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In which Jen gets a wee bit negative.

by jenyum
on 3/15/2007 @ 4:07pm
Originally posted over at Tacomamama

Children: Better Behaved than Dogs, or Snot Wielding Disease Vectors?

Excuse me for a moment while I take a brief respite from the usually positive tone of this website to rant.

I used to spend a fair amount of time perusing The News Tribune's food blog, Ed's Diner. These days, I stop by to see what he's talking about but I rarely participate in the discussion. Frankly, I cringe nearly every time I visit it.

Of late, Ed has taken to discussing children in restaurants. He admits he does not himself have or want children, unlike some of the "breeders" who read his blog. Lacking any true investment in the subject himself, I am not sure why he continues to discuss this topic as much as he does, unless it is to invite the inevitable lengthy spate of comments that follows each post. Apparently, in addition to the many people who agree with him, there are a number of Perfect Parents (tm) whose children never illicit the types of behavior that cause other diners to complain. Here at Tacomamama, we've received the Great Karmic Smackdown that happens whenever a parent brags excessively about a particular trait of their child enough times to know that's a very bad idea. I predict public meltdowns for all by next Tuesday.

Since I started Tacomamama, I've received a number of family-friendly dining suggestions for national chain restaurants. I've also heard from parents who tend not to take their children to locally-owned restaurants, for fear of disturbing other customers. At a time when many Tacoma businesses are struggling to establish themselves and bring in new customers, this is a loss to the local economy.

It's easy to sit back smugly and paint parents as ignorant suburban "breeders" who prefer chain restaurants in strip malls and teach their children no manners. I would ask anyone with that point of view, to what degree does your own public distate contribute to this "trend?" (What, exactly, is so important about Your Life that the occasional high-pitched sound from the young of your own species puts you off your foi grois? Are you performing neurosurgery, or just eating dinner?) I assure you, people will continue to have children whether or not you personally see the point. These children will grow up, and their range of experiences will be influenced by their parents, primarily, but also by the culture around them.

If our local restaurant culture is not friendly to children, they will not grow up eating in local restaurants. They will not take their children to local restaurants, and they might not even be aware of all the choices that are available to them. They won't know, for example, that Tacoma is actually a wonderful place to dine out with kids, that there are many, many great neighborhood places that are thrilled to see families and go the extra mile to see that their experience is a stress-free and happy one.

We moved here from the Bay Area about 3 years ago, at a time when anti-child sentiment of this sort was becoming pretty common. (Incidentally, Ed is a Bay Area transplant, too.) The San Francisco-Oakland area is so expensive, that many families simply cannot afford to live there anymore, let alone dine out. Fortunately, we now live in Pierce County Washington, where a family can get by on a great deal less and still go out to eat every so often. Families make up a large portion of the population, and local establishments rely on them for their bottom line. I'm glad we live here, where families matter and restaurants are happy to see us walk in the door.


Ed's Diner, Customers and Kids

by ensie on 3/22/2007 @ 9:50pm
As someone who currently doesn't have kids, but plans on having them in the future, I don't see a problem with bringing your kids to any local restaurant. If I don't want kids sitting at the table next to me, there's always the lounge or the bar (which sometimes can come with its own set of aural challenges depending on how drunk the person may be sitting in the next seat over).

I have had several frustrating conversations with single and/or childless Tacoma residents about good choices for child-friendly, affordable local restaurants. Do you find this to be an issue? I often receive eye rolls and snorts in response and am told, "go to Applebees," or another similar chain restaurant. I find it highly irritating.

by KevinFreitas on 3/23/2007 @ 8:05am
It'd be pretty cool if an outwardly kid-friendly family restaurant opened in Tacoma. I'm not just talking crayons and paper place mats but lego utensils, magicians, clowns etc. Something like Chucky Cheese but not as frightening. No big fuzzy animal people please.

by jenyum on 3/23/2007 @ 8:27am
Yes, I think there's definitely an opening for something less manic than Odyssey 1 (which totally has it's place, don't get me wrong) and nicer than chucky cheese, but not a chain. Odyssey 1 actually has OK pizza, if you can get the kids to sit down and eat it. If you've never been there, they've got a fairly decent arcade and a lazertag arena.

I also get a lot of people looking for more activities for the 3 and under set. There's huge growth potential there, and I think Tacoma loses some families to surrounding suburbs during the baby and toddler years because of a perceived lack of activities. (Yes, it's a very brief period of time in the greater scheme of things, but I know it can seem like forever) That's especially sad because there are so many great programs and activities for older children, much more than can be found in the suburbs, if they stick it out.

Something like a Rainforest Cafe without the ridiculously overpriced bad food would be really cool. I have an ongoing fantasy that someone will buy the Foremost Dairy building downtown by the museums and turn it into a huge ice cream/diner type joint.

by jenyum on 3/24/2007 @ 11:38am
I was talking about this with my husband this weekend and he mentioned Pizza and Pipes. So many Tacoma natives seem to miss this place. It was gone long before I ever visited.