I'm going to be outright and say it. There are certain places you should simply not bring your children. Hot night clubs, trendy bars, and nice dining places are among these places. I know sometimes parents can't help it. The sitter canceled and you had no choice; so be it. I understand. I really do.
But this post pertains to the parents who take their kids and then tune them out.
Sure, you're used to junior running around like a little psychopath using the bread as a projectile, but I'm not and damn it it's my night out too.
Is your child screaming? Don't ignore it. Is your child throwing things? Tell them to stop. Is your child rude and obnoxious? Teach them otherwise.
My parents took my brothers and me to cotillion to learn ballroom dancing, and we were required to attend dining etiquette classes. Yep. It's true. I can I.D. eight types of forks. I learned the importance of my "please" and "thank you"s. I know it's good manner to hold a door or help seat your dining companion. To treat your waiter with respect, and you'll be given respect back. To always act with decorum, and still have fun.
I'm not a stickler for manners but I don't chew with my mouth open or bring up taboo topics at the dinner table to the mortification of everyone there. My elbows sometimes find their way to the table (mom would stab us in the arm with a fork if we did), but nowadays I think we're all a little more at ease with that one.
But what really shocks me is that some people just don't get it. Not a bit.
Take my old roommate, a rebel fighter against table manners. He would literally shout out protests to them and denounce them. Chewing with your mouth closed, and forbidding topics of discussion at the table (anime porn at a Professor's luncheon? I was embarrassed for you) was a way for people to put ideas of control and elite classism on society. It was a way for people to think themselves better than others.
Which, I suppose is partly true. Part of the show of certain manners and presentations is about feeling high and important (do you really need 9 various types of spoons?). However, a lot of etiquette exists simply for the comfort of others and for the sake of being polite out in public.
They're like laws, they help keep society running as a cohesive whole. When people are using manners to show simple everyday respect, we all get along a little better. I don't want to hear about your nasty bunion over brunch, your "crack addicted girlfriend's nasty apartment" while I try to eat cheesecake a table over, and I really don't want to see you masticating with your chomping and smacking noises talking about whatever drivel you think I might care about. It all irritates me and I'm sure others as well; my only thought at all this is to snap at the perpetrator which is nothing in itself, but if we all feel that way towards each other when eating in a public setting then a wrench is thrown into the cogs of society. This is a grand example for sure, but I feel the point is made.
Plus manners make all the difference at important dinner functions such as business dinners or at an interview or presentation. Maybe you're meeting the parents or having a first date? Belching the ABC's (which I can do thankyouverymuch) will not be helping you in any of those situations.
But manners must be learned and from the beginning at an early age from parents and other role models; like I learned good table manners from my parents, my friend learned the opposite from his. One time his father dined with us at a Baker's Square. Some girls sat down in the booth near us and began oo-ing and ah-ing over all the pies in the menu. My friend's dad leaned in and smirked, saying under his breath, "I know what kind of pie I want..." Bear with me now.
"Ew! God! Ew! Sweet crackers, dear Jesus, strike me deaf and please let no one else have heard that." I can only imagine the look on my face. My friend seemed just as upset, but I think more for my sake than his.
Needless to say, I was sufficiently icked out. I was mortified. I wanted to vanish. I seriously cannot look at pie without thinking of that anymore. The man destroyed pie for me. (Okay, well I can still eat it, but I have to put up a serious mental block at the time. It's a serious undertaking for me, eating pie.)
Back to where I began, if you bring your kids out to eat, please make sure they know their manners. Sometimes kids can be crazy, I know, I've dined with my nephew before. You do your best and do what you can. They're kids and they can be a bit loud, and it's okay. There is a line however, and when it's crossed, don't tune it out or ignore it. Take care of it. "Chew your food Suzy, don't swallow it like an anaconda with a sheep." See? Simple. The rest of the people eating want to enjoy their night too, so take the time at home to go over the importance of manners.
Cause I swear to God, next brat who smacks me in the back of the head with a piece of bread and the parents don't apologize (choosing instead to yell at the kid to sit down and eat his damn meal, while the other focuses on her salad) will be used as a flailing, blunt instrument of etiquette education on the parents.
And everyone will applaud my actions.
A Side Note: If you intend to travel, familiarize yourself with other cultures' table manners as well. It'll do you good and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture.
Vanilla Garlic - Chopstick Etiquette 101
Vanilla Garlic - Sendback 101
American/European Table Manners
Japanese Table Manners
Thai Table Manners
A Meal in Kenya
Teaching Kids Table Manners