Allow me to set the scene for you: It’s a beautiful day and your newborn baby is finally sleeping for longer than 2 hours at a stretch.
Your toddler is starting to bounce back after having his nose temporarily bent out of shape since the arrival of his new sibling and you feel great knowing your friends haven’t forgotten about you since they invited you to join them for lunch. At this new spot you’ve been DYING to try out.
You are starting to gain back a sense of normality (it’s amazing what a solid 4 hours sleep can do) and you feel like you are ready to join the real world after being cooped up inside for what feels like forever.
More than that you feel you have earned your right to enjoy a lunch out with your friends, Your ADULT friends!! The excitement as you get ready is too much as you anticipate sipping on some wine and enjoying an afternoon out with your little family and friends.
You arrive at the new trendy restaurant in town with your 3 in one travel system, nappy bag(s) and backpack of games for your 2-year-old. You kindly tell the hostess that you are joining friends and then she asks THE dreaded question: “Will your toddler be sitting at the table too?” (You start to wonder if maybe they have a team of babysitters at the back who are waiting to entertain your kids) and then you realize they are actually asking a serious question. “Yes, he belongs to us, he will be eating with us”
You notice them adding it up in their head, calculating…….one less adult to charge per head. The CHEEK of you.
You are taken to your table and have the audacity to ask a few people seated at their tables to kindly shift up so you can negotiate your way to the table without knocking their elbows with your stroller. As you finally arrive at your table your toddler tells you (a little too loudly perhaps) “I need to POOOOOOOH!” You throw your husband the “shut him up and get him to the toilet” look.
You breath out and sit down, trying to check that your baby is still sleeping and then you notice several sets of eyes on you. You start to wonder if you have baby vomit in your hair (you know anything’s possible). I mean what else could be the reason for all the death stares?
Your guests arrive and you forget the eyes on you for all of seven seconds before the baby lets out a squirm. The eyes are back, you can feel them burning a whole through your back as you reach in the pram to take her out. You ignore your silly suspicions and show off the new addition to your friends and for a brief while everyone Oohs and Agghs as they order their drinks.
Your toddler arrives back demanding a juicy and you are a little distracted settling the baby. Before you know it your kid is screaming “ want a juicy NOWWW mommy, I’m thirsty!”
And then you hear the “oh my gosh, can they not shut their kid up??” or “why do they even bring their kids here? And the worst one, “why do people even have kids????”
Well EXCAUUUUUSE me your royal bitchiness.
We’ve all been there at one point in time or the other. If you have dared set foot in an up market restaurant with your kids in tow you would have AT SOME POINT been subject to this kind of treatment.
And lets face it, if there’s one thing moms hate, its being discriminated against because we have kids. Our very pride and joy!
But what is the social etiquette in these kind of situations? Who really reserves the right to say what is acceptable and what is not? Are the couples and big party tables in a position to feel it’s their right to a quiet, uninterrupted lunch without kids in their vicinity? Or are new parents entitled to enjoy these restaurants too?
Of course it has so much to do with appropriate behavior and if your kid is being impossible it’s pretty obvious it’s not the right place for a tantrum or tired meltdown.
But what is it about people seeing you come a mile away with your pram and toddler and seeing the pure dread in their face? Or when you arrive at a restaurant asking for a table (and there are at least 8 open ones) and the hostess, looking at her booking chart, slaps on a real face of concern and says “OOOOOOOOH shjoe, im not sure we can help you, we are all full today!” only to see a couple come in straight after you for them to have a table suddenly open up. It’s always a nice feeling seeing their 8-year-old devil child coming out of the bathroom 10 minutes later to join them with his water gun and remote control car.
Ok bitch, if that’s how you like to play it.
But seriously, What if your child has been taught to sit down and color in and play quietly and for the most part is petty good at it.
What happened to people’s tolerance of kids and being gracious to new moms and dads? Surely most of them have been there before?
I get that some of those people are coming to have a nice quiet lunch and often get away from their own hooligans for some peace and quiet. I also get that some kids behavior in these public places is nothing short of disgusting.
But does this mean moms with no babysitters on the weekends need to be banned from these establishments and resort to Spur and MacDonald’s? Are we not even allowed to feel a little bit normal and like we are still part of normal civilization? Something I can assure you, Spur most certainly is not. I say this because my son has been bitten in that crazy play area twice.
I’m quiet lucky to have kids who are relatively calm and have been taught appropriate behavior in nice restaurants but they are still kids and may have one or two loud outbursts because they wanted lemon iced tea and not peach. Does that mean other patrons need to be assholes about it? Does it mean we should feel like we don’t belong there? It might even be your opinion that we don’t.
I also find it frustrating that we are so limited to great kid friendly restaurants. While there are some great ones here in Cape Town (like Cafe Paradiso), you get tired of the same places all the time. Also, it’s difficult to always ask your friends without kids to plan around you and your little life.
Here are some tips for when you go out to eat with your little ones that may prevent death stares and make you feel more welcome:
- For the 2’s and up, prep them! Tell them on the way in the car where you are going and how you want them to behave. Tell them they need to be on their best behavior.
- Take quiet toys, pencils and coloring things with you to keep them busy. I sometimes resort to using an Ipad (even I’m trying to limit this these days after hearing about Screen Addiction) if things get very out of control. Giving them an Ipad for 10 minutes so you can finish your R200 steak isn’t gong to kill them. Not eating your fillet just might.
- Give them something to look forward to at the end for good behavior. Just don’t give them sugar on arrival unless you want to feel like you belong to a circus. Tell them a milkshake is waiting for them in the kitchen after their lunch.
- Make sure little toddlers and babies have something to nibble on. Biltong for teething/fussy babies is a winner! Getting your older kids to butter their own bread is also great.
- If you have to, take shifts walking with the baby/toddler outside. Kids don’t do well in confined spaces for too long so get them out if there is space and let them stretch their legs until its time to sit for lunch.
- Be friendly and polite to other patrons. Mouthing an “I’m sorry” goes a long way. I usually joke with people as we arrive and say “Hello we are here to ruin your quiet lunch!” Always adding “I’m kidding we will keep them quiet as best we can” I usually tell the boys to say help to people near us and it immediately breaks the ice and softens the hardest hearts! It’s usually only the parents who don’t care about disrupting other people’s lunch and letting their kids rule the roost, that people despise. If people are still assholes about it despite all your efforts, ignore them!
What do you think about this? Should moms be banned from nice restaurants if their kids are with them? Is it all about respect and boundaries? Or should everyone else just chill the heck out?
BY: LEIGH GEARY