Friday, 21 January 2011

The pub might be child-friendly, but is your child pub-friendly?

There was a time when pubs and bars were adult-only places, and for children it was a no-go area. Sadly it seems this is no longer the case, and the places where adults can go for a quiet drink without screaming children seems to be getting less and less.

Of course we don't want to go back to the days of pubs being for the sole exclusivity of working-class men where the wives and girlfriends are only allowed in certain areas on certain nights and the smoke-filled pubs where you come out smelling like an ash tray.

However, this does not necessarily equate to never being able to get away from other peoples children. There was a time, many years back, when children started to be allowed in pubs, and there was such a thing as "the family room" where families with children could go. However, many a time children would come running through to the main bar and cause general disruption and disturb other paying customers.

Now the "family room" concept seems to be abandoned in favour of the free for all. Children and tiny babies being in the pub, wine bar or nice restaurant with their family. So now it seems those who are child-free or those responsible parents who have left their children with a baby-sitter, have to put with other people's children spoiling the atompshere for other paying customers. Put up or go elsewhere, it seems. But where?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that a family shouldn't be allowed to go to a nice pub for a pleasant Sunday lunch, they are after all, paying customers. But for many parents, it seems to be just an excuse to allow the rest of the pub's paying customers and staff to become babysitters.

Children get bored easily, and whilst they are waiting for their food and once they have eaten, will want entertaining and will get bored easily. This often leads to standing on chairs, crawling under tables, climbing over furniture, crawling under other paying customers tables and ends up with them running around screaming, shouting and generally disturbing other people and often running into other people and knocking someone. Meanwhile, Mummy and Daddy often just ignore the child, they're quite happy to just sit and get drunk because their precious blessed angel is just "expressing himself", he "can't help it." No, he can't, but YOU can. It is not fair to allow your child to disturb everyone else, just because your child is an inconvenience to you. The child's behaviour is your responsibility. It seems to be acceptable to allow your child to behave in this manner, but if I am on the next table I get glared at for swearing. Or as a responsible parent friend of mine said, she doesn't want to inflict her children on others, plus she doesn't want her children to see loud, drunk people, swearing.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a boring moaning intolerant fart, children should be taught that certain behaviour is not acceptable in certain places. When I was a child, we didn't go to the pub, certainly not any "posh" places. If we did go out for a family meal, we were taught that you sat down, ate your food and spoke at a normal level. Screaming and shouting and disrupting other people was certainly not acceptable and was dealt with quickly. Why is this such a difficult concept for some parents to grasp?

We live in a country which is child-centred, and everywhere seems to be child-friendly. Children are treated like adults, when they aren't. For some parents, a family-friendly establishment seems to equate to them that they can abdicate all responsibility for their child's behaviour. However, these places are not a supermarket, it's not the playground, and it's not your house or your garden. I accept that McDonald's will have children messing about in it, shouting etc, after all it IS a children's place, but Starbucks ISN'T. Nevertheless, many parents don't seem to teach their children that certain behaviours are acceptable in some places, but are not acceptable in another.
I also accept you cannot switch a baby's scream on and off, or a toddlers tantrum off. But if you cannot placate the baby or toddler, don't just continue to inflict the ear-piercing screaming on other people who are having a conversation and then can't here each other. Deal with it!

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