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Thank you all for the feedback on this question. HERE'S WHAT YOU SAID:
If it’s a very nice restaurant most people agreed that fussy infants and babies should be left at home. The reason being that diners have an expectation of and feel entitled to an undisturbed dining experience.
There was some empathy, however for parents who might have been caught in a baby sitting lurch and rather than forgo a special event decide to muster up the courage and patience to go out anyway. In this case diners were willing to overlook the intrusion as long as it was understood that a crying or disruptive baby should be promptly removed from within ear shot (or food shot) of their neighboring diners.
When it came to children there was much more debate. Some said it depended on the number of children while others thought it depended on their disposition. Still others felt fancy restaurant dining should be off limits to children under 10 years old, regardless!
GOLLY GEE-PERS’! OPINION
1. If you must take a baby or a toddler to a fancy restaurant be prepared to promptly remove the little darling if she becomes fussy enough to disturb your dining neighbors. To be fair, Mom and Dad should take turns. If you do, people might notice and compliment your team work rather than begrudge your crying baby.
2. Don’t do it on a whim. Let’s say grandma and grandpa are celebrating their 40th anniversary and have invited you and the kids to their favorite restaurant. In this case you probably have advance notice and can prep the kids for this special event using games and progress charts (a little plug here for golly gee-pers! www.gollygee-pers.com). You know your kids best and if they are not ready to dine out in this kind of environment it’s best to own up.
3. Do start early in setting expectations for proper dining behavior. Too often in an effort to simplify life, we dumb down the dining experience for kids. Periodically sitting down at a real table with real dishes (not plastic) while having polite conversation may go a long way in improving your family’s next restaurant experience.
4. Resist abandoning your expectations just because you are at the local pizza place. Although the noise level may be louder kids can still chew their food with their mouth closed.
5. Qualify what you mean when you say “behave.” Manners are skills that need to be learned not a litmus test for good or bad kids.
6. Diners without children can do their part as well by complimenting a child for sitting up straight even if he’s lost a meatball to the floor.
Finally, even children with good manners can become disruptive if over tired or feel ignored. If you are going to bring kids along, make sure you include them in the conversation and know when it’s time to go home.