When it comes to eating out, this scoffer believes children should be neither seen nor heard.
Parents desperate to dine out employ a variety of tactics in an attempt to keep their offspring entertained. They allow them to rummage through their handbags, hand them a bundle of keys to play with, order a sugar-loaded dessert or sit them in front of a screen and press play.
But have you got enough gadgets and gizmos to keep your little ones distracted for the duration of dinner? Sooner or later, the kid in question is going to get bored. And we all know what that means – crashing cutlery, sticky fingers on wine glasses and a whole lot of whining and wailing and pleading for attention.
And it’s not just the parents who are subjected to these table-side tantrums. In my time I’ve seen front of house staff trip over toddlers who are sprawled on the floor and once had to endure a particularly nasty seven-year-old who stared at us for the whole meal, while alternating between picking his nose and scratching his barely concealed bum.
Where were the parents? Congratulating themselves on having such a sociable child I imagine, because of course, you can’t tell kids to shut up and behave because that’s just cruel and will probably result in psychological scarring that will mean they hate you for the rest of your days. Do we really think like this? Come on, toughen up folks.
Yes, there are exceptions – but it is a sad state affairs when spotting a calm, quiet child intently reading a book is as rare an occurrence as laying eyes on a platypus riding a unicycle.
While most of us grew up conforming to the adage ‘children should be seen and not heard’, I think it’s time we took things one step further. Because, as far as eating out is concerned, children should be neither be seen nor heard.
The kids versus restaurants debate is nothing new, and it flares up every now and then when a place bans kids and parents cry discrimination. But is it? Surely, when it comes to allowing anyone, let alone children, into any establishment you have to ask yourself: will they conform to the expected standards of decent social behaviour?
Restaurants are adult domains, so if you can’t act like one – or at least do a decent impression of being one while mummy and daddy neck a few glasses of chardonnay in a bid to forget they are nothing better than domestic servants ruled by a sticky-fingered, dribbling dictator – then you don’t deserve to be there.
Even at my most drunk and debauched I have never (to my knowledge) waked away from a table at the end of the night leaving a trail of chewed-up and spat-out biscuits in my wake.
Before people get hysterical, let me clarify – I don’t hate children, I just hate seeing children who don’t know their boundaries. And who sets the boundaries? Parents. Of course little Jimmy is going to kick off after being forced to watch his adult companions stuff their faces with foie gras until way past his bedtime.
And I appreciate that many place are keen to uphold a family-friendly attitude because, given the current saturation of restaurants in Melbourne, they don’t want to turn away customers.
So if, for now, we have to tolerate children when we eat out, restauranteurs could learn a thing or two from the good people at one Fitzroy eatery who not only moved us to a table far away from the brat described above, but profusely apologised, explained that they did accept children (who are sometimes feral), and gave us glasses of dessert wine to ease the pain. Now that was refreshing.
So, how long do we have to wait for the first dining room to incorporate a naughty step?