When my husband and I head out to eat, it never even occurs to me not to bring our four kids. Because they are part of our family. Plus, they are people . . . who eat. My philosophy is that dinner is something we enjoy as a family, whether it's at our own kitchen table or in a nice eatery. While I understand that not everyone may think that way, it works for my family. And it's why I don't believe the argument that kids aren't welcome in restaurants.
I didn't always feel this way. A few years ago, we took our kids to an upscale seafood restaurant, and I was so nervous that they'd be too loud. I spent half the meal shushing them, before I realized that a woman at a nearby table was laughing uproariously, even louder than my kids were being. It dawned on me that because she was a grown-up, it was OK that she was a little loud and disruptive. So why shouldn't it also be OK for kids to be a little loud in public sometimes? Most of the time, they're just having a good time, too.
As long as they aren't doing anything totally inappropriate, like stripping naked and running through the kitchen, then who cares?
The experience with the superfun woman at the seafood place made me feel less anxious about taking my kids out. As long as they aren't doing anything totally inappropriate, like stripping naked and running through the kitchen, then who cares? We are just a big family having superfun, too. Sure, we may take up a little more space and be a little louder, like when my baby is testing out his vocal chords while we enjoy appetizers. Or when my 5-year-old announces she has to go the bathroom, so that most tables around us get that message, too. (And right when our dinners arrive, naturally.) Or when my 8-year-old and 10-year-old catch a case of the giggles that can only be cured by a fudge brownie topped with a tower of whipped cream.
But is our family really taking away from anyone's dining experience? I find that most of the time, people smile at us and seem to genuinely enjoy seeing kids at a restaurant. I've never had someone complain, or make it seem like my children aren't welcome. Because we've taken them out with us since they were little, my kids have learned restaurant etiquette. My daughter knows not to stand up on her chair at the table because when she did do it, I told her not to. My older ones know to say "please" and "thank you" when ordering, since they've been reminded plenty of times.
And the other thing: I would be waiting a long time to go out to a restaurant if I had to rely on a babysitter to help me out. We live far away from family and just moved to a new town where I don't know many people. We love to use our free time to explore what restaurants are around us, but I don't yet have a sitter on speed dial. So instead, we go together.
Of course, our dinners out don't always run perfectly smoothly. Sometimes, I get exasperated if the kids are loud and don't listen. But overall, eating out with our kids is fun! We laugh, we connect, we spend quality time together. My husband eats the kids' leftover chicken fingers. We get dessert. Everyone wins — even the people dining around us. Because ultimately, I've found that they're focused on their own meals and families. If one of my kids has a meltdown, the person most affected by it is me. And as long as I handle it swiftly and don't make a major deal, it's all good. Especially since I can order a glass of wine afterwards.