Kids in restaurants – yay or nay?

We’ve started a wonderful tradition of going out with friends for a Mexican dinner with all the kids (five kids under 2.5…if you’re counting) on Friday or Saturday night most weekends.

When you break it down, what’s not to love?
– What parent doesn’t need a margarita at about 5:30?
– Kids can be persuaded to eat quesadillas quite easily when marketed as “special pizza”.
– Guac is one of the few foods that’s equally appealing to eight month olds and 35 year olds.
In short, brilliant for all involved, right?

Or it’s brilliant for the first thirty minutes. Then the toddlers decide that they’re tired of sitting still and the babies decide that they’re tired of napping, and it all devolves quickly. We’ve learned to order as soon as we sit down…

Despite the fact that these meals generally end with the adults finishing up one last margarita with either an Elmo-on-the-iPhone entranced child in lap or standing, margarita in hand, bouncing a fussy child who really wanted to be in bed half an hour ago, we inevitably decide to do it again the next week. Or about half of the group does – a few always grumble that it’s going to be a disaster, and why are  we doing this again?

The nay-sayers see it as a distraction to the other diners.
The yay-sayers argue that anyone who eats dinner at 5:30 on the Upper West Side can’t expect a calm, peaceful, little people free dinner.

The nay-sayers think the chaos we create is embarrassing.
The yay-sayers relish the glances exchanged with other parents across the restaurant that sympathize, “we’re all in this together”.

The nay-sayers hear the “you guys are brave” as a veiled “I’m really annoyed that your kids are here”.
The yay-sayers hear the “you guys are brave” as the clear complement that it is.

The nay-sayers leave more stressed out than they started by the whole adventure.
The yay-sayers leave thankful for at least a bit of adult interaction.

This is clearly a contentious issue — the NYT posted it in Room For Debate earlier this year:

A large chain, Earls, recently banned kids and their Facebook page erupted in debate:

As did the blogosphere:

What do you think?

(And if you’re looking for a kid-friendly spot in NYC with some excellent margaritas, you can’t beat Cilantro:
http://www.cilantronyc.com/485-columbus-ave/. Just don’t take the big table in back around 5:30 on a Friday or Saturday.)
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