Child-Free Restaurants

Edit: I had to go though and fix spelling errors and explain some things a bit. I’m not the best writer in the world, but apparently my grasp on the English language goes out the window when I’m in rant mode. 

I was going to stop posting here about being childfree for bit so that I could focus on other things. I was going to write more about hiking on this blog, as well as write a few posts for my pro-choice blog, The Golden Coat Hanger. That’s what I was going to do. But now I just have to rant about something.

Last night, after purchasing some nice furniture thrift shop for the town-home we move in to next week, my BF and I decided to celebrate by going to dinner. Well, first we went to the dollar store to pick up some pencils. I never saw the damned thing little darling snowflake, but there was some toddler in the store that would just not stop screaming. It was this ear-raping shriek, the kind that instantly replaced any other thoughts you might have been having at the time with the word “FUCK!” This went on the entire time we were in the store. It just kept screaming and there was no escape from it.

I’m not one of those people that just can not stand kids in general (although I certainly understand where such people are coming from) and I don’t mind having well behaved kids in my general vicinity, or even interacting with them. Anyone whose been following this blog knows that I’ve volunteered at special events for kids before, and have even quite enjoyed it. One of my favorite people is a mother, and her child is a delight and I try to bring something for him whenever I visit. But no matter what age someone is, I have very little patience for unacceptable behavior. Screaming, running, and climbing on things when not at a playground, but in a store or restaurant is not acceptable for anyone and kids are not an exception. Yes, kids will be kids. It’s not the kids who do this that I direct my anger at, it’s the parents who allow it and don’t do anything about it like remove the child if it’s too young to be controlled or otherwise can not be reasoned with. Normally, I see such displays of ineffectual parenting very rarely, but that day… well, let’s just say that if there was any chance of me regretting my recent tubal ligation and ever considering reversal, IVF, or adoption,  it was throughout dead by the end of the evening. Things went from irritating at the store, to downright unbearable when we actually went to eat.

By the time we made it to the restaurant, we were already sick of screaming kids. Sadly, it got worse. We didn’t know this at the time, else we would have never picked the place, but it was “kids eat free day” (read: “hell”)  so the place was PACKED! We had to wait 20 minutes just to be seated. The waiting area was full and filthy. At this restaurant, there were free peanuts, and since not everyone is civilized, the floor was covered in peanut shells. It looked like animals lived there. It was a mess! I saw some toddler jumping around stopping on the shells with an irritating crack each time, crushing the shells into powder. I watched her dad, waiting to see if he’d do anything about it. She looked up at him, he looked down at her, and then he threw a handful of peanut shells on the ground for her to stomp. Nice, asshole. That bit of parenting fail was only a small taste of what was in store for us.

Finally, we got called to be seated, but to get there we had to get past a huge crowd. For some reason, there was a man making balloon animals, something I’ve never seen since I started going to that place. It wouldn’t have been so bad if people understood the words “excuse me.” Well, maybe they just couldn’t hear me. It was loud. I do not exaggerate, my boyfriend and I had to shout across the table just to hear each other. Most of the tables contained children, and they were all screaming. Constantly. The entire time. Why? I have no idea! I felt like I was at fucking Chuck-E-Cheese, not a nice (although admittedly less than 5-star) steakhouse.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it just had to be everyone’s birthday. What a coincidence. So now the only thing breaking up the sound of constant screaming was even more irritating clapping and singing. The wait staff was running around trying to serve everyone, because every table was full and the place was mad busy, but of course the entire staff or the restaurant has time to go around singing to everyone. I wonder how many people actually had birthdays and how many were just lying so they could get free desert and attention on top of free meals.

By the time we got our food, we just wanted to leave. If there was ever a doubt in my mind about living childfree, today cured it. It was a horrible experience at what is normally a decent place. I felt like I was at fucking Chuck-E-Cheese. There was no sense asking for a table to be quiet, or ask the management to keep order, since the entire place was a total zoo. Being kids eat free day, that’s to be expected, I suppose. Although the parents clearly couldn’t be bothered to actually, you know, parent, one might say that it was even partially my own fault for being in a place that pandered to kids. Truthfully though, since there are so few places that don’t, that much is hard for me to avoid. I would have loved to have been able to leave and go somewhere that I knew would not have any young children at all, but alas, no such place exists near me that isn’t a dive bar.

I brought this up, because it’s relevant to a twitter conversation I had last week. To keep myself occupied during a 24-hour CQ shift, I spent most of the day and night using my Blackberry to post on twitter. Everything was fine, until a single-mother started trolling the childfree hashtag, calling childfree people child-haters. When I asked her to explain her accusation, she brought up child-free restaurants.

I can’t think of anyone with working eardrums who has never wished for an eatery with an age requirement while at a Denny’s full of loud, out-of control children running around while their parents did nothing about it, apparently mistaking the restaurant for a day-care. It’s distracting, dangerous, degrades the quality of the establishment, and hurts business.

For this reason, a few restaurant owners have implemented policies such as making customers with screaming kids leave, to outright banning kids under certain ages (usually between six and ten.)

I pointed out that it was business owners, not the childfree people that she was scapegoating, who did this. Not all places are age appropriate for young kids. When asked who got to decide that, I said the restaurant owners, of course. Restaurants are PRIVATE property, and being such, the owners get to make any reasonable restrictions that they like.

The fact that restaurant owners feel a need to ban young kids does not reflect well on parents. If it weren’t for inept parents unable to distinguish which establishments were and weren’t appropriate for kids, and were unable or unwilling to control their kids’ behavior, no restaurant owner would feel the need to resort to this.

From what I’ve seen, restaurants which impose such measures see an increase in business. It’s not just childfree people who appreciate the more peaceful eateries. Even parents like to be away from the disturbances of children for a while. Even the restaurant owners are usually parents themselves. In fact, such places may be called child-free (even if they do allow older kids,) but besides that label, they don’t actually have anything much to do with the decision to be a childfree person (one who does not and never plans to have kids.) Too bad such establishments are so rare that when one makes such rules, it’s considered news-worthy and controversial.

Sadly, if you don’t affirm that children have a special place in society, you’re not validating the privileged position that some parents think they ought to have for having bred. For my failure to adequately revere children and the people who make them as special classes of people, above the rules of social behavior, and for my support of the rights of private business owners, and for wanting one place where I wouldn’t have to deal with a family circus, I was branded a child-hater. I wasn’t aware that liking kids and liking to eat in peace had to be mutually exclusive. Never-mind the fact that I don’t hate kids and that was just a baseless accusation intended to silence me. Before long, an all out twitter-war engulfed the childfree tag. Well, at least it kept me awake through my shift.

At one point, a mother demanded to know how certain restaurants banning young kids benefited kids. She was so child-obsessed that she couldn’t even comprehend that the matter wasn’t about benefiting kids. I could well have argued that kids are benefited by not being dragged to restaurants they’re just too young for by parents who can’t seem to cut the umbilical chord. Kids will be kids and it’s selfish of the parent and unfair to the child put them in a position they don’t have enough control to behave appropriately in. I could have argued that, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was unfair to other paying customers.

At one point, one angry sanctimonious mother after jumping into one of my conversations and berating me for my desire to get what I pay for, rage-quit telling me “Julie, instead of acting the angry victim- go elsewhere. Plenty of childfree places to eat.” No, there aren’t. That’s the point. Apparently, she was so sure that she was right that she couldn’t be bothered to remember what she was arguing about. I guess she forgot that her outrage towards me was in response to my statement that I think child-free restaurants should be allowed to exist and not that I was trying to ban kids from Denny’s (because I’m not trying to get kids banned from anywhere.) I would love to have nice place to eat in peace every once in a while, where I don’t have to cringe as infants scream next to me, where I don’t have to wonder what would go down if I dared to “shush” anyone. But sadly, when ever a restaurant makes such rules, despite having no shortage of kid-catering places to go to, the child-worshipers flip the fuck out like the evil childfree minions just blew up a McDonald’s playplace.

Posted on 2011/07/26, in childfree, Diary, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. patience dude, patience. they’re kids. not picking a fight with you or anything. i mean you were once a kid so just bear with it and hope that when those kids grow up they become smart and free thinkers like you.for now, patience patience patience.

    • Julie Was Here

      Clearly, I was patient. I didn’t get the duct tape, did I?

      Yes, I was a kid once. So? That’s not an argument.

    • I know I’m coming late to the party but…

      Patients has absolutely nothing to do with the situation or subject at hand. I remember clearly from my childhood that if I acted out or misbehaved in a restaurant or anywhere for that matter, I would have been seriously reprimanded once we left the establishment. My parents spent a LOT of time teaching my two older brothers and I to have impeccable table manners and it showed as my parents often received compliments at how well behaved we were. So it has nothing to do with patients, parents are at fault for their ill behaved children.

      Adults (with-child and childfree) need to have times and places to go so they don’t have to be around children so they can have adult conversations without the far of little ears overhearing subjects that they shouldn’t be hearing. Restaurants, as privately owned businesses, have the right to restrict based upon age and I think more places should restrict children, especially after certain times in the evening.

  2. I remember that Twitter argument. Didn’t someone actually say that parents are now being marginalized? I was like, what??? You chose to become a parent, so how are parents marginalized?

    • Julie Was Here

      I don’t think choice needs to have much to do with it. I choose to be CF, and am, to an extent, marginalized for it. Single parents and young mothers are also marginalized somewhat, not for being parents but for being such while single and/or young.

      However, I don’t buy that parents in general are marginalized, considering that society bends over backwards to cater to childed families, even going so far as to consider the nuclear family the foundation of society.

      In the case of a scant few restaurants enacting policies as a result of complaints about unruly children, it’s not reasonable to call holding parents accountable for their kids “marginalization.”

  3. I see no problem with a private business restricting who their patrons are. If I don’t like it, I can eat elsewhere. I have a toddler, and because of that, we frequent restaurants that cater to children. When my husband and I go out for a fancy dinner, we get a babysitter, as I don’t want to hear screaming on my romantic evening. (P.S. I HATE Chuck E. Cheese! Hopefully my child will never find out that it exists.)

  4. Bravo! I so understand what you’re saying about the yelling. One time at Kmart this kid was screaming so loud, I grabbed a candy bar on the way out just to calm my nerves with chocolate. I’m mentioning this, because I’m lactose intolerant, I keep Lactaid with me but my point is it was so bad, I was wiilling to risk having digestive issues later.

    I’m very glad to hear more restaurants, are understanding that there has to be a limit. It seems most parents with young kids, are age regressed to the age of a 2 year old. They do not understand the meaning of the word “no”, and it’s high time society started teaching the meaning to these bratty parents.

    When it comes to parents saying their children can behave, you can not trust their judgement. This is why there is a call for childfree restaurants and flights. Parents are completely delusional to their own chikd’s behavior. Their darling can be throwing a tantrum or screaming their head off right in front of the parents, they’ll still insist they’re well behaved. Or desperately try to pass it off as, “They’re having a bad day!”

    I’m tired of being sent the message I’m requirec to understand the unending parental drama, because I’m an adult female. Parents act like they’ve been broken from a dissociative state, when made to realize all women are not spur of the moment nannies, willing to help them with their child.

    I know this is controversial, but it seems entitled parents of small children act like they have someform of mental illness half the time. From the mom who rambled off her son’s gold star moments like she was in the manicstage of Bipolar Disorder, to the mom who when she had her toddler walk by me, looked like she was in a “baby high” which took my mom yelling at her that we didn’t want her kid near us, to snap her out of. Is this really all hormones, moms who went off their psych meds so they could breastfeed? I don’t think someone that unpredictable should be in charge of caring for children.

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