Noisy Children in Restaurants, Vol. 17, Issue 26

Over on Etiquetteer's Facebook page (you are following Etiquetteer on Facebook, yes?), there's been an unusual amount of commentary about a restaurant in Monterey, California. The Old Fisherman's Grotto does not allow disruptive children, specifically "children crying or making loud noises," and they've made it known with a prominent sign in the lobby and on their website.. A group of Bay Area mothers has made their opinion of the restaurant's policy known. Etiquetteer's repost of the article generated almost two dozen comments - pro, con, and nuanced - and almost two dozen reactions. A nerve, as they stay, was struck.

Etiquetteer approves of this policy, let's not be in any doubt about that. When it comes to Perfect Propriety, no one cares what you want or how you feel; manners come first. And Etiquetteer understands that it's shocking to many parents that other people simply do not care about their children and won't indulge or stand for bad behavior from them. The restaurant, though, has taken into account the size of their dining room, the ability of their staff to serve safely and well when access is impeded by strollers, high chairs, and other paraphernalia, and what their most frequent customers value about the restaurant. And they seem to have made the right call; business is strong.

Most commenters approve, though one, using ALL CAPS, plans to take her business elsewhere - a good idea IF THAT IS HER VOLUME LEVEL IN A RESTAURANT. The idea of a special occasion in a special place being marred by noisy babies or unruly children seems to have motivated many to take this view. And more than one reader noted that children who behave well are welcomed at the restaurant. Etiquetteer would rather like to see parents indignant at the thought of their Precious Snowflake being criticized start to think of the Old Fisherman's Grotto as a Final Exam of sorts, to see if their children can pass the test of dining out with Perfect Propriety.

Some reminiscence about parental training in restaurants also ensued, with commenters recalling maternal methods to get correct behavior. In the words of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, "Discipline mixed with love is such a good recipe." Certainly Young Etiquetteer was brought up to behave well by his parents in restaurants of all types. What seems to motivate so much heat around this issue is those parents who won't or can't instill manners in their children. Unfortunately, those parents are giving all parents an undeserved reputation.

And speaking of training, it's worth noting that once upon a time children ate at home in the nursery until they were old enough to have the proper table manners to dine with adults in the dining room. Etiquetteer remembers well seeing the back dining room of Beauvoir (the final home of Jefferson Davis), where the grandchildren would eat. Finer hotels of the 19th century would even have a special dining room for the children.

Several commenters used a word on many lips today, "discriminiation," and felt that the restaurant's policy was ageist. Diners of any age who are making loud noises must be banished, they say! (Reading those comments, Etiquetteer will have to admit to giving some Significant Side Eye to That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much, who's ahem Made an Impression at more than one "very gay dinner party" over the years.) Yes, Dsruptive Adults also impact restaurant dining, but Etiquetteer rather worries that setting expectations for grownups might not help business. Policies about children's behavior seem to be good for business, attracting clientele who want a dining experience guaranteed to be free from disruptive children. But policies about disruptive behavior from adults might lead too many Otherwise Lovely People to over-examine their behavior, decide they might not make the cut, and take their business elsewhere. Who wants to run the risk of the humiliation of being asked to leave a restaurant?

One commenter who Etiquetteer can only describe as Noble expressed the wish to project compassion toward misbehaving children and their parents. That is a truly admirable viewpoint to take, but Etiquetteer has to admit that it's easier to do when the parents appear concerned about the impact their children are making. Indeed, the principal reason there seems to be so much dialogue on this issue is the number of parents who take no action and seem not to care.

Wherever and with whomever you dine, Etiquetteer wishes you joy as you gather about the festive board.