It’s 9:30pm on a Friday night, and my girlfriend and I are eating at a popular restaurant. Two little kids, probably both around 7 years old, are running past our table repeatedly. Back and forth: their tiny feet stomping, their arms flailing. I’m worried they’re going to trip on something and hurt themselves, because at heart I am everyone’s grandfather. And also because if they tripped and fell, they'd cry and bleed everywhere, and that would ruin my meal.
Did I accidentally get dinner at a Gymboree? No. Do I eat all my meals at Chuck E. Cheese's? That sounds dangerous. But this is a common experience when I dine out anywhere. And it needs to stop.
Your kids are ruining my meal
If I’m eating at a family-friendly restaurant like Dave & Buster's, I expect to have kids screaming and running around near my table. And then later, I expect them to kick my ass at Daytona USA. But all too often I go to mid-range or upscale restaurants and feel like I’m eating dinner on a playground, minus the part where a bully pushes me to the ground and calls me a band nerd. The French horn is cool, I don’t care what you say!
Kids can’t help but be annoying brats, starved for their parents' attention. Dad’s always swiping right on Tinder when no one’s looking, and Mom’s on her iPad pinning craft projects she’ll never attempt on Pinterest. The kids need attention, and, because they don’t get it, they amuse themselves. They scream. They kick the table. They talk at a volume not suitable for human ears. I don’t fault the kids for being annoying: they don’t know any better!
I fault their parents for not paying a babysitter when they go out at night. And since that’s clearly not happening anywhere I end up eating, I have a solution.
A "Kids Section” is a win-win situation for parents and non-parents
I grew up in the ‘80s, when hostesses asked the same question as you walked into any restaurant: "Isn't Bo Jackson the coolest?" OK, not that, but it could've happened! He was the man back then. You'd be asked, “Smoking or non?” And because no one in my family smoked, we’d ask for the “non-smoking” section. There, we’d be free to breathe clean air while eating iceberg lettuce from the finest Sizzler’s salad bar in Delaware.
Nearby, there was the “smoking section.” People smoked Virginia Slims as they chomped on medium-rare tri-tip steaks from Sizzler, one of Delaware’s premiere restaurants. We went to Sizzler a lot. Anyways, everyone was cool with this arrangement. I didn’t have to breathe their secondhand smoke, and they got to puff away to their heart's content.
So why don’t we try this with kids? Instead of “Smoking or non?” let’s try, “Kids or no?”
The few parents out there that actually care about ruining the dining experience of the people around them should love this. You can’t ruin anyone’s dinner! The kids can be as loud and annoying as they want because there won’t be anyone in that section without children. 5-year-olds can scream. 10-year-olds can play their Nintendo DS at full volume. 1-year-olds can poop themselves with reckless abandon. Everyone will be living their best life, while parents can enjoy their meals (or Pinterest boards) without trying to hush their kids.
And it also means free play dates! The 9-year-old who’s sick of coloring on the white tablecloth will be able to hang out with whatever kid happens to be seated at the table next to him, and with parental supervision! Who knows about the lifelong friendships that could be created through the boredom of two adolescents.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the restaurant, I can drink a beer and eat dinner while having a conversation at a normal volume about Bachelor in Paradise. You know, adult stuff. And I won't have to worry about getting angry stares from parents when their kid asks for an explanation of what it means that Ashley I. still hasn't done the sex. Because again, adult stuff covered in an adult restaurant.
The wins are twofold: I don’t have to give a tired dad a dirty look for not putting a leash on his precious Tristan, and a mother of two doesn’t have to amuse her kid -- the kid’s doing fine hanging out with another brat at a nearby table.
American restaurant owners: please start separating the kids from the people who want to have a normal night out. Everyone will thank you.
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