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How do I feel about children in adult-oriented places? Bring ‘em on.

Now, now. Before you jump all over me, let me explain. My answer sounds simple but actually requires explanation. It is contingent on the following three questions:

  1. Is it my child?
  2. If it is someone else’s child, is the child behaving itself (a.k.a being quiet and respectful) or is it tearing around the place like a Tasmanian Devil, disrupting the experience for everyone else there?
  3. Are the parents/guardians actively paying attention to the children, hoping someone else will look after their child or, worst of all, trying to teach the child a lesson?

Let’s tackle these one at a time:

1. Is it my child?

My son, G, is 9 months old. He is an angel. No, really, he is. Everyone says so. He is super happy, loves attention from other people and thrives in public places. The sights. The sounds. The smells. He loves it all. He can play quietly. He doesn’t throw food. He doesn’t fuss. For these reasons, I am totally comfortable taking him to museums and other adult-oriented places. He enjoys them and I get to remember that I have a fully-functioning brain and sense of culture as well.

Now, if G is tired, that’s a different story. Once we get past 7:30pm, G’s halo tips to the side a bit. He starts playing with his food. He doesn’t want to sit but doesn’t want to stand. He starts letting out this whining noise that I’m fairly certain causes the neighborhood dogs to start howling. Simply put, he wants to go to bed. The only solution at this point is to wolf down my food, throw some money at the waiter and take the poor baby home. I know this about my son. What this means is that starting at 6:30pm, I am anxious and on alert, waiting for the first signs of tiredness to set in. I don’t want him to suffer because he’s tired. I don’t want anyone else to suffer because he’s carrying on. I don’t want to suffer because I’m stressing people are getting peeved at us. For these reasons, unless it’s for the early bird special, I don’t take my son to adult-oriented restaurants. It’s not fair to anyone, including me.

That being said, when he’s older (like 3 or 4), I hope to be able to take him to adult-oriented restaurants. I think that the sooner you start exposing children to different environments, the easier time they will have understanding that certain behavior goes along with certain places. In kid-oriented places, you can be a little louder and a little crazier (within reason). In adult-oriented places, you have to be a little quieter and little more reserved. I think it’s good practice for life in general. In order to succeed, you have to understand that different places have different rules. Start ‘em early, I say.

This brings me to question #2:

2. If it is someone else’s child, is the child behaving itself (a.k.a being quiet and respectful) or is it tearing around the place like a Tasmanian Devil disrupting the experience for everyone else there?

Generally speaking, if the child in question isn’t mine, I am pretty flexible about his/her presence. You want to bring your kid to a fancy steak place. Great. That’s a wonderful lesson for them (see above). If they’re over there behaving themselves better than the drunk guy at the restaurant bar, that’s fantastic. I don’t care if they are chatting with the rest of their family or playing on Mom or Dad’s iPad. If my experience isn’t being disrupted then all children are welcome.

Now, if the child is screaming like a banshee or horsing around like she’s in Chuck E Cheese, that’s a problem for me. Adult places have adult rules. Adult behavior is required. If your child isn’t able to behave like an adult then she shouldn’t be there. That goes for anyone, really. If there are adults in the place who are unable to behave like adults, they shouldn’t be there either. Those wise guys making cracks about whether Mona Lisa was high or not? Outta there. Those kids in the restaurant screaming because they can’t have dessert. Gotta go.

This leads me to my third question:

3. Are the parents/guardians actively paying attention to the children, hoping someone else will look after their child or, worst of all, trying to teach the child a lesson?

It is a parent (or guardian)’s responsibility to play an active role in their child’s life. This includes everything from supporting their sports teams to teaching them about right and wrong. This means being the fun parent but also being the disciplinarian. Parenting is not always a laugh a minute, but someone has to do it. If you have elected to have children, you have elected to be a parent and all that that role entails.

A critical element of being a parent is paying attention to your child and helping them obey the rules. If you are a parent who brings your child to an adult-oriented place, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to ensure that your child behaves appropriately. If your child is unable to for some reason (too tired, too young, just not having a good day), it is your responsibility as a parent to either not bring them in the first place or pack up and leave. Just because you really wanted that steak dinner or to see that art exhibit does not mean that you should torment your child and everyone else involved. If your child isn’t having it, you leave. End of story.

This means that hoping someone else will entertain your child while you finish your wine or read the captions on the painting is out of the question. Waiters and security guards are not babysitters. If you don’t want to entertain your children, leave them at home. Everyone (the children, the other patrons and you) will enjoy themselves more.

But, you say, how will the child learn to behave themselves? Didn’t you say that having experiences at adult-oriented places reinforces the concept that there is a time and a place for craziness? Yes, reader, I did. But letting your child behave wildly in an adult-oriented place and having the discussion there about why that is not a good way to behave is not ok. You drop your silverware, leave cash on the table and haul the child out the door. Then, you have that discussion outside or, better yet, at home when everyone is calmer. Restaurants and museums are no place for teaching lessons. They are places for reinforcing the good manners that you’ve been working on at home. Manners start at home, readers. There should be no debate about that one.

So, cycling back to the original question: How do I feel about children in adult-oriented places? A well-behaved child with attentive parents/guardians is welcome any time, any place. A child who is misbehaving or has the misfortune of having inattentive parents is not. Simple as that.

 

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