No Shirt, No Shoes, No Teeth, No Service

There’s a sob story in The Ottawa Citizen today about how a mother toting a three month-old baby was asked to leave a new restaurant in South Ottawa because the restaurant owners didn’t want the baby there. The indignant aunt is now filing a complaint with the provincial Human Rights Tribunal because she feels the mother and her tot were discriminated against.

Pardon me for inviting the wrath of the estrogen-laden masses out there in cyberspace, but I take my hat off to the restaurant owners for taking a stand.

Hugh Adami’s column is a rant against the injustice of a restaurant operator refusing entry to a mother with an infant. Apparently, Trieste Rathwell was informed, upon asking for a chair to put the car seat on, that the restaurant did not want the baby there because it wasn’t conducive to the kind of atmosphere they were trying to produce. Rathwell and the baby’s mother, Ruth Gard, are gobsmacked because, after all, the three month-old would just lie there peacefully sleeping and wouldn’t create a fuss, so what in fact is the fuss all about?

Rathwell, Gard, the tot and two other guests left the restaurant, but have not left the issue of their indignation alone.

The restaurant has come out with any number of politically correct excuses and reasons to try and appease the angry women without saying what is in everyone’s minds. The restaurant didn’t ask them to leave because of breast feeding concerns, lack of change tables in the washroom or fears of losing their liquor license, as they have offered. The fact is that they didn’t want the baby there because they didn’t want a baby potentially screaming and bawling and disrupting the atmosphere for other patrons.

Cheers to that.

Why do parents of young children and toddlers feel that it’s appropriate to bring their spawn to public events and restaurants? I was eating breakfast at Cora’s with friends a few weeks back, and had the good fortune of sitting at a table ten feet from a baby who, I shit you not, didn’t stop bawling and screeching for the duration of my meal. Between the baby and the lame attempts the pacing mother was making at soothing the baby with cooing and talking, I could barely hear what my friends were saying.

Tell me you don’t have a similar story to tell, or a dozen.

It’s not even remotely rare to be out shopping or eating in a restaurant and have some adult surrounded by a litter wander by, the kids screaming and throwing themselves around and carrying on like a bunch of sugar addled primates. Not infrequently, the parents seem deliberately oblivious to the insanity being perpetrated around them, or excuse it when asked as “kids just being kids.”

This isn’t about discrimination or being cruel to parents, it’s about common sense. Don’t try and tell me that the honest expectation is that the baby would have peacefully slept, silent in his car seat, through the entire dinner while the adults babbled and chuckled away. Bullshit. There is every likelihood that the baby would have woken up, screamed like a harpy, and attracted not only the doting attention of the adults at the table but the ire and annoyance of the rest of the patrons in the room.

People go to a restaurant, or go to public events, because they want to enjoy conversation and good food. Adults don’t bawl and carry on in public, one reasonably assumes, so they probably don’t expect to be subject to bawling and screaming when they go to a restaurant. There is generally a level of respectful conduct that adults exhibit when they go out in public, expecting the same from those around them.

That would be a level of respectful conduct, and volume, that a baby would know nothing about.

It’s not the baby’s fault. A baby is being a baby. They drool, puke, crap themselves and scream. It’s what they do. While some people find that unbearably cute and cuddly, feces, vomit and uncouth behaviour are clearly not things I find adorable, and certainly aren’t things that the average person wants to have to deal with when they are out sharing a meal. I don’t blame the baby for doing what baby’s do, whether I find it repulsive or not. I blame the parents for being too stupid or too arrogant to recognize that subjecting others to that kind of behaviour is disrespectful.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people don’t all universally think your little offspring are the gift to humanity that you think they are. Given that they might not think that your baby is such a gift, they likely don’t think that everything that your baby does is instantly and undeniably adorable. Babies don’t know this, but reasonable adults should. Since the adult should know this, they should act on behalf of their child and either ask ahead of time if it would be alright to bring the little crapper along, or simply arrange for care and not bring the kid at all. Would it be so hard to ask the restaurant “Can I bring my child in?”


Instead, it’s better to get all indignant and raise a stink and have a newspaper article written about it (obviously someone called the newspaper) and file a complaint against the restaurant with the Human Rights Tribunal. Because, after all, your right to bring your baby into a restaurant without any concern or consideration for the other patrons who might be disturbed if the kid wakes up and pitches a holy fit is more important than the rights of those same patrons to have a peaceful meal in a quiet restaurant.

Dogs, cats and single-celled organisms breed; what makes the fact that you breed make you any more important than the rest of us?

I applaud the restaurant for taking a stand. They haven’t backed down at all, and I think that’s a show of exceptional bravery. I’m sure it won’t end well, and the restaurant will be strong-armed into an apology. People become simpering little turds when a baby is involved, and won’t let something like this rest.

What should be happening here is the mother of the child should be telling her sister, who seems to be the one creating the fuss, to shut the hell up. The mother, and parents of children and toddlers everywhere, should be giving their thick heads a shake so that they can recognize that a little common sense and decency would suggest that it would be neighbourly to either not bring their children with them until they are of an age that they can understand where they are and how to behave properly, or at least ask in advance if the establishment is alright with the child coming. This isn’t an issue of human rights, it’s a matter of human decency. If you can’t be responsible enough to take into consideration how your, or your child’s, behaviour will impact the right to enjoy their outing that everyone else in the room shares, you don’t belong there any more than your screaming kid does.

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5 comments so far

I just read the article that is linked, and it actually ticked me off. The only mistake the restaurant made is not being clear about their policy from the beginning, and just tell the person that they do not and will not accept small children/babies for dinner reservations during the week. I am almost certain that other establishments of a similar nature of these types of polices, as I have frequented one in the Glebe and have never, ever seen a small child or baby there, and nor would I expect to.


A Knallight
June 30th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Alright, but wouldn’t you be willing to concede that neither you or your child are in the majority? Not many children are quiet and peaceful 95% of the time, and not many parents are considerate enough to take their kid out of the restaurant when they start freaking out (see Cora’s reference in post).

This isn’t about human rights, it’s about people having enough common sense to understand that people have as much right to be somewhere where there aren’t kids as the people with kids have the right to put them on display. Simple decency would suggest that a parent could understand that some places might want to maintain a certain peaceful, adult atmosphere and that not knowing you, your child, or his lack of proclivity for screaming and feces-letting might worry the owners and provoke them to ask you to leave.

Why should my right to a kid-free outing be any less important or defensible than your right to bringing your kid with you?

Deep Cortex
July 6th, 2010 at 1:57 am

Sorry Julie, my stoopid iPhone blog ate your comment. HERE’S WHAT JULIE HAD TO SAY:

“Being a mother who did bring her baby with her wherever she went, I feel I need to justify my actions. I understand that people do not want a screaming child sitting next to them. I wouldn’t want that either. But 95% of the time, my son would sleep through everything. The other 5% of the time, if he made any noise or started fussing, I would simply pick him up, walk out, and quiet him down outside. That way, no one else was bothered. Most of my friends were the same way when it came to their children in public places. So I don’t think it’s fair to tell someone they can’t eat at a restaurant just because they have an infant with them.”

Deep Cortex
July 6th, 2010 at 2:14 am

Ok, maybe I’m not part of the majority. People who let their kids run amok in public places need parenting lessons (or a swift kick in the behind). The problem is that refusing to allow children in a restaurant feels like discrimination based on age. Once one restaurant does it, what’s to stop other establishments from doing it? And where do we draw the line?
Ok, I promise this is my last answer to this :)

July 9th, 2010 at 12:40 am

Feel free to comment all you like.

Based on reactions published in the newspaper recently, most people actually agree with what the restaurant did.

To invoke the slippery slope argument is to go to a bit of an extreme. Maybe other restaurants would feel emboldened to similarly disallow children, but I hardly think there would be some sort of widespread persecution of toddlers. Actually, when you think about it, it would probably end with restaurants all competing to be “family friendly” to attract the crowd left without anywhere to go.

Childless people are all to often subjected to a sort of discrimination of their own. We tend to have to endure the swooning and belly dragging and general sloppiness of a world enraptured by little fat bundles of poor manners. Sometimes it’s nice to have a place to go to in public where you can escape all of that for a while.

Deep Cortex
July 9th, 2010 at 1:00 am

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