When my oldest daughter was 3, and we lived in North Central Indiana, my family planned a nice dinner with my in-laws. Not at any old restaurant, though — a Very Nice Restaurant.
My mother-in-law called and made a reservation for seven and said we would be bringing a young child.
“Ehhhhh,” said the hostess, sucking in her breath. “Let me check with the owner.”
A few minutes later, the owner came on the line: “We typically don’t allow children.”
“Why is that?” my mother-in-law asked, blood pressure rising.
“They typically are not that well-behaved.”
“Well, my granddaughter is,” my mother-in-law declared, in her best I-will-not-put-up-with-this-crap voice.
The owner hemmed and hawed. This was in the middle of the week when Very Nice Restaurants are Not Very Busy. And she needed a Very Big Check to pay the bills.
“Fine,” she said, “I guess we can put you in the private dining room so she won’t disturb the other patrons.”
“That’s fine,” said my mother-in-law, still incensed. She still wanted to go, though, because it was a very Very Nice Restaurant.
We had a Very Nice Meal that took about three hours, lasting until 10 p.m. And my daughter was a champ. She sat in her chair, ate what she was given, played quietly with her toy, colored, and was a perfect angel. She didn’t fuss once.
The owner skulked by three or four times to check up on us and was astonished that my daughter was well-behaved and not a little terror. Our server told us as much, which frosted my mother-in-law to no end. In her eyes, her granddaughter could do no wrong, and she was irritated that anyone would think otherwise.
I can’t blame her, though. I’ve been to too many restaurants where children behave badly, and the parents refuse to do anything. The children are spoiled. They whine, yell, throw tantrums and run around. Meanwhile, the parents ignore them and the fact that their little brats are ruining the dining experience for everyone around them.
Now, before you shout #NotAllChildren, let me say that I’m not referring to children with autism or behavioral issues. Those parents often have it pretty rough, and they ignore the outbursts because that’s their every day. They just want one nice day out, and what we’re seeing is mild compared to their other days. So they’re exempt from this column.
But there are plenty of parents who are just rude and don’t care about the people around them. They excuse their children’s bad behavior after skimming a pop psychology blog post on their phone. Their “research” led them to diagnose precious Aubrey or Braden with Sporadic Vocal Outburst Disorder or Public Obnoxiousness Syndrome. (Neither of which is real.)
The Toccoa Riverside Restaurant in Blue Ridge, Georgia — population 1,200 — finally got fed up with bratty kids ruining everyone else’s meals. They will tack a fee onto any diner’s bill whenever that family refuses to stop their misbehaving children from being cretinous jackwagons.
It says so right on the menu: “Adult surcharge: For adults unable to parent $$$.”
The three dollar signs mean it’s expensive.
They’ve done it before. One guy complained on Google that he was hit with a $50 surcharge for his children’s behavior. He said that was nonsense because his kids watched a tablet until the food arrived, ate and then his wife took them outside to wait while he paid the bill.
Of course, there are two sides to every story, and I can’t imagine the owner just randomly charged some guy 50 bucks because the kids were little angels. If he had truly been treated unfairly, he can always issue a chargeback with his bank.
Other people said that if they were going to charge a bratty kid fee, they should just make the restaurant a child-free one in the first place. Except when you’re in a teeny-tiny Georgia town, you can’t just ban anyone under 14 and expect to survive.
Plus, people do have a right to go out without hearing, “I DON’T WANT BROCCOLI, I WANT ICE CREAM!” and “TYLER LOOKED AT ME FUNNY!” Restaurants shouldn’t have to change their business model just because some parents don’t believe in manners.
Where is the happy medium? How should society deal with poorly-taught children in restaurants? Should there be an expected level of behavior from kids? Or should we let kids be rotten little turds when they’re in public?
When I was a kid, I knew I would get in trouble if I ever misbehaved publicly. It started with how we behaved at home. We were taught to sit still during meals, speak quietly and use good manners. But too many parents want to raise free-range children who are free to express themselves as loudly and wildly as they like, no matter the setting.
Then, the parents are surprised when people don’t want them around because they’re tired of the screaming, whining and tantrums.
And the same don’t want to deal with the bratty kids, either.