“And I’d just like to remind you that kids have to be at your side at all times.”
Working this past summer as a part-time hostess/greeter at a popular beer garden in Gowanus, I would say this to parents at least five times a shift. Typically, they’d respond with the “of course!” garden-variety of responses, but it was never a surprise when a parent rolled their eyes, made a loose joke to their kid about behaving, only for the kid to go sprinting onto the property.
Here’s the thing:
I’m not anti-kid, and my jobs in the bar industry are not anti-kid establishments: I’m anti-parents that are too busy drinking alcohol/socializing to watch their child.
To no surprise, bartenders, servers, security guards, and managers frequently face this issue while working their typical bar gig. From watching children knock a tray of beers out of someone’s hands to catching them clogging toilets with rolls of toilet paper, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself frequently set with another job title that’s outside of my pay grade: Unofficial Babysitter.
Depending on the establishment, there can be a gray area of a protocol when it comes to staff addressing problematic parents and children. If a child isn’t following the rules, and it’s a safety concern, I’ll politely ask them to stop what they’re doing and go back to their parents. Ideally, I’d prefer to address the parents first, but that’s not always the case when say, a toddler is wandering behind the bar and is in immediate danger of grabbing a broken glass.
Even with safety being an issue, I’ve seen the ugly result of telling a child to stop running in an establishment, only for the parent to freak out because they were addressing their child. Owners intervened, the woman was eventually asked to leave the bar, and we got a handful of nasty Yelp reviews from her and her friends; all because the security guard was doing his job, while she, the parent, was too busy socializing with friends to monitor her child’s actions.
In a perfect world when I remind parents of the rules, they’ll speak with their children and assure me they will make some effort to address my concerns. The worst-case scenario? Parents tell their children to “do what the lady says,” dismissing their role of guardian completely and making me, a person they don’t know who has no authority and SHOULDN’T over their child, in charge when it’s not the job I’m here to do.
Part of the problem is that parents need to be realistic of what to expect from their children. Is your child fussy? Energetic? Do they have trouble following directions and rules? Maybe consider getting a real-life babysitter before going out, or bring things to keep the rowdy ones occupied and at the table. A book, a tablet, anything can do the trick! Or rather, try talking to your child and including them in what’s going on, instead of neglecting them and leaving them to their own devices for entertainment.
Why do you think crayons and coloring sheets are so popular at restaurants? It’s the server making a preemptive strike to keep your kids at bay and occupied.
Look at the situation from our perspective: Working in a fast-paced environment, there are crowds to worry about, hot plates, servers running left and right, broken dishes and glass (there’s always broken glass), and people aka strangers you don’t know consuming alcohol. The bar staff is already doing their job to assure that everyone is having a good time with things running as smoothly as possible, and with unattended children in the mix, it’s not an ideal setting to coexist.
It’s also important to be mindful of house rules. Do your research before going out with the whole family. Many establishments have a 21+ only rule after a certain time of day, and if a bar has a strict “No Kids” policy, it’s probably for a good reason.
With that being said, I’m not accusing all parents of neglecting their children! This isn’t an attack on parents and guardians bringing kids to an outing in a bar setting. Do I think it’s the ideal space? Not really, but I’ve had plenty of pleasant moments and interactions with parents and their children. Happy babies, sleepy toddlers, kids reading and being polite, with parents being mindful that the bar staff has a job to do that doesn’t include minding after their children.
Be more like these parents. Kids will be kids, but parents need to parent.