Saturday, 2 July 2011

Do toddlers and restaurants mix?

Apparently there's been a debate on Radio 4 recently over children in restaurants - whether they are welcome and what should be expected of them and their parents. The debate was sparked by a recent news article where a man had a wine bottle smashed over his head after asking a couple to quieten their baby (which had been crying for some time).

There's part of me that can understand how a parent might snap in those circumstances - baby crying continuously, you want some semblance of a social life (I've been there) - but I certainly don't condone the action taken. I also understand the victim's point of view: if you go out for a quiet meal, shrieking from a six month old is probably not your planned entertainment!

Today we went out for lunch for my sister in law's birthday. We went to a very nice local restaurant on the Thames (The Beetle & Wedge at Moulsford), chosen partly because of the lovely food and great reputation but also because their website said children are always welcome. The provided not only a nice clean wooden highchair with safety harness but also some chunky brightly coloured plastic cutlery, which Baby Badger loved playing with! When our starters arrived they brought some french bread crusts for her to chew on, and gave a tickle or funny face each time they passed our table. We really couldn't have asked for more (and as a bonus our food was delicious!).

Baby Badger did us proud. She was smiley, had a go at pretty much any food we passed her way: olives, vegetable crisps, ratatouille, beans, carrots and duck. She also went crazy for the chocolate pot (gorgeous, rich chocolate ganache with chantilly cream and chocolate icecream). She managed a whole three hours without a complaint!

Which brings me back to the debate... What would we have done if she hadn't been happy? Without a doubt we would have tried to placate her with food or a cuddle. If that didn't work, we would go for distraction: a walk round or a toy, perhaps a bit of mummy milk (because I have no issue with feeding discreetly in a restaurant). If that didn't work, we would remove her and one of us from the restaurant and not return until she was happy to be there. It's the only polite thing to do.

Do you take your little ones out for meals? How do you handle it when they're just not up for the experience?

Image: vitasamb2001 /


  1. The Beatle and Wedge is a lovely spot on the river, lucky you!

    We don't go out for meals with the kids often because it's just too stressful - they are one and three, and they just don't sit still for long. But I agree that parents should be able to do it without undue negativity directed their way.

    Of course no one should ever have a wine bottle smashed over their head. However, I would NEVER say something nasty to the parents of a crying baby - how horribly callous and inconsiderate.

    On the upside, after this story maybe people will think twice before haranguing parents who have the audacity to venture outside with children who might - gasp - cry sometimes ;)

  2. I think it depends on the child and the restaurant. Obviously the actions of the parent were completely unacceptable. In that situation, I would have taken exactly the actions you would, and if the baby had been crying for long, I would have left until they were calm. There is no reason why you shouldn't eat out with well-behaved children, but you have to be able to occupy them. Young babies are likely to cry at some point so I would expect to have an interrupted meal. While I probably wouldn't say something nasty to the parents of a young baby, I would think they were rude to expect everyone else to deal with the crying, especially in a "non-child friendly restaurant.


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