I went to dinner last night at one of the finer restaurants in the Hamptons. As I arrived at the front patio, another group was leaving. They walked toward me, their party split between the steps leading down to the patio and the ramp directly next to it. I headed for the steps, and instead of shifting to one side or the other, one of the people just glared at me and continued marching right down the middle. I rolled my eyes and sighed. Dude was about 6.

Once seated, we could see the table behind us they had abandoned. It was strewn with crayons and other kid paraphernalia. Our waiter welcomed us, and gave a head-bob toward the un-bussed table. “Thank God they’re finally gone,” he said. “Those kids were freakin’ little monsters.”

Count me in as one mom who doesn’t oppose a restaurant ban for young kids, a controversial topic in the news this week raised after a restaurant owner in Pennsylvania announced his place of business would no longer admit children under age 6.

While a noisy or unruly kid is the symptom, the real problem is the parents. I’m sure you think little Lucifer is the most darling creature in the universe and that everyone everywhere ought to be delighted—no, make that beholden— to be in the presence of his or her unrivaled preciousness. But I’ve got news for ya, honey: you need to get over yourself. Throughout the years, I did my best not to unleash my kids and their unpredictable behavior on your evening out; I have absolutely zero interest in having to tolerate your misbehaved offspring.

There are plenty of restaurants that cater to families with younger kids. I’d venture to guess that most of them don’t serve entrées that range from $28 to $46, like last night’s restaurant. And anyway, I’m dying to know how those kids enjoyed the Porcini Dusted Diver Scallops with wild mushrooms, Satur Farm escarole, and truffle vinaigrette.

No, the problem is the self-absorbed, entitled, thoughtless parents who drag these kids for a $27 bowl of “plain pasta with no green” so they can dine to their own standard and, of course, “be seen.” Do they honestly think the kid is happy to be there? That the waiter is thrilled to be serving a table of bored young brats? That the kitchen simply yearns for the culinary creativity of boiling up pounds of plain penne? That other diners are honored to have a meal in the presence of such royalty?

Just one night earlier, we had pulled into a parking space in front of a sushi restaurant with sidewalk dining, and spent 15 minutes in the car watching the scene incredulously. A mom was having sushi with a friend. The mom had a small dog in her lap. (Really. I mean, I love my doggies, but I can bear to part with them briefly. And they don’t care for spicy tuna rolls anyway.) Her daughter, who appeared to be about 5, skipped up and down the sidewalk and climbed on the railing next to the mom. Mom never—ever—glanced away from her oh-so-important conversation to check on the little girl, who soon began trying to engage patrons at other tables. Finally we watched the mother put the dog into a very fancy Louis Vuitton dog carrier, zip it up, and hand it off to the girl, who brought “Lola” to meet people at another table. The girl and the dog were now behind the mom, completely out of sight. Mom just kept nibbling and yapping, not once turning her head to see if her daughter was bothering others, let alone to find where she was. I pitied the little girl, who probably would’ve been so happy to be at home in her jammies, snuggled on the couch watching Hannah Montana or something. But, of course, it was likely Nanny’s night off, and how could the mom possibly be expected to stay home when there was gossip to be heard, hamachi to be eaten, and someone else to do the dishes?

I’ve taken my kids to fine restaurants since they were young—but there have always been conditions: they have to dress appropriately, use proper manners, and they always have be polite gentlemen.They’ve grown up knowing this expectation for decorum, and they know that misbehavior is not tolerated. One split second of a raised voice or whining? You’re out the door, mister. Of paramount importance to me was that my boys never disrupt anyone else’s night out. At the slightest hint of an outburst, my kids were always swiftly escorted out of the dining room. I’ve never understood parents who let their kids cry or carry on in any kind of restaurant instead of instantly scooping them up and getting them out the door for a while. And letting kids wander around the dining room to “visit” other diners? Uh, no, I don’t think so.

Enchanting as I believed my own kids were as youngsters, I didn’t ever presume that you’d want to spend an evening at a nice restaurant distracted by their unruly behavior. So please don’t expect me to relish listening to your little hellions when I’m out on the town to enjoy a kid-free dinner.

One Response to “Why I Support a Restaurant Ban for the Under-6 Crowd”

  1. Illysia Neumann-Loreck says:

    I swear, you and I are soul sisters! I TOTALLY agree with you. I think it’s important to take kids out to eat so they can learn to behave at a restaurant, but just because they are children doesn’t mean they have to act like monsters. And yes, it’s totally up to the parent to set the tone. I think we’ve gotten our point across because now when we go out to eat and children at another table are acting up, my daughter Annika, who is 8, will shake her head and ask me, “Don’t those children know how to behave at a restaurant?”

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