Why Is the Issue of Banning Kids in Restaurants Getting So Much Attention?
A restaurant in Pennsylvania has banned children under the age of six. You may have already heard this story and wondered why is it getting so much attention?
The topic of banning kids from restaurants gets recycled every year. In fact, I even wrote on this topic once before. That post brought me to the attention of the producers of CBC Radio’s Q show (unless they are regular readers and have been planning to have me as a guest, but I doubt it) and I will debated the topic against a pro-ban writer. (Click here to listen to the discussion).
At first I ignored news of this McDain’s Restaurant and Golf Center in Monroeville banning kids because it seems so negligible. A casual restaurant outside of Pittsburgh that is connected to a driving range, who cares? The restaurant that banned us with my infant daughter is probably far more popular, but it has never been in the news.
But McDain’s actions has kicked up the debate on kids in public space once again and I am struck wondering why this is so divisive.
Yes, noisy kids in restaurants are annoying. Noisy talkers in restaurants are also annoying, but we don’t ban them as soon as they walk in the door. My husband and I had an anniversary dinner ruined by a table of lawyers closing a deal. They were loud, obnoxious, drunken and harassing the waitress, but no one is talking about banning lawyers – especially ones who order eight bottles of wine.
Ask any parent and they will tell you about the times they abandoned their meal and sat outside in the car with a wailing a child as their partner paid the bill, or walked around the block 6 times, or rode the escalator up and down.
A ban assumes that kids will act badly and their parents won’t do anything about it. And it is true, some won’t. But despite the fact that bad parenting exists, banning a group of people on their perceived future behaviour is unfair.
Most parents exercise common sense when it comes to which restaurants to take their kids to. We will continue to take our kids to fine dining restaurants where they are most-often welcomed and always (almost always) well-behaved. We are bringing up future diners and we take the responsibility seriously.
The question of banning kids in restaurants isn’t really about where kids eat though. It’s really about sharing public space and the reaction against a parent-centric world. We have moved away from a time when kids were sequestered at home and seen and not heard. The barriers between public and private are crumbling, the idea of formality is diminishing and the obsession with children, both our own and their place in the culture is growing.
So this debate of kids in restaurants and on airplanes will keep rearing its ugly head as we wrestle with how we continue to live together without the rules that used to guide us.
And that said, I enjoy a night out without kids. And if there is a unruly child near me – I just ignore them and wonder why their parents have let it get out of hand.
What do you think of the ban? Do you take your kids to eat out?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about how drowning isn't what you think.