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Restaurant Rules for Babies

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There’s a Twitter turf war brewing in Chicago. In an intense battle between those who “do” and those who “don’t” (do bring their kids to Michelin-star restaurants vs. those who don’t) a restaurant owner’s tweet has set off a fierce battle of baby etiquette.

It all started with the following tweet from Alinea Restaurant owner Grant Achatz:

Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but...

According to The Chicago Reader, which covered the story, the tweet immediately went viral and everyone with a computer began chiming in. Even Good Morning America covered the story.

RELATED: Restaurant Etiquette for Parents & Babies

Some were on the side of the restaurant. After all, Alinea is one of the few Michelin-star restaurants in the United States. Reservations are prepaid and hard to come by, and patrons sometimes wait months to get a table. The restaurant is small with one meal lasting four hours. Diners don’t just go to Alinea for the food. They go for the experience. That experience, according to those on Achatz’s side, shouldn’t include screaming babies.

On the other side of the argument are those who think parents shouldn’t be persecuted because they have a child. Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to enjoy a restaurant, even if it has Michelin stars? And since the reservation was prepaid, hadn’t the family already “bought” their time and meal? If children weren’t welcome in the restaurant, shouldn’t they have been told that at the time of purchase?

Some claim the family in question had a babysitter cancel last minute. Why couldn’t the restaurant be more gracious about their prepaid predicament? The restaurant refutes that claim, stating the couple in question never asked to change their reservation and simply showed up with baby in tow.

Other reports claim that the baby (whom the restaurant owner guesstimates at 8 months old) was quiet for about an hour, but then started to get fussy and cry. Initially the mom took the baby outside for a minute, then into the bathroom. She returned to the table and when the baby began to cry again, she remained at the table for the rest of the meal. So did the screaming baby. Frustrated, the restaurant owner took to Twitter. I can’t really blame him.

The truth is no one really wants to try to enjoy a nice dinner with a screaming kid nearby.

Every parent is faced with his or her own version of babysitter constraints. Babysitters cancel or get sick. Sometimes, it’s hard to book a sitter. Saturday nights are popular, and most moms and dads have a stable of babysitters. I’m assuming if the Chicago couple in question were dining at a Michelin star restaurant, finances were not the issue; but for regular folks the cost of a babysitter can often be prohibitive.

That’s when it’s time to stay home. I know that sounds rigid, but the truth is no one really wants to try to enjoy a nice dinner with a screaming kid nearby. It’s not appropriate, and it’s selfish to assume a child on a restaurant’s worth of people who don’t want to dine in a day care.

Your babysitter cancels? Stay home. Or do what many couples do—divide and conquer. That means one parent stays home and watches the kids, while the other one dines out and posts enviable photos on Facebook the whole night. Parents can have it all. They just can’t have it all on a Saturday night in a really expensive restaurant. As parents, we chose to have kids. That means sometimes we have to miss things.

Not sure when to bring your kid along? Here are The Restaurant Rules for Babies (and Kids).

1. Bring your kid to a kid-friendly restaurant any time. You want your little kid to stay up until 10 p.m.? Fabulous. So dine at a kid-friendly place where other patrons won’t mind when your kid loses it. And yes, your kid will lose it.

2. Little kids expire after an hour. Part of the experience of a fancy meal is that it’s served un-rushed. The chef has paced the meal and the patrons. A nice meal can last three to four hours. Your kid can’t. So unless you and your baby plan on leaving after an hour, stay home. Your screaming baby will ruin your meal and everyone else’s.

3. Don't prepay if you're a parent. Parents of little kids are either dependent on sitters (who may or may not cancel) or are willing to disrupt everyone else’s evening by bringing their kid along. Since neither of those are great options, I have a solution: If you have young kids and can’t afford to eat the money you paid for The Lion King or that hard-to-come-by reservation, don’t prepay. Wait until your kids get older or your sitter is available with certainty.

4. Having kids doesn't make you entitled to do whatever you want. Think about others who may want a night out without their own kids (and yours) or people who don’t have kids. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you get to bring them anywhere and ruin someone else’s night. Remember, your screaming baby is someday going to college, and you’re going to want to dine at Alinea in peace.

RELATED: 10 Outrageous Kid Restaurants

5. Anything goes before 6 p.m. If you just have to go that fancy place and bring your little kid, do it early. The place will either be empty or filled with people in the same sitter-less situation.

6. Don’t believe in babysitters? Awesome! Don't go out to grown-up places. Some people really don’t believe in babysitters and can’t bear to leave their kids with someone else. No judgment. But remember that it's your choice, so don’t assume your kids are welcome everywhere. Some places are just for grown-ups. Even if those grown-ups don’t want to get a sitter.

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