"A stranger reprimanded my toddler in a family-friendly restaurant. It left me mortified."

Eating out with toddlers is literally one of my least favourite experiences. But with two children of my own, one of whom is a tricky toddler, sometimes I need or want to take the little people out.

After a long week in the house with bedtimes and bath times (always a joy come Friday night) it’s nice to mix it up. I usually also feel optimistic my husband and I can muster just enough energy to take the kids out for dinner.

But let me set the scene for you. When I say ‘go out’, I mean exit the house for approximately one hour, to order from a place I know will serve us both alcohol and vaguely decent bistro food in a fast and orderly fashion. We are home by 6.30pm, exhausted from chasing our youngest son Leo up and down stairs and with slight indigestion. But dinner is done, and there is no washing up – great result!

One of our favourite places to have a relaxed family meal feast at the trough, is our local club. A cavernous space reserved mostly for older people who eat at 5pm and families with anti-socially aged children. The club does genuinely great ramen and bao, as well as proper burgers and for our eldest son on special occasions, there is a chocolate fountain (the only place left in Australia perhaps?). Kids meals come with crayons and the bar is reasonably priced. It’s a winner all round.

On this particular Friday we had arranged to meet another family with two children to enjoy our pariah status as parents of youngsters together. We grabbed a large table just after 5pm and armed with enough toys and books to entertain an entire preschool we felt like we were nailing the whole family Friday night out thing.

"Eating out with toddlers is literally one of my least favourite experiences." Image: Supplied.

Leo has only just learned to walk so in between sips of wine and snippets of conversation, I held his chubby little hand and walked around a smattering of other diners so he could stretch his legs before dinner.

Not long after we sat down, a brave couple of a more mature age purchased drinks and sat close to us in what must have been their favourite spot, otherwise why would you choose to sit near the huge family group? All was going well until on tottering past this particular couple, Leo let out a brief happy squeal. Loud – yes – but happy.

The woman at the table was obviously offended and decided to say rather loudly, "Oh for goodness sake, shush child!” to Leo, who paused and stared up at her. She looked a little embarrassed by the fact he stopped to give her the full toddler version of side eye and I was also rather bewildered.


I had certainly heard tuts and been given looks before but mostly we get little smiles from the very generous and ignored by everyone else. I know toddler screams are awful, which is why we never dine out anywhere fancy and if Leo does have a tantrum (inevitable at his age) I will pick him up and keep moving, so he can finish it off outside.

So here we were at 5.30pm in what is essentially a food court being told off by a random lady. She probably had a bad day or had sensitive hearing or just hates toddlers. Perhaps it just slipped out of her mouth before she knew what was happening, but whatever her reason, I as the mother attached to the child being reprimanded, was mortified.

I thought in that moment of pause, should I be saying ‘sorry’ or even ‘get stuffed’, but what would be the point? Instead I caught her eye as she stared down at Leo to acknowledge I had heard her admonishment and I moved on – quickly. Five minutes later I noticed she and her husband had sensibly moved away from us noisy types to one of the MANY OTHER free seats.

My advice to her and anyone else who hates to hear kids when they dine out, would be to try not sit near any, rather than let your feelings be known and put a dampener on a tired mum’s night ‘out’. I won’t be there for more than an hour anyway.

Do you take your kids out for dinner? Has anyone ever told your child/children off for being noisy in public? Tell us in the comments section below.

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