For the most part, people said that family restaurants are okay - go for it, that's what they are there for - but leave the fancy stuff for just you. Which makes sense.
Having worked in hospitality for many years we have now been on both sides of this debate. While we understand that there are some places where you kind of expect there to be families with small children (places like McDonald's and family restaurants like 'Applebee's') you would be amazed at how many parents take their wee ones to places that one would deem less than appropriate for them.
Anything fine dining for example. A two year old is probably not going to be a big fan of the foie gras that you love, and there's a good chance that the people dining around you aren't going to be a big fan of your two year old. Now, I know there's a place and time for everything, heck, Little P has been in some pretty fancy pants restaurants since she was just a newborn (usually places owned by people we know and who themselves have little ones) and for the most part, she's a pretty experienced restaurant 'goer', but there will be times when it's just easier to get it 'to go'.
I remember in particular, when we lived in Manhattan, being at a lovely little restaurant which was somewhat, shall we say 'high end'. We had gone to this restaurant a few times and had always had a very enjoyable time - food was good, service was good, great wine list... well you get the point.
This particular time however, not so much. I was having lunch with a girlfriend and all seemed quiet. A couple of tables down from us was what I assume was two mothers having lunch together with their four children (ranging in age from about 18 months to six years). It started out pleasant enough. The kids where well behaved, the mothers appeared to be paying enough attention to them to ensure nothing unpleasant occurred. That was until about 30 minutes into the meal. Then all hell broke loose. I don't know what set them off, but the two eldest kids started a screaming match (and I'm talking major decibels here), which then set off the youngest, who proceeded to cry like a banshee, and of course child #4 couldn't be left out so he just started throwing things, anything he could grab, pitching it anywhere (I believe a poor waiter copped a bread roll to the head).
Now, in this situation, you would think the mothers would profusely apologize, gather their respective broods together, pay the check and leave. Nup. They yelled at their kids to behave, and continued on with their conversation ignoring the increasing distress that their children where obviously in. Needless to say, a manager come over and asked them politely to leave as they were disturbing the other guests. To which these women, rather loudly replied, 'We will leave when we have finished our meal'. Seriously. I kid you not.
It took some work on the manager's side, but within approximately 10 minutes, they were packed up and out the door. I don't know what he said to them, all I do know, and this is the main reason this event sticks out in my memory, is that after they left, the rest of the restaurant applauded the manager. Yup. Congratulations all round.
Parents need to not only think of the comfort of their own child, but of the other patrons. If you are having a lovely romantic dinner with your other half, you don't want to be hearing a child screaming 'NO!! I don't want to', at the top of their lungs (it's probably fair to say to that you hear that enough at home). And at the same time, you don't want to have a child who is uncomfortable sitting in a chair that is nothing like the one they have at home, in an environment they aren't used to, surrounded by people they don't know, looking at food that is for all accounts 'yucky'.
Being a parent involves comprise. A lot of comprise. Sometimes it's to get them to do something, be somewhere, or eat something that you want them to and it requires you 'making a deal' with them to get it to happen. And sometimes it's deciding to not go to that really fancy restaurant you've been wanting to go to for ages, and going to 'Chili's' instead, because you know, that although you would enjoy the petite filet at Señor Fancy Pants', junior would prefer chicken nuggets. And that's okay. Because as they get older, they will start to appreciate the food you like and the places you like to go, and before you know it, you can all go to 'Señor Fancy Pants' and have a nice meal (although, on second thought, it might be cheaper to just go to 'Chili's'.....).
Till next time, try the steak, enjoy the company and don't forget to tip your waiter.
Mommy-ism #21: Repeat after me; mealtime is not a battlefield, mealtime is not a battlefield, mealtime is not a battlefield. Oh, who am I kidding? It's totally a battlefield and my troops are getting annihilated by an 11 month old with a wicked right arm.....