There are few things in this life that burn me up more than exclusionary policy. I just found out this morning that there are a handful of Calgary restaurants with an 18+ rule, or in more general terms ‘a Brat Ban’. 18+? is that really necessary? I feel this is entirely extreme policy and I may be opening up a whole new Pandora’s box here or maybe even beating a dead horse but I really do feel that these sorts of policies smack of ageism. Before you roll your eyes and judge me based on the fact that I am a stay at home mom of three kids, take a moment to listen to what I have to say.
Children (and I mean children who are old enough to reason, maybe 8+) learn by doing and through example. It’s simple. When you expose your children to a multitude of social situations and environments they will see how you and others behave and they will soak it up like the little sponges they are. When you order off the menu, using your manners and respecting your server, they learn to do the same. When you eat properly using a knife and fork with your napkin on your lap, they learn table etiquette. I believe that if you take away the kinds of situations that encourage parents to expect more from their children, children will miss out on learning fundamental basics of being a functioning adult.
I said at the beginning that I was a stay at home mom. What I didn’t say is that my children are now all teenagers. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and expose them to many different social environments, from dive bars to Michelin star restaurants. They’ve learned the value of dressing up for dinner, using table manners, and even how to politely send a dish back if something is terribly wrong with it. Some of our finest dining moments have included our children and I’ve been very proud of their behaviour because we, as parents, have taken the time to teach them how to behave through exposure.
Since our children are older we do have the option of leaving them at home and having a parent’s night out. In fact, because they are teenagers they prefer to stay home and cook for themselves. They are in the ‘independent’ stage of learning and quite frankly they wouldn’t have arrived at that stage if they didn’t have the confidence we have given them by respecting their rights as people.
Now, with all that said I know you have some thoughts in your mind about screaming babies in restaurants. It’s inevitable, if you bring a baby on a plane or in a public space, they will cry eventually. Babies cry because that is how they communicate. If I’m out on a night on the town with Hubby I find it very disruptive to hear a baby cry or a toddler throw a wobbly; I’m with you and we as diners have the right to a comfortable dining environment. In the past I have definitely been exposed to some extremely disturbing restaurant behaviour by other people’s children. I’m not going to sit back and pretend my kids were angels. They definitely had their special moments but these ‘special’ moments were dealt with accordingly. We did not allow our children to run around, throw food, scream, or disturb other patrons in any way.
When parents bring a child under 8 to a premiere dining establishment it is like they are specifically looking for trouble. Children do not possess the attention span to sit for long periods of time, do not understand the use of an ‘indoor voice’, and it is more than likely that the disruption of their normal routine will create instability…which inevitably results in misbehaviour. More than likely it’s late and they are tired, hungry, and bored. They misbehave because they DON’T WANT TO BE THERE!
So, this is my long winded way of saying parents should feel comfortable with bringing their children (8+) to any sort of restaurant as long as they are willing and able to teach their children socially acceptable behaviour. An 18+ ban is exclusionary and speaks loudly of elitism. It is beneficial for the children to be exposed to all manners of environments and situations so they they learn how to behave accordingly. And in the end, isn’t it in the best interest of the restaurant scene to foster interest in fine dining for future generations?