Leitrim Mammy Diaries: Children should be seen, but not heard ... or even eat in public
We all know the ridiculous saying “Children should be seen but not heard,” well like all strange whimsical notions it has not evolved to include a new addendum - eating in public.
Discussions online recently spilled into the real world about family etiquette in restaurants, with much opinion about the idea that small children be banned from fancy restaurants. According to one Irish national newspaper “Children have poisoned the restaurant experience.”
Now I fully understand people’s frustrations at having to listen to little brats kicking off beside you as you try to enjoy your date night or fancy meal. I do believe it is the responsibility of the parents/ guardians to keep their children under control and to try to keep noise down as best they can.
If sh*t hits the fan and children lose their minds - it is time to quickly leave the establishment with a trail of crumbs and your dignity behind you… that really applies to any location, event or house call.
But here is the thing, kids like all of us have to eat, banning young children from restaurants would be the same as banning learner drivers off public roads. Both are annoying, we all wish to be as far away as possible and not come into direct contact with either, but people need to learn to drive and children need to eat and learn how to behave in restaurants.
I feel a bit defensive on this topic because since my children were babies they have come with us to restaurants.
We try to avoid fast food on days out (I did say try...) and I always feel a bit better about the bucket load of ice-creams and sweets/ crisps they consume if they have attempted to eat some sort of a wholesome meal. So I know all about the looks, the eye daggers from waiting staff and their patrons as we take a table as a family of four in a busy restaurant.
I recently took the two of them for lunch in The Bush Hotel on a Sunday when the GAA games were on, on my own. That is two against one. We were in Carrick for the day and were hungry and needed more than a sandwich. As soon as we sat down I started to sweat as I noticed all the people there to enjoy their meal and watch the game … I knew everyone around us felt apprehensive.
Luckily the three of us were hungry so once the food came, served by really helpful staff, we gobbled up the dinners and left without much fuss except for lots of food crumbs, some cutlery on the floor and obviously a water spill. It was a relief to get out happy and full, if not a bit sweaty.
I won’t say my children are impeccably mannered while dining out, because they are not. I know that we usually leave a mess behind and are most likely more bother than we are worth, but slowly they are learning.
Learning that we must wait for the food to be served, that not all items may appear at once, that shouting, jumping, running and hitting are not permitted. And most importantly to allow mammy and daddy to at least finish their meals before any funny business.
Here are some lessons I have learned from our dining experiences:
- You do not have time for starters, dessert could be even pushing it
- Separate children from sitting beside each other to avoid fights
- Everyone should order a different meal so there are options available for picky eaters
- Play or practice restaurant dining at home
- Always leave a generous tip