Kids in a restaurant
Sorry, but my kids will be dining here today. Deal with it!

On break-up day, my husband and I and our two sons met up with some other moms, along with their gaggle of children. As the children had already tired themselves out on the beach - despite the arctic gale and frigid temperature of the water - we decided to brave a restaurant. Note: not a fine dining establishment, but a family restaurant adjoining the beach. The kiddies’ menu suggested children were welcome.

Things were going swimmingly; no fighting, no screaming, no obstreperous behaviour and no food or drink being spilt on the floor. 

Everyone was pretty relaxed and having a fine time, when we were approached an old dear from the other table.  She looked friendly enough, that is to say not grumpy or snooty, and said something along the lines of ‘I don’t think this is fair’.  Unsure of what she meant, I assumed she was being conversational so I smiled and said something like, ‘tell me about it, six weeks of holidays to go’.  When she repeated herself, I realized she was actually being sourly serious and not conversational after all. 

Now just for the record, I normally read my kids the riot act before we arrive at a restaurant AND apologise to all other patrons before we have even sit down. Just in case. They’ve been known to be disobedient, which I believe is not a new phenomenon. The fact that it’s mentioned in the Bible could be an indicator that it’s always been a tricky part of parenting. 

I was just about to stumble out an apology but on this particular day, especially as the children were in fact behaving themselves, I thought hang on, what exactly is unfair here? 

So asked the dear duck where she felt we were coming unstuck. To which she replied ‘all this noise and chattering and moving around’ and mumble, mumble grumble. When I pointed out that their table was being every bit as noisy as ours, she told me she’d earned it. I couldn’t believe my ears. Earned what?  Earned a quiet restaurant? Or earned the right to be the only noisy table? Or possibly she meant earned the right to comment? How do you earn the right to a quiet restaurant or earn the right to comment? I’d really like to know. 

Quiet please, we’re grumpy!

And while we’re at it, how do I go about earning an un-occupied beach and an empty movie theatre? Are they also things I could earn? Because that would be swell. Heaven knows, when I had small babies who were peacefully asleep in their prams, I would have loved to tell other patrons in coffee shops and supermarkets to pipe down in case they’d wake the baby. But I didn’t. Apparently I hadn’t earned it. I’d chosen to go to a public place where I expected a degree of public noise and dare I say, movement.

I know children’s banter can be irritating, truly I do. But is everyone so accustomed in South Africa to ‘leaving the kids at home with the domestic’ that we’ve bred a culture of intolerance towards children in public places? And when our children are out with us, should we expect them to behave like mini adults?

Surely telling children to keep quiet in a family restaurant, in broad daylight, is like going to a nightclub and telling them to play Bach or James Last? In many countries around the world, where domestic help isn’t on tap, children are made to feel welcome and are expected to behave like nothing more than children. Will it ever catch on here?

Do children in restaurants annoy you?

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