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Furore over kids in restaurants

NICK Munier only had to open the subject of banning kids from restaurants and the internet was full of moaning about dining experiences "ruined" by squealing toddlers.

"It was such a treat for hubbie and I", begins the moan, but it was all destroyed by the roaring, the running and the "oblivious" parents.

Toddlers can be a nightmare in restaurants. In that period when they can run anywhere but can't be reasoned with - between about one-and-a-half and four years old - I can see the logic of a ban in posher restaurants after 7pm.

I have my own dear memories of bringing toddlers to restaurants.

We were once sitting in a hotel dining room in West Cork and though it was only teatime, a coach-load of posh Americans was having dinner early.

My 18-month-old twin boys escaped while we sipped our coffee. One of them appeared at the top of the ceremonial staircase overlooking the dining room. When the posh Americans looked up he whipped off his nappy and peed like a firehose on the carpet.

We thought this was very funny. But the Americans didn't look amused at all.

The truth was we were "oblivious", just like the parents described by the internet moaners because when you're around young kids a lot, you get used to them.


What's behind a lot of the negative comments about kids in restaurants is the fact that in these days of smaller families the first small kids with which most people come into contact are not their own.

It's fair enough that they don't want to watch a toddler barrel into the legs of a waiter with a stack of plates when they're out for a meal in the evening. As Nick Munier said on Newstalk, it is a health and safety issue.

So why's he banning babies from his Dublin restaurant, Pichet? Babies under two, to be precise, after 6pm?

Babies who can't walk aren't a health and safety issue. They stay put because they have to. The only annoying thing they do is cry. What usually stops them crying is the breast or the bottle.

But they can't be breast-fed unless they're with their mother! So what Nick Munier is saying, in essence, is that if you're breast-feeding a baby you can stop at home. Let the men and the women with dry breasts get on with it.

Not surprising, is it, that we have the lowest breastfeeding rate in the civilised world and that embarrassment is what stops Irish women breastfeeding?

Which is a major problem because breastmilk is gourmet food for babies.


If you're bottle-feeding, you're still stuck to a young baby. They need to be held close most of the time and they'll only take their bottle from someone they're used to.

Because we stand up, human babies come out of their mother's bodies long before they're independent. They need their mothers almost as much as if they were in the womb for quite some time after they're born.

They can't be disciplined.

People love getting on their high horses about parents who can't discipline their children. Toddlers do have to be corralled. And older children need to be told how to behave and it would be good if that included sitting up and eating with a knife and fork.

If kids can't behave in a restaurant and are disturbing other diners, I think managers are within their rights in asking them to leave - just as they'd ask a rowdy hen party to leave.

But babies are different. They can't help yelling.

I think all this horror of crying babies and mothers originates in that deep, dark place which is the Irish fear of women's fertility.

But babies have a right to get out because their mothers do. Banning babies means banning women because they happen to be mothers.

If it's legal, it shouldn't be.