17 February 2011

Keep the Little Monsters at Home

This will be short and sour.

The BBC News Magazine web site has posted an article on the vexed question of toddlers in restaurants. While admitting (as who cannot) that they are a menace, the article goes on to offer an excuse or two for parents who insist on bringing the little beasts along, one of these being the desire to ‘get them used to restaurants’.

Well, I‘ve heard some sorry excuses for self-indulgent doting in my time, but that one takes, if you'll pardon the expression, the cake. Get them used to restaurants? Why, in heaven’s name? So that they can beggar their parents with expensive dining-out bills in early adolescence? Out-gourmet the Guide Michelin before they’re out of secondary school? Or just learn to draw increasingly bitter comparisons between Mum’s cooking and the canard aux herbes Sri lankaise they were served at the Lemon last night?

Do these fond parents really imagine they’re somehow socializing their kids by inflicting them on cringing strangers? What idiots. Toddlers cannot be socialized. They are monsters of id. They aren’t even properly human yet – to all intents and purposes, they’re still little animals, and half-formed ones at that. Besides, research has shown that parents don’t socialize kids; peer groups do. All Mummy and Daddy’s patient training in manners and decorum, all the coaxing and encouragement, all the gatings and punishments, even the beatings used by some parents as teaching aids, count for very little; it’s peer pressure and, a little later, a desire to impress the opposite sex that turns juvenile delinquents (that is, all kids) into socially viable individuals. And even the small contribution parents make in this area cannot begin until a child actually has some consciousness of others’ rights and feelings – a sensibility that does not develop, except possibly with respect to close blood relations, until the kid is well past the upchucking-in-public stage of life. And yes, I know some people never get past it, but that simply means they’re still toddlers in spite of the breasts and facial hair. This is true even if the breasts and facial hair are both on the same person.

Anyway, we all know this twaddle about getting children used to restaurants is just a lame excuse. People bring their toddlers to restaurants for one of two reasons: (1) they are so besotted by the issue of their loins that they cannot bear to be away from them for ten seconds or (2) they have run out of volunteers – even paid ones – for the job of babysitter. In the first of these cases we are clearly dealing with some sort of compulsive pseudonarcissistic disorder, requiring – oh, I don’t know, electroshock therapy and institutionalization, with the kids being taken into care, preferably at some remote, Spartan orphanage. In the second, you and I will be dining next to the quelled and demoralized parents of one or more pint-sized psychopaths, and we might not leave the restaurant alive.

There is absolutely no excuse for bringing children under the age of, say, five, to restaurants. Restaurants are adult places. Adult things are done in them – business, mutual social grooming, status competition and, above all, sex. Restaurants are vital, indeed sacred, to the central ritual of human mating – the gifts of food with which males of our species and its forebears have courted females for at least five million years. No-one, not even the broodiest biological-clock-obsessed thirtysomething woman, wants to be reminded of the consequences of courting and mating while engaged in the actual activity. The presence of children at such occasions is a turn-off comparable with a skip-load of offal being overturned next to one’s table. Indeed, the effect (and the smell) are often identical.

To encourage the restaurateurs of the world to come to their senses and impose a blanket ban on customers under the age of five, I propose that sane adults – which is to say, those unencumbered with children – take certain steps. These will include refusing to sit near family parties with small children, or better still, insisting that they be seated somewhere the sight, sound and smell of the little brutes will not offend other diners’ sensibilities. A quiet back-alley location, behind the restaurant among the garbage cans, would probably be best; as a second option, the manager’s office will do nicely. One might also refuse to pay one’s addition on the grounds that one’s health and appetite have been impaired by the stress of having to eat in public among small children, and furthermore forward any medical or psychiatric bills incurred over the following days to the restaurant management; but best of all, I think, will be to form a lobby group and organize restaurant boycotts. I shall shortly commence a canvass of friends, relatives, correspondents and Facebook hangers-on with this end in view.

As for the offending parents, they will just have to be sent to Coventry, won’t they? There or Siberia.


  1. Love it! I have always hated it when children come to restaurants. It is so annoying. And whenever I say it people just look at me like I am a child hating monster.

  2. Apparently you are not Irish. Coventry, isnt that very English. Most of the English speaking world have this thing about the children, should be seen and not heard.

    Celts or whatever the Irish are, the black people (even though they are whiter than white) of western Europe have a different attitude. They take kids to pubs, wakes whatever and get shit faced drunk, fight and still remember to take the child back home.

  3. Oh shut up you prune faced whiner! No harm in the true meaning of life (remember?) sneaking into a diner or two.

  4. 3 years ago this would have been a note of my heart. really. i would say bravo.

    today i ahahaa as i bugger off (with my kids) to a restaurant that offers a delightful kids menu and coloured pencils. (most of them now do) bless them.

    i never heard 'get them used to restaurant' excuse. twaddle i agree.

    good stuff

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  6. ..unless the restaurant in question offers to cook and serve up the brats to other diners.
    Bon appetit!

  7. love it!!!!

    not just restaurants, all public areas especially airports and train stations unless they are travelings (we might need to suggest a ban on that too)

    Siberia will be too lenient a punishment, how about a month with the Taliban learning the art of stupidity


  8. 1000% agreed! Luckily have not arrived to that stage.. but when so will keep your post in mind!!! Cheers

  9. My sentiments exactly! Add movies, the theater, church services, book launches, any event where the whining of little voices and the patter of little feet significantly detract from one's enjoyment of whatever is on offer.

    PS: Must check out that "ritual of human mating" thing you mention as happening in restaurants ... :-)

  10. @Dushy: Oh, I think church services need all the disrupting they can get.

    But if you want to observe human mating rituals in restaurants, I'd be happy to organize a field trip for you.

  11. I think it's alright to take tiny children to restaurants as long as your taser carries a full charge when you leave the house.

  12. No brat ban at Kovils pls ! Recently at Koneswaram temple we were greeted with the familiar salty spray associated with the sea side except this temple was far too high on the rock for that. We finally traced it to be originating from the coconut dashing rock & it wasn't coconut juice either.It was a 5 or 6 year old boy happily spraying this rock while the other devotees (& their family)looked on quietly for his finish, with their prayers of dashing....dashed. None other than us protested however & we left very unpopular. JD

  13. I go to restaurants to eat ...and I'm pretty sure children under the age of 5, eat. I'm not fond of children, even the cute-silent ones, but I found your post, well ...venomous.

    If a child is bothering you, it's the parents that are behaving badly. Children scream/cry/run-around (they are afterall, "children") but a parent can always leave the theatre(!)/restaurant with the child until they calm them down.

    It is also ok for fellow customers to gently remind parents of this, or politely draw their attention to their misbehaving offspring. They may not respond the way you desire but it;

    1) is likely to be more effective than sulking silently at the time, and later spewing on a blog;
    2) is a kind reminder to parents that the world, outside of their family unit, does not view their adorable-bundle-of-joy, as such.

  14. ‘If a child is bothering you, it's the parents that are behaving badly.’

    Correct. They brought their child to a restaurant, where it behaved exactly the way you are behaving on my blog; indulging in food-flinging and tantrums because of personal issues of their own. Where would the likes of you be without the anonymity of the internet, eh? Coward!

  15. My kids have been to restaurants since the day they were born (or at least 3 months old) mostly when we were on holiday, which we tend to do often.
    They have been to family restaurants and to Michelin starred ones, hence my 8 year old love for snails and octopus.
    They have always been well behaved (of course with the help of sketch books or coloring books)
    The article made me feel sorry for the mother who wrote it and the ones who agree with it.