February 17, 2023

Dining at restaurants with children

I’ve learned not to feel awkward when we take our 2.5-year-old to restaurants.

At first, I felt like we were bothering people, like we were an inconvenience. I quickly learned that not only did most people not mind that there was a child in the restaurant, but that many of the establishments we visited were happy to accommodate us and welcomed us warmly. We bring our own booster seat and plates and cutlery, just to make it easier on everyone, but for the most part, the restaurants we frequent are already well equipped to have children eat at their establishments.

We don’t, of course, go to fancy, tasting-menu-only, high-end restaurants with the little one, but we’ve gotten to know our local haunts pretty well. They are all happy to see us when we walk in and treat us, and our daughter, really well.

There has been some talk about banning children from restaurants recently—and I know some diners would probably agree with this talk—but a recent piece in Bon Appetit sums up the argument for allowing children quite nicely:

Taking a shared interest in the raising of the community’s children is an innately human practice that has all but disappeared from our lives. If tolerating other people’s kids in restaurants so they can learn to be people in the world is the last remaining expression of community-centered child-rearing, then I am solidly in favor of defending it.

Taking our daughter to a restaurant is not only an opportunity for her to learn what it like to live with others, but also to have collective, social experiences that enrich her life. On top of that, we, as parents, get some respite from having to cook every meal for her, and feel like we are part of our community, too:

Restaurants are a place where parents can briefly escape the ever-increasing isolation and loneliness of the modern parenting experience. Even if it’s just the passive act of enduring a loud kids’ presence with kindness, restaurants give parents a small, easy way to feel supported, held, and welcomed in a place that is not their own house.

It’s definitely worth reading the whole piece in Bon Appetit.

We don’t plan to stop taking our daughter to restaurants, and luckily, most places where we dine are not in the business of banning children either. We know that our child will grow up to understand what it is to be in community and be around others, and eating out is one way she will learn to be in the world.

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