I didn't have this view until after our trip to San Francisco when we had two good experiences (with a just turned two year old) in some pretty nice restaurants. We ate one evening at a little Italian place and one evening at a French restaurant. I was a bit leery when C.O. suggested we eat at the French restaurant, Piperade. I'm usually pretty worried about what people will think if Harold is noisy or makes a mess or decides to throw food or whatever in public. But C.O. assured me that Harold generally does pretty well and if they are a well trained staff, they'll treat us like any other customer. If they don't, just be cause we have a kid with us, then they're not really that good. So, we went. It was one of the best dining experiences I've had in a long time. The food was awesome and the service was above and beyond anything I expected.
It turns out there isn't a children's menu at nice restaurants, which is fine since we never order Harold his own meal anyway no matter where we go. He doesn't eat enough to make it worth it and our meal portions are usually too big anyway so there's plenty to go around. Well, as we normally do, we ordered, and planned to share with Harold. After our food arrived and we had started our meal, a server came out with a bowl of French fries and some ketchup for Harold. How sweet! We hadn't asked for anything for him or expected anything special. The menu was tiny, (so you know it was a fancy restaurant) and we couldn't really pronounce any of the meals so I can guarantee there weren't any French fries waiting to be deep fried in the kitchen. They must have specially cut up some potatoes for him. I snitched some and they were yummy btw.
Throughout dinner, we were pleased with our service. No one seemed put out or annoyed that we had brought a child along. In fact, it everyone appeared to enjoy doting over Harold. He is charming and beautiful after all. =)
C.O. was right the staff was well trained and treated us well, even with a toddler in tow. So, there's no reason to be afraid to bring kids to these sorts of establishments.
As parents, we have a duty, like those servers, to have well trained children. At home we practice good table manners daily. Harold has far from mastering all of them, but we're working on it. He has to eat what we're eating, no special "kid food". If we have a big old salad, Harold eats a salad too. Sometimes he loves what we're eating and sometimes he doesn't and eats very little. But we're training him to get used to different sorts of foods being offered to him. Something tells me if we would have ASKED for French fries at Piperade, it wouldn't be o.k. but since we were willing to feed him off the menu, they were willing to accommodate us. At home Harold has to stay at the table until we're done eating and can't play with his food, or shout etc. Being at restaurants is a good chance for Harold to hone in on those manners.
I have to admit, we did have one pretty bad experience with Harold in a restaurant. We were outside of D.C. visiting C.O.'s Aunt Phyllis and decided to go out to eat at The Peking Duck. We weren't worried about Harold's behavior at all. At 18 months, all he thought about was food it seemed. As soon as food was put in front of him, he was happy. But not that night. That night all he wanted to do was walk. So, when we put him in the high chair, he screamed. It was a quite night at the restaurant so his cries were echoing through the room. It turned out C.O. or I had to take turns being outside with Harold and letting him walk around. We now often refer to the "Peking Duck Episode" and hope to never repeat it.
So, parents, make most every meal time a practice time for table manners and then get out there with your kids. Let them experience fine dining in a beautiful setting. It's never to early to start training kids how to act in society. We want Harold to fit in in all sorts of settings. Whether he's eating raw fish with his hands in Brevig or using the correct fork at a restaurant, he needs to be prepared. Even at the age of two.