There was a time when all restaurants were family restaurants. Pubs were gathering place for all ages and babysitters weren't even invented. Restaurants weren't places to escape the daily grind; they were places to eat and socialize.
But somewhere down the line, lots of kidless adults became terrified of small people who - gah! - not so long ago emerged from another human's body and would subsist on mashed chicken parts and modified fructose, given their druthers.
And the parents? They grew resentful and defensive that those people, so suspended in extended adolescence that they can't be bothered to fulfill their duty to perpetuate the human race and have the audacity to scrunch their noses at the first whiff of baby poo.
Can't we all just get along? Apparently not. Earlier this week the BBC explored the social minefield of letting uncouth children dare to eat in public. They have their suggestions on dealing with the tall order of co-existing. We have ours.
You're seated next to a family even though you obviously dislike children. Duh. Parents: Just ignore the glares. Really, don't you have better things to worry about than what strangers think of you? Let it go. Enjoy the meal with your family, lest you teach your kids to let the dirty looks of others dictate their feelings.
Non-parents: Use your anti-child radar and ask for a table far, far away from any offensive miniature people. If that doesn't work, let it go. Just because there's a child present doesn't mean you're going to end the night covered in vomit and breast milk. Enjoy your dinner, lest you want the fear of potential unpleasantness to develop into panic disorder.
When an infant cries... Parents: Consider your child's needs. Yes, we know that you haven't eaten hot soup since the kid emerged. That's a part of the deal. Your crying child needs your attention. The overstimulating, sometimes unfamiliar dining room makes it hard for a kid to pull it together. Perhaps you two should step away from the table until everyone's calm.
Non-parents: Patience. You probably cried in a restaurant as some point in your life. It might have been last week when you got your ass dumped after three margaritas.
When a child wanders away from the table and salts the floor... Parents: For starters, don't let your child leave. It's unsafe. She could get run over by a harried server, wander into the kitchen and burst into flames, or get snatched by someone different from you. And take away the salt shaker. Kids need to know that too much sodium is unhealthy. And doesn't belong on a restaurant's floor.
Non-parents: Feel free to snicker and glare, or perhaps place a call to report a case of possible child neglect. A rowdy bachelorette party is raging at the next table, exposing Junior to sights he's not emotionally prepared to comprehend. Parents: Don't take your kids to the dueling piano bar and grill. Consider the venue.
Non-parents: No one at Red Robin wants to see you wearing a condom-laced bridal veil while sipping your Freckled Lemonade through a penis straw. Consider the venue.
Odors! There are bodily odors! Parents: DO SOMETHING!!! Make it go away! Now!
Non-parents: It's okay to politely ask the parents if their child is okay. It's not okay to ask them if they've been feeding their child a diet of McNuggets and Puppy Chow because dear god, what could possibly make that smell?
A child is throwing a wild monkey-style tantrum regarding the contents of his plate. Parents: Toddlers aren't into Caribbean fusion molecular gastronomy. Maybe a casual noodle house, mom and pop Italian joint, or cozy pita hut would be a more appropriate venue for introducing your child to the cuisines of the world.
Non-parents: You only get to have an opinion on this matter if you've never thrown your own tantrum over the contents of a perfectly fine plate. If you haven't, then you are probably well-mannered and mature enough to ignore the activities at another table and focus on your own enjoyable evening. Congratulations.