The following 'Better Homes and Gardens' 10 Commandments of dining with little kids' was posted by Heather W., a writer for BH&G, earlier this week. Immediately we started receiving a flood of letters regarding this (anti-family/anti-baby/anti-mom?) posting. Parents saying they were boycotting BH&G and those who were disgusted that 'Commandment Four' is not only entirely lactiphobic, unnatural (to feed a child in a bathroom?!), but also against the law. Federal law (and most State laws) protect a baby's right to eat normally (i.e. breastfeed) anytime, anywhere, that a mother and her child are already allowed to be.
Looking back over the 'commandments' (with the exception of #4) I believe the root problem is in our unfriendly mother/baby culture (and the expectations we have or don't have for kids) rather than the actual act of taking children or babies out to dine in nice restaurants.
Most adults enjoy a dinner out -- and often sans kids in tow. And we (at peaceful parenting) are not advocating for a 'kids can do whatever they want!' attitude. No, of course not. Healthy boundaries are beneficial. But the thing is, most securely attached children, gently parented by involved moms and dads, who have been eating out with the family since the time they arrived earthside and started dining at mom's breastaurant, know how to behave in a restaurant setting. They are the kids whose parents consider the location where their family will dine, and select one that is family-friendly (and it need not be fast food!).
I am able to count on two hands the number of times my husband and I have enjoyed a dinner out while our little ones stayed at home. Instead, we like to include them in the occasion. This isn't to say that we don't indulge in our much needed 'date nights.' But when we chose to bring children into this world, we actually wanted to be parents. For just a few short years (during the time they are babies) kids need their mom. Sure, she can escape for a dinner out here and there without much fuss - but why not take them along on occasion and let them soak up culture and learn how to behave right along side you from day one? One writer pointed out, "How will children learn how to behave in a restaurant if they are never allowed to go with their parents?"
As Drs. Neufeld and Mate wrote in their excellent book, Hold Onto Your Kids, we do our children a disservice when we separate them out into their own box labeled 'children only' rather than including them right along side us in this thing called 'family.' Children do not need more separation from their parents - they need to be closer to us now than ever before. Be this when waking up in the morning, playing and learning throughout their day, or eating their evening meal together as family.
I'd encourage Heather (and other BH&G editors) to check out several other equally brilliant books which touch on the heart (and development/brain research) of why this particular subject is one that should be addressed in a slightly different manner. The Continuum Concept, Our Babies, Ourselves, The Science of Parenting, and Why Love Matters, all demonstrate that children grow up much healthier, happier, and 'well behaved' when they live life alongside mom and dad -- even at a nice restaurant -- than when they are left behind at home with a sitter. There are many things that we (in our often baby-unfriendly U.S. culture) could learn from societies that do not have all these issues with 'terrible twos and tyrannical threes.' Quite realistically, we (as a culture, and the way we parent) often are to blame for creating the problems that we superimpose upon our children. As the title of Dr. Severe's book cleverly states, we must learn how to behave so our preschoolers will too.
I had to chuckle at a few of these 'commandments' because I know that the majority of our readers would not be (for example) toting along a huge bulky stroller with a bucket baby inside... rather s/he would be slinging along, worn closely on mom or dad. Attached babies are happy babies. Toddlers would not be screaming or having a breakdown because they could obtain comfort by nursing and being held whenever it was needed. Peaceful parenting moms and dads would not be ignoring their little ones, or expecting the wait staff to 'babysit' because they would be engaged with their youngsters. An activity book, or conversation would take the place of noisy toys. Quite simply, when we support family, when we support healthy baby/child practices, when we support mothers and mothering, we just do not find that many of the 'commandments' below are even necessary. Once again, parenting naturally really does eliminate most of the problems that otherwise arise in a mother/baby unfriendly society.
Update: Less than 7 hours after we first presented this information to DrMomma.org readers, Better Homes and Gardens retracted the lactiphobic "Commandment Four" and changed the title to "The 9 Commandments of Dining..."
The 10 commandments of dining with little kids
by Heather W. at Better Homes and Gardens
posted on Wed May 19, 2010 1:34pm PDT
THOU SHALT NOT BLOCK TRAFFIC WITH BULKY STROLLERS
Strollers have begun to overtake cars and wristwatches as conspicuous status symbols. You may be proud of your double-wide Maclaren, but be sure not to leave it jutting out in a place where waiters and other patrons might trip over in transit. Leave the stroller at home and indulge your family with this melty, tasty Chicken and Cheese Panini.
THOU SHALT NOT ORDER A 10-COURSE TASTING MENU WITH KIDS UNDER 10
Kids, as we all know, have kid-sized attention spans. Attempting to make them sit still while you enjoy a world-renowned chef’s esoteric, glacially-paced tasting menu isn’t going to be a pleasant experience for anyone. For a fast meal your kids will still savor, whip up this Quick Crunchy Chicken Dinner.
THOU SHALT NOT TREAT YOUR SERVER LIKE A SITTER
Your server is there to accommodate you, but customer service has its limits. While most waiters are happy to engage and amuse your little one, it's bad form to delegate your child-minding duties to the person taking your sea bass order. Let your kids serve themselves with our Best Yummy Mexican Meals.
THOU SHALT NOT BREAST FEED AT THE TABLE
Yes, I have seen table-side breast feeding at a four-star restaurant. If at all possible, take it to the ladies room. (Note: most upscale restaurants have really nice restrooms!) If you're breastfeeding, you likely want to cook something quick, easy, and protein-rich; we love this Speedy Bow Tie Pasta Dinner.
THOU SHALL FEEL FREE TO ORDER "KID FOOD" OFF THE MENU
Most restaurants are happy to provide kid-friendly cuisine, so don’t hesitate to ask, just keep in mind you may experience sticker shock (e.g., $23 for pasta with butter) For a filling and savory twist on basic spaghetti, try these hearty Filled Pasta Entrees.
THOU SHALL NOT TURN DINNER INTO A PHOTOSHOOT
It’s exciting to see your little one all dressed up at the table, and special occasions and birthdays are naturally conducive to photos, but overzealous documentation with flash photography, flip-cams, and camcorders can be distracting to fellow diners. Say "cheese" with these ten tasty Macaroni and Cheese recipes.
THOU SHALT NOT BRING NOISY TOYS
It’s wise to bring a few of your kid’s favorite toys for their amusement but try not to bring excessively loud games and bleep-blooping electronic toys -- or at least be sure there’s a volume-off button. Keep their hands busy with a finger-food meal, such as this tasty Buffalo Wing Dinner.
THOU SHALL TRY TO QUELL HIGH-PITCHED SCREAMING
Unexpected tantrums and outbursts are a fact of life, but when a parent sits stoically as their child screams without any intervention, the mood of the room can quickly turn from convivial to incredulous to profoundly irritated. They'll be screaming with joy for these homemade Mini Pizzas With Pizazz.
THOU SHALT NOT ALLOW FREE-RANGE KIDS
When you let your child run free in the restaurant, it’s not only disruptive to other diners, but it could be a safety hazard: Restaurants are full of hot plates and sharp cutlery, and kids underfoot could cause a major disaster. Keep them planted happily in their seats with this zesty, crunchy Skillet Tostada Dinner.
THOU SHALL CALMLY DISCOURAGE FOOD FIGHTS
Ah, the food fight. The epitome of fun at summer camp and grade school cafeterias -- less so at Michelin-starred eateries. If the food starts flying, quietly and firmly put an end to it. And if your kids politely make their way through the meal without incident, treat them to a well-deserved Dessert treat.
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Commandment #9 made me decide to go buy this shirt today for my youngest... ;)