families go ALL the time. In fact, if you go on the weekend for dinner, you probably won’t even be able to hear a kid cry because of the noise level at the restaurant. If you were expecting to eat somewhere where small kids probably would not be eating, you chose the wrong restaurant. Dumplings are the equivalent of chicken nuggets for many Asian kids. Most Asian kids love them. I think your expectations were out of line with the restaurant you chose.

    • Oh, typically would agree with you. I go to Din Tai Fung about twice a month so I’m aware that it can get noisy. But on this particular day, it wasn’t, it was early in the lunch hour (around 11) and there weren’t many people there yet. It was quiet. I couldn’t hear my friend talking to me over the noise this kid was making, and the mom was doing nothing at all about it.

  5. Gen says:

    We have enough people in the world to give the “dagger” eyes and to disapprove anyone else’s parenting style that is not their own. You might have never had a day like that woman was having because you knew exactly what to do. Maybe it was the first time in a while she got to get out and see her friends that came from out of town. I bet you anything she would have preferred to leave her crying, whining, annoying kid at home. Maybe she didn’t have anyone to leave her with but her friends insisted she needed to get out the house. You just don’t know. But here you are in a public place complaining about the public just like in your “movie theater” entry. If you don’t like dealing with the public, don’t go out in public. Some people have social anxiety and that’s ok too.

    • I have every right to my opinions, whether in my head or on my blog, just as you do yours. I don’t think it’s remotely wrong to suggest people should attempt to quiet their noisy kids in public, as that’s what I do and that’s what my friends do and that’s what I think good parents do, period. Now, if you feel otherwise, that’s all fine and good but I reserve the right to write about you as I go about my day in public. I do not have social anxiety, I simply make efforts not to bother people while out in public and take issue when others don’t do the same.

    • Kosmo says:

      That may be true for the mother, but what about the people around them? Maybe the couple next to them and its their 1st anniversary and your child is having a temper tantrum right next to them. Maybe the Older ladies next to you, one of them is trying to tell the other that she found out she has stage 3 cancer while your child runs circles around there table.

      “if you don’t like dealing with the public, don’t go out in the public”- this is what is wrong with our generation. Everyone believes they are entitled to do whatever they want whenever they want. It is not about “dealing with the public”. Its about having respect for the people around you. I know being a mother is tough but you have no idea what the people around you are dealing with too. So a couple should not go out for a date at a semi-nice restaurant if they want to hear a screaming child? It’s ridiculous to think that. If your kid cannot behave in public, well than maybe you should stay homw

  6. Kelsey says:

    I have three kids, 7 and under and one on the way. But I agree. There are very few restaurants we go to with our kids. A local burger joint, Pizza Hut lunch buffet, and Taco Bell. Otherwise, it’s plain not worth the hassle and I never enjoy myself. And I would also hate to go to a Dim Sum place and have to listen to a toddler throwing a tantrum, especially if I was out to get a break from MY toddlers!

  7. LP says:

    It’s not about people choosing the right restaurant that’s family-friendly or not. It’s about parents taking responsibility for their disruptive children by removing them from the premises if appropriate. I went to a movie once where someone brought their toddler and let the kid run around in the aisle screaming for half the movie. (And this wasn’t a matinee where half the audience was children – it was a later movie and I was on a date with my husband). It was so annoying because we (and everyone else there) PAID to see the movie, but couldn’t hear the dialogue over the yelling child at certain points. I think the same principle applies in restaurants. And now that I’m a parent, these situations annoy me even more when I’ve put in good effort to be there kid-less, am trying to enjoy a break for once, and can’t due to other children screaming. I don’t think it’s too much to expect other parents to be considerate and leave if their kids are going haywire.

  8. Thanks, all – I welcome lively debate in the comments! This piece ran on MSN and the VAST majority of people agreed with my opinion: parents should make every effort to keep their kids quiet in public places. It’s common courtesy. Sure, the dagger eyes may or may not have been the kindest thing in the world but I’ve never claimed to be perfect. πŸ™‚ It was simply an opinion and I stand by it!

  9. Ash says:

    I agree with this: “if your baby can’t hang, it’s time to exit stage left and at least let the rest of us enjoy our chicken fried rice.” But not this: “Find a sitter if you want to enjoy a meal out with your friends.”
    Kids in restaurants or even a little crying doesn’t bother me; what bothers me is when the parents do nothing about it. If the kid starts melting down, take them outside until they calm or leave. But, you shouldn’t have to schedule a sitter every time you want a meal out because of the risk the kid might melt down.

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