Dining Out With the Niños

Argentine flag on the side of a building.Argentina has very little, if any, of the “People With Kids Shouldn’t Take Them Anywhere Except the Toy Store and Park” syndrome the US seems to have developed. This is very much a child and family friendly place, and it is not inappropriate to bring your child out in public. Kids aren’t viewed as screaming, boogery terrors. Fernando and I have seen kids at all but the most expensive restaurants we’ve been to, and at all hours of service. We’ve taken the boys couch shopping for hours on a Saturday and every clerk spoke to them like the humans they are. It’s totally normal to see children everywhere – the subte, the busy outdoor markets, the malls and grocery stores, even tagging along behind their parents at the office when necessary – and adults treating them like the functioning beings they are.

Kids of all ages are learning how to be members of society, and there is no easy way to accomplish that if strangers give the stink eye and use hostility towards parents. Most of the children I’ve seen here are remarkably well-behaved, dare I say more-so than I remember in the States; perhaps that is a result of los niños (and their parents) being given both respect and the chances to learn appropriate public behaviors without being scorned.

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In typical Argentine fashion, after a thirty minute and 55 peso cab ride to a far corner of NW Baires, we were late for our 9pm reservations at a fondue house. Our tardiness didn’t faze the server as she unlocked the door and ushered the four of us into the empty restaurant, pointing to a large table that was to be ours for the next several hours. I noticed the dim lighting and romantic table settings and became worried that this restaurant was not the right choice for the night: we had a cheese loving toddler and a chocolate fondue obsessed preteen in tow.

Dining out with children is absolutely possible in Argentina: parents don’t have to determine if a place is “kid-friendly” as most places gladly welcome kids.

The older woman behind the desk looked at the two kids as they laughed in excitement and chose their spots, her lips pressed into a warm smile. The waitress didn’t bat an eye and promptly brought out a wooden high-chair for the little guy. He looked at it dubiously and shook his head – nope, he’d rather sit in a normal chair, even if meant he couldn’t reach the pot in the middle of the table.

It was totally No Big Deal that we had brought children to a place where two pots of fondue and a bottle of wine totals 400 pesos. It didn’t matter that the table was set with delicate plates, nor that resting on top of the plates were sharp skewers perfect for stabbing tidbits of food (or eyeballs). It didn’t matter that there were multiple stemmed glasses at each spot or a clay pot of molten cheese resting precariously over a flame. Not one patron seemed bothered that there were niños.
The kids were well-behaved and seemed very welcome at the fondue house, and everyone ended up having a great time. The waitress and hostess laughed with us at the kids’ admiration, and successful use of, the nifty skewers as they sampled the dipping morsels. It turned out the littlest enano didn’t like the cheese sauce and ended up dining on bread and fruit, while the oldest was too preoccupied with visions of melted chocolate to focus on eating dinner, but that was ok. The kids’ happy, chocolatey faces made for an amazing night of fine dining with children. It was a perfect example of some of the reasons why parents should take their children out in public.

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12 thoughts on “Dining Out With the Niños

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. This is how we were raised. People, and that certainly includes children, live up to others expectations; if you expect the most or the best, then thatis what you will get; if you expect the worst, then that is what you will get. Thank you for your keen insite.

    • I absolutely agree with expectations influencing results. Maybe poor expectations are the reason lots of children in the US aren’t very well behaved in public. I know behavior is a complex development, but it’s certainly something to think about. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  2. Very good observations.
    Perhaps in my country we have a typical Italian culture, the big family Sunday with a large table to share with all family members. Even this concept of having many children. I sent a Many greetings.
    C.

    • Perhaps Catholicism contributed to the family aspect? Italy, Spain and Latin America are largely Catholic and all seem fairly family and kid friendly. Sharing is a great point! I am always amazed when I see Fernando’s kids sharing with little argument, with my favorite being when one stops to kiss the other when they fight. I remember my sisters and I squabbling over everything, with more pinching than kissing involved!

  3. Just want to throw a monkey wrench in there for a minute Val.
    Idk what its like in Oregon, but Texas is a very family friendly place, and I have no idea how or why you would have such an experience here in the states. The whole idea seems alien to me. I’m just sayin, one part of the country isnt the same as the other, and shouldn’t be judged on equal footing. I have heard reports, though, that northerners are generally meanies to single mothers and young children…. BUT that’s all hear-say.

    I’d also like to point out the old adage “Children are best seen, not heard.” as what could be the reason behind your experience here. Older people, who are generally meanies to start with, usually cling to such maxims when they are annoyed.

    All in all it was a Good read. ^_^.

    • You’re right- the southern US is pretty quirky. However, your perceptions might change if you start toting around a crying baby or whining toddler. It might take firsthand experience to truly witness the disgust many women deal with; it is a very real occurrence for many mothers across the country. I wasn’t really talking about older generations being snooty towards children and families. I think the under-40 group, a group that doesn’t particularly hold to the saying “better seen than heard”, is more easily irritated by children.
      I do wonder, though, what it’s like trying to breastfeed in the south? Is that region any more open to women feeding in public?

      Thanks for stirring the pot again, Ronnie, and I’m glad you liked the post!

  4. I grew up in the middle-east and this is exactly how we were treated as children. I can count on the fingers of one hand, the number of times my parents left us (usually for a slumber party at a friend’s house) behind while going out . I’m raising my daughter in India and it’s the same here. Children are loved and treated as little human being, not brats who have to be tied down, or left behind all the time. My daughter and her cousins have better table manners than some adults, without much effort on our part. We take V along for movies (as long as they are not inappropriately rated), concerts and dining out.

  5. Hey Val, I just remebered that I sent you a Peace, Love & Bicycles shirt a while back and never asked if you got it. Did you ever get it? lol

      • Just checking!
        Is the beanie serving you well too? lol.
        I’ve gotta figure out what to get you this Xmas that’s coming up, although I’m sure you’ll by drinking cosmos by the beach while I’m freezing xD.

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