Screaming Children in Restaurants and Other Acts of Anarchy

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, “Etiquette Hell,” the other day and wasn’t at all surprised to see a post about screaming children in restaurants. (Check it out; there is a video of this very subject, too.) This is a particularly touchy subject as you can imagine.

I absolutely get it that people who have just had a baby know how house-bound they are, and no one would blame them for wanting to have a quiet dinner out by themselves. I couldn’t agree more. However, when they bring their baby along and it starts crying and shrieking, that’s the time to ask the waiter to box up their dinner and go home.

Naturally, there are many different thoughts about this. If you are in a fast-food restaurant, you expect that kids and babies will be there and that they will be loud. That’s par for the course, and if you don’t like it, you can go to the drive-through, park, and eat in peace. That’s to be expected.

That said, if you are shelling out big bucks for a quiet dinner out at a *nice restaurant, the expectation is that you will enjoy a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, a great meal and good drinks, and most of all, QUIET. So when people bring their babies and small children into a place like this, it would be wise for the parents to have trained them in **how to act in public.

Personally, unless you have small children rigorously trained to be quiet, I don’t think it is at all out of line to just hire a babysitter for the evening. This way, the new parents get to be out on their own, they aren’t disturbing anyone, and best of all, they can enjoy each other’s company for a few precious hours, knowing that their child is in good hands.

It is not fair to other people when someone brings in their baby and it shrieks and screams and blubbers and whines and cries for hours. Again, if you are dining at McD’s, you expect it is going to be loud. But if you are out to enjoy a nice dinner at Shea Hoity-Toity, you should expect a quiet and pleasant atmosphere.

It is disturbing that so many people these days think that everything is all about them, and that other people don’t seem to matter. Have we lost our ability to think of others? As was told to me many times growing up, “you are not the center of the universe.In these days that would probably be considered child abuse. But speaking as one who grew up hearing that, I also learned to be mindful of other people.

Courtesy tends to encourage courtesy, just as kindness tends to encourage kindness. The dark side of this is that anarchy tends to encourage more anarchy. This is a crowded world, and we really should think of our effect on others now and then. As my late great mother-in-law used to say, “it couldn’t hurt.”

*Please—I am certainly not disrespecting diners or fast-food places and their ilk. I am just starting a fact when you go there—it’s going to be loud.

**Way back in the dark ages when I grew up in the ’50s, children as a rule did not go with their parents to any kind of restaurant unless the parents had trained them how to act in public. At the first blubber, cry, or scream, they would ask the waiter to box up their dinner and they would all go home.

Case in point: when I was deemed old enough to go out to dinner with my parents, everything went according to plan until I saw a beautiful stuffed tiger toy in the restaurant gift shop. I asked my parents if I could have it, and they said no. I then started to blubber and whine about it. My mother took me by the arm and frog-marched me into the ladies room, where she gave me a severe talking to. “Did you think you could get away with that? You don’t do that at home, and you certainly don’t do it here!”

And at that, my dad ordered our food boxed up and we all went home. That’s just how it was back then, and honestly, it couldn’t hurt to practice that discipline more often.

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