You don’t have to be too ancient to recall the boredom of sitting at a restaurant table with your parents, while they talked with friends ( or just each other ) about politics, the weather, the news topic of the day, or anything else completely uninteresting to a child or young adult. But back in the day, there was no choice.
Parents expected good manners, and certainly, in my own case, you were there to be seen, and not heard. In short, children had to be restaurant friendly!
Eating out was not felt to be entertaining for children, you were just there, as an accompaniment, pretty much like the ketchup or tartare sauce! The table was definitely not a place for elbows or yawning, bad behaviour, or heaven forbid tantrums. And ‘I’m bored’, said no child ever, they wouldn’t dare.
Fast forward, and children of today are routinely taken along with their parents to artisan cafes for that must-have coffee after the school run. Lunch on the go with Mum’s best friend? Yes, children included. And when all else fails and no babysitter can be found, the high chair comes out even on a date night. It seems as if children are now almost being trained to be restaurant friendly. And quite rightly so in my book.
Let’s face it there is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a lovely meal with your friends, or even if you are on a date, only to be disturbed by someone else’s children kicking off at the table.
We’ve all been there. At first, you exchange sympathetic glances with embarrassed parents, which gradually turns to silent glares of ‘can you please just shut them up’! In years gone by, of course, noisy children were ceremoniously removed to a nearby car, and given a bag of crisps and bottle of pop to occupy them! No negotiation. Be quiet or else!
Although we do protest at the amount of time our children spend staring at screens, be they large or small, it has to be said that the invention of online games, has in many ways, been invaluable for so many reasons, none more so than to occupy, and keep children quiet in restaurants.
I’ve lost count of the number of parents I know who do their best to resort to other children calming measures whilst trying to enjoy a good meal. Colouring books come out, wooden puzzles, and fuzzy felts, all with the best of intentions, but they fail miserably, even before the starters are served. But once the iPhone or iPad appears, children become absorbed and instantly quiet, and everyone breaths a sigh of relief.
I for one would much rather see an engaged child, at a restaurant table, than a bored, unhappy one, kicking their legs, and feeling thoroughly left out and miserable, no matter how that is achieved. It’s impossible to include a child in every conversation. And equally impossible and impractical to try to entertain them yourself, whilst trying to connect with your friends or partner at the same time.
No child will come to any harm being absorbed with an online puzzle, maths, or word game, whilst their parents enjoy some adult conversation at the dining table and who knows, if you upload the right ones, they might even learn something whilst you are enjoying yourself. It’s a win-win situation.