Glenn Connley: Sorry, kids, you can't come to dinner
There’s an old English saying that my mother often quoted while I was growing up: children in company should be seen and not heard.
It’s based on the idea that children can only learn how to behave by being exposed to the real world with the proviso that, in the course of their training, they sit down and shut up.
It’s a philosophy which clearly never reached Singapore.
Any night of the week, at restaurants across the Lion City, fat little emperors and empresses are the boisterous centerpieces around which adults attempt to eat.
The little ones hold court, shouting orders at parents and waiters, eating with the same disgusting table manners, one assumes, they picked up at home.
Before and after they’ve slurped, spilled and thrown their food all over the place, they run riot, making a racket while their parents sit back and do absolutely nothing.
For a country that wields the cane for those who break laws, parents in Singapore seem to be completely under the thumbs of their "little darlings."
When I walk into a restaurant, I avoid tables with children. It’s not that I don’t like them; quite the opposite.
It’s just that I want to enjoy my meal. I want to talk quietly with my wife, family, friends or colleagues. To me, eating out should be a slow, pleasurable and peaceful experience.
As a result, I not only applaud the decision of the management at the PS. Café in Ang Siang Hill to ban children, I urge others to follow suit.
“We are sorry but PS. Café at A.S.H Park can admit adults and teenagers only. Families with younger children are very welcome at all other PS. Café locations,” says the café’s website and sign at the entrance. Totally reasonable.
It’s kind of like smoking. As most smokers would agree, the whole dining experience is now far more enjoyable for everyone since the blanket ban on smoking was introduced in restaurants.
Well, as far as I’m concerned, screaming kids are every bit as sickening as passive smoking.
Part of being a good parent is not just teaching your child discipline, it’s knowing where not to take them.
I’ve seen parents bring children to a golf driving range. A three-wood in the head is a lesson hard learned. And while I have come to accept that Singaporeans are notorious cinema talkers, why would anyone take a three-year-old to a movie for grown-ups … and let them run up and down the aisle?
Parents, get it into your head: there are some places children should not go. And that includes restaurants where people are trying to enjoy themselves.
Like so many Singapore mums, Kartina Evans juggles a busy, globe-trotting career with being a hands-on mother. She has an adorable five-year-old daughter who is used to being around grown-ups and can keep up a conversation among a table full of adults.
Yet she strongly supports the PS. Café’s child ban.
“I’m not against the policy at all,” says Evans. “There are plenty of other family friendly dining options.”
“Places that are lovely are the ones which understand that dining out with kids can get frustrating. So places like Jules Café, which caters for kids by having a little play corner, totally get my thumbs up.
“We live in Singapore, food Mecca of Asia. There is something for everyone and 'everyone' has to include those people who want somewhere to dine where there will be no children. I, for one, won't lose sleep about not being able to go to PS. Café with my kid.”
“Don’t ban kids. Ban parents who let their kids run wild and don’t bat an eyelid until hot shark’s fin soup lands on their heads,” says Erik Wee, a keen foodie.
“Restaurants have a right to choose their target market just as much as diners have a right to choose to eat at a place that does not allow kids without dinner jackets.”
PS. Café patron Darren Ho says nothing ruins the ambience of a restaurant more than children who misbehave.
“I have found myself frequently in search of new places to have a quiet meal and drinks with friends after more popular cafes were inundated by crowds and rowdy patrons,” says Ho.
It all comes down to one thing: be considerate.
If you are considerate, you will consider who might be at a particular type of restaurant and how your child’s behavior will impact on their dining experience.
If you’re inconsiderate, you’ll do whatever the hell you like. You’ll take your screaming brat wherever you like and let them drag their chili crab from one end of a restaurant to another.
Just don’t let them bump into me, because I happen know a very good place to stick your kids’ chili crab.
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