I never wanted to be one of those parents who brought their crying baby to the movies. When Selah was born, my husband and I were very strict about what places Selah could join us and when it was best for Selah to stay home. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to the movie theater. Instead, we go to the drive-in where my child has the freedom to move about and play in our car without disturbing anyone else. And if we go out to get some coffee, we try to sit outside so that Selah can be as loud as she wishes.
Even though we are very conscious about what places we bring Selah, we have still had our run-ins with the awkward glares. I recall once eating dinner with my husband and my daughter at Burger 21, which we had deemed as an “ok” place to bring Selah. There were many customers eating there, so it was quite loud, and I also recall seeing other families. But as my daughter became very vocal, as she loves to verbally express herself, I could see the table next to us start to shift uncomfortably in their chairs. Every couple of minutes or so, I could feel them staring at our table with their judgmental eyes. My husband and I chose to not let their uncomfortableness ruin our family night out.
Luckily, I’ve never experienced other customers complaining about my daughter in such a way that management has asked us to leave. But, I know there are many families who have had that experience. If you’ve been paying attention to social media and the news lately I am sure you’ve heard of the family asked to leave Panera Bread because of their daughter’s squeaky shoes, or the family that caused many customers to feel uncomfortable at a well-to-do restaurant.
As I have stated before, my husband and I have a list of approved places to bring Selah, and a list of places where we leave Selah at home. Any restaurant that is on the pricier side, we save for date nights. Personally, we see it as a matter of respect for others. If I know that people are spending quite a bit of money to dine there and if the ambiance is that of an intimate, romantic, dining experience, I think it is only fair to the other diners to not bring my incredibly vocal infant.
As far as Panera Bread goes, that is on our approved-to-bring-Selah dining list. It has a casual atmosphere, families tend to eat there, and it is not a place with servers. So when I heard about a family being asked to leave because their daughter’s squeaky shoes were bothering another customer, my blood began to boil. Putting aside the fact that her squeaky shoes were actually orthopedic shoes to encourage her to walk, I find it absolutely absurd this family was asked to leave—even if her shoes had only been fun toddler shoes and not serving a medical purpose. If an intimate, quiet, dining experience is what you are aiming for then either eat at home, or find a restaurant that provides that type of atmosphere. But if you do choose to eat out and find yourself at a casual, family-friendly restaurant, then do not be surprised when you get just that.
For our family, our decision on where to go with our little one has always been ruled by respect for others. If outside seating is available, we try to snag those tables, so our daughter is comfortable and so are other diners. Before we go out, we always think about where we are going and whether or not it is fair to others to bring an infant who cannot comprehend manners. But, believe you me, if that table at Burger 21 had chosen to complain to management about us, and try to get us to leave, they would have been met with not just a very vocal child, but an equally vocal mom.