No Kids Allowed

When my first child was born, I lived in New York City. My husband and I were accustomed to eating breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert in restaurants far more often than our own kitchen.


We got a rude awakening the first time we tried to take our adorable infant to my favorite Italian restaurant. Think red-checked tablecloths, candles, and olive oil imported from Tivoli. I was on first-name terms with both the ricotta ala rigatoni and the maître’d.


Paolo took me and the baby bassinet deep into the back of the restaurant. I’d never noticed this dark, ugly, ill-lit room with white plastic patio furniture. There were white paper placemats and crayons on every table.


Thanks to my beloved baby, I’d been relegated to the children’s room. My reaction embarrassed me even in my post-partum euphoria. The children’s dining room was apposite for other parents and their loud, bratty kids. But me and my sweet little bundle? No way. My child was perfect and so was I. How dare they? I never went back.


McDain's Restaurant in Monroeville, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh, made national headlines recently for a different solution: banning kids under six entirely. Owner Mike Vuick opened the restaurant nine years ago. Loud and ill-behaved young children have become an increasing disruption, he says. But it’s not the kids who’ve gotten worse. The real culprit? Parents like me, who think our kids could be nothing less than utterly adorable even when they are throwing spaghetti across the room.


“Parents have gradually diminished their cooperation,” Vuick explained, adding that the new policy is strictly in response to customer complaints. He has gotten hundreds of emails in support of the policy.


I can be objective about this issue -- as long as we are not pointing the finger at my family. Businesses who frown on children as clients are being completely reasonable. They are not prohibiting children, per se. They have every right to ban people who scream, throw ice cubes, and knock over tables – no matter what their age.


Ditto for airlines. Flight attendents have the legal right to restrain or eject passengers who hurl insults, refuse to fasten their seatbelts or obey crew commands because of alcohol or drug use, right? Why should the bar be lower for children?



Hmm, I disagree that as a mom you don't have the ability to realistically see the disturbances your children cause. In fact, I think that they are magnified for me because I'm so focused on what my kids are doing, how they are behaving, and not wanting to ruin others' experiences. When the Mike Vuick first banned children from his restaurant, I wrote a post supporting his position even as a parent to a toddler and a preschooler that we like to take out to eat with us occasionally. Here's my take on banning children:


I see the point when my kids are in sight, and always have. Number one son is high functioning autistic, and would melt down just about anywhere. We soon realized that his bio-dad would panic, and give him anything he wanted to placate him, and that what had originally been a genuine reaction to over-stimulation had become manipulation (he has always been very smart). Our solution? Remove him from the venue immediately. It worked like a charm. Number Two son only tried the tantrum twice...once in a family restaurant (a dreaded trip to the restroom, which he'd never had before, during which he was simply told that we could, and would, go home right now if he couldn't behave), and once at a Big Box store, where we abandoned our cart, and I picked his squirming, shrieking little self up, told him he would now miss his good time at the store, and took him home and put him to bed. I never, ever thought my children were angels. They were children...a separate species, if not life-form (think the aliens of "Alien", or pod-people), and I loved them, and still love them enough, at 20 and 14, to know my business is to be a parent. I was repressed as a child...not an angel.
I also never thought it was cute for my toddlers to scream, hurl food on the floor, toss their drinks at people, run amok in the aisles, stand up in restaurant booths and smack other patrons, and sit with dirty diapers until the odor permeated the entire restaurant. I flew four times with the older one, twice when he was 18 months, twice when he was nearly three. A noise and people sensitive autistic child. It wasn't easy, but I focused my entire attention on him. We've also taken 1300 mile car trips with restless, very young children...without personal DVD players or GameBoys. Yes, they get bored, and cranky, and sweaty. So what? They're children.
But I'm an adult, and when I go to see an R-rated movie, at night, or to a nice restaurant with my husband...I do NOT want to deal with the fact that little Jimmy or Josie's parents think their kiddoes are little angels, and are therefore blind to the flying food, malodorous diapers, sticky drinks oozing beneath the seats, gummy fingers clawing at my hair, and shrieks of indignation...from the parents...when the manager just has the gall to ask them not to let the pygmy predators run loose all over the establishment.
We once had reservations at a very expensive, and very elegant restaurant, It was for our anniversary. We had finished a wonderful meal (this was late-ish on a Saturday night), and the hostess seated a party of four adults...and an infant, directly adjacent to us. They were all drinking (well, except the baby). Immediately, the little one reacted negatively to the new environment. She began to fuss. During our dessert ordering, she began to cry. By the time we received our dessert, she was screaming. Did mommy or daddy pick her up and soothe her? No, they drew a blanket over her little, red face. We were furious, and finished hastily. As we left, the poor thing was shrieking in that horrible, desolate way that very young infants have when they are completely desperate. Not one person had made a move to comfort her, feed her, pick her up...nothing. Other people in the restaurant were looking on with obvious discomfort. And the four adults just kept drinking from their enormous glasses of wine.
Too many parents have not only forgotten the word "No", but that they can lead, teach, set boundaries...and also comfort, pay attention, and, well, parent. Until they learn again (fat chance) I'm with every restaurant owner and airline who wants to maintain a quiet, relaxing, clean environment for adult customers.


I am a mother of two (2 & 9 mos) and if a private sector business wants to ban children, I think that should be their right. I have a choice to use their services or not. If I dont agree, I can take my money somewhere that supports policies I agree with. I will say also, that on that rare occation I get out without the kids in tow, I don't really want to be picking spaghetti out of my hair from someone elses.


I think it depends on you & your kids. What is acceptable behavior to you may not be to someone else. I just left church this past Sunday because my 3 year old decided to have a melt down, which happens and we are ready for it. With that said...before kids & flying first class from CA to HI with a crying baby was brutal! And then when we all got on and saw they were returning with us...lets just say we all drank our weight in alcohol!!