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They Deserve Better

She stood clutching a $5 bill in her hand, and then glanced over her shoulder in search of a little boost of confidence.

"You can do it," I told her.

Alexis lifted her chin and met eyes with the vendor at the Farmers Market. "Can I please have..."

A woman in a blue shirt walked between the vendor and the little girl, quickly grabbing a sample and asking several questions. Alexis backed up a few steps so that she wouldn't be trampled. When the interruption ended, Alexis started again. She walked away proudly holding her purchase, oblivious to the rudeness of the scene that had played out in front of her.

She's used to it, after all.


When we walk through the mall, she holds my hand. Alexis is big enough to be trusted in a crowd, but I don't trust the crowd. I make her hold my hand because if she's closer to me, I can help keep it from happening.

Although, it often happens in spite of my precautions.

On the day that we ran into the mall to quickly grab some soaps, it happened twice. First it was the tall man in the black shirt who was deep in conversation and didn't see the person in front of him since she was below his line of sight. He walked straight into Alexis before I could pull her out of the way. He very nearly knocked her over, but he didn't know that because he just kept walking.

She wasn't bothered by the lack of an apology. She's used to it, after all.


As we walked towards our seats on the plane, I heard the words. I glanced at Alexis to see if she had as well. If she had, she was sure to loudly report, "Mom! She said a bad word!"

Fortunately, Alexis had missed the commentary from the woman who would be seated in the row behind us on the plane.

Why the woman thought it was a good idea to curse about how she "always got stuck sitting by the {redacted} little brats" on a plane, I don't know. But, I sure did gloat loudly when Alexis was a perfect angel throughout the entire flight.

Alexis was oblivious to the whole thing. She's used to being treated like her presence is a problem for everyone around her.


I learned the hard way that you can't take a curly-headed kid to just any hairdresser. Alexis' hair grows painfully slow, meaning that the one really bad haircut she has had was a problem for months and months and months.

When the mullet-like mess had finally grown out enough to warrant the third haircut of the 5-year old's life, I scheduled an appointment at a high-end salon that came highly recommended. Since she only gets one haircut every nine months or so, I don't mind spending a few dollars, if only to make sure it's done right.

As we walked through the door, I instantly knew what was about to happen. After a cloud of confusion, the salon workers were clear on the assignment of the moment. They wouldn't be touching my hair, but rather would be getting paid to take care of the little girl.

When she sat perfectly still and was 100% cooperative, I glared at the women whose facial expressions had made it clear that they weren't thrilled to have to deal with a someone so young. The eyerolls were the first clue. The muttered obscenities were the second.

Alexis didn't mind. She's used to being treated as less than human.


A Pittsburgh restaurant has banned children under six years of age. It's OK because it's a restaurant that we already know we don't like. We stopped there years ago and found the food to be nothing special and the service sub par.

Yet, it's not OK. It's yet another way the world has told Alexis that she's not a human being deserving of basic levels of kindness. It's OK to interrupt her. It's OK to run into her. It's OK to moan about her presence.

If the world expects small kids to act like respectable human beings, maybe it should treat them like respectable human beings.

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Reader Comments (47)

Very well said!

I thought mullets were a thing of the 80s! I had one when I was a kid... only realizing the horror of it years later.

It's not all right. She shouldn't have to be used to it. Sigh.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Those people don't know a treasure when they see it. They have no idea what they are missing.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCyn

There are so many jerks in this world (especially at the mall). Nice post. :)

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Very well said.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

The situations you described in this post and the restaurant's decision to ban children makes me sad ... It's the adults you have mentioned (not Alexis or any other child for that matter) that have the real problem!

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Amen, sistah.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

ITA! It amazes me how often I hear parents or adults complaining about rude, disrespectful children, yet those people can't seem to show that same level of respect to their (or someone else's) child. And we wonder how our children learn to be so rude. Hmmm. Well, children learn by example and unfortunately so many people forget that children are people too, and deserve the same treatment we expect them to give us. I was appalled when I heard that restaurant would be banning kids. My kids are old enough to go there, but no way would I give them my business now.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMomexperience

I lament that it would come to such, but if a business owner finds that a certain demographic may be harming his or her business, then it should be a decision of that business owner who he or she permits to patronize his or her establishment. Yes, this flies in the face of the civil rights act/era, but market dynamics predict that a business's customers will go away if the value a business provides is less than the price of the product. Obviously, if the value presented is worth the price, then people will buy it!

If I'm particularly annoyed by children, and so much so that I'm willing to patronize a place that specifically aims to enhance my dining experience by excluding from it families with parents unable to control their children, then I should be permitted to do so and restaurants should be permitted to offer such an experience.

(it's not the child's fault, ever, seriously. if a child is prone to misbehavior in restaurants, the parents should observe the unstated social rule that one shall not take noisy children to quiet restaurants)

If there's a market for a no-kids restaurant, people will patronize it. If it's a popular concept, more restaurants may establish the same rules and should be permitted to do so.

If the restaurant market becomes flooded with anti-children restaurants, then the restaurants which highlight their willingness to let kids come in will get family business. If all those restaurants suck, well, maybe it's time to become an restaurateur!

Unfortunately, this could be extended to classes which are now protected by law (race, handicap, etc.) or there could be a push to add children to the protected classes. I'm lazy and you, dear reader, know my defense to that by now.

Remember this: You are not entitled to a meal in a restaurant.

Also, parents shouldn't vote to add children to protected classes "because they themselves can't vote". Such parents aren't doing it for their kids, they're doing it for themselves because they've been inconvenienced.

All of this said, I'd personally not ever blanket ban children from my restaurant. I'd ask the family to leave if they were disturbing other customers or establish a "family-friendly" area of the restaurant. There are better ways to handle this. However, I support the right of this particular business owner to handle his business as he sees fit. Freedom to succeed is also the freedom to fail.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaracen

Beautifully said.

I totally understand, my Damn Emos got treated like that when they were little. And I got to gloat too when they were better behaved than the adults around them.

Now I get it with Boo, and it is even more heartbreaking cause they can't pretend they can't see him cause he is taller than them.

Hear, hear!
My daughter behaves amazingly, most of the time, anyway. She is a kid, after all. But it drives me CRAZY when these same instances happen with her. It makes you want to bitch slap them.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerra

I know how you feel. I have 2 boys (age 7 and almost 3) and I do get the look sometimes when we go places. But I've been taking my kids out to dinner since they were babies and always taught them how to behave. And if we happen to hit a cranky time one of us always takes the child outside as not to disturb other people. Just last week we were out and there was a large party with very loud and rowdy kids, my boys sat nice as always...well usually. But this night they were good. It happens to the best of us. ;) We even had 2 different couples who were near us stop while they were leaving and tell us we have wonderfully behaved children. (Wonder what they expected when we sat down.) And that made my 7 yr old very proud.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbeachmama

When we had Jack, we made a point of taking him every where we go. Not because we are "selfish and inconsiderate" as the owner of McDain's, but because as a parent I recognize that I can't teach my child to behave in a grocery store, the mall, or a restaurant unless I introduce him to those situations. Sure it begins with discipline at home, but it's far easier to drill it into my 2 year old than fight with a 10 year old who has no clue how to act in a restaurant.

If we are out and Jack doesn't behave, he receives a warning. If he still doesn't behave, we leave. I understand that there is a minority of people out there who will let their child swing from the rafters instead of disciplining their child or leaving. What is wrong with management telling the parents to control their child and if they can't, ask them to leave?

As for how children are treated in general? It's appalling. I'm lucky that I have rarely noticed the negative attitude, but I know it's there. Children should be treated with respect too. How can I teach my sons to respect adults if said adults don't treat my sons with respect?

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertehamy

Amen and hear, hear! How are they supposed to learn how to behave in polite society if we're never allowed to take them anywhere. Unfortunately, I think this is a case of a few bad apples who have spoiled the whole barrel for the rest of us.

I remember once we were at a convenience store and I was trying to let Bubba count out his own change for his purchase, helping him practice his math and what not. The lady behind the counter sighed so loudly she almost knocked us over with the wind she exhaled. There was not a soul behind us in line -- in the entire store in fact! Why couldn't she have been a little nicer?

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeandra

We were at a restaurant recently where the family behind us allowed their children to literally run circles around the table and scream. They were throwing things and knocking over drinks. I get that the restaurant can't really say anything to patrons about child control issues, but that's so NOT the norm. Are they going to ban the elderly next? How about the disabled? Or maybe we'll just go back to desegregation. I hope that restaurant closes next week from lack of patrons.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

@Karen--The restaurant ABSOLUTELY could have said something to the family with the kids acting out. There is an appropriate way to address a problem situation, even if it's just a little, "Hey, guys. I'm a little worried about the safety of the people here. I'm going to need everybody to settle down a bit and not throw anything, OK?"

@Sarecen--Creating a blanket policy to address things like that doesn't solve the problem at all. Next it's going to be a drunken 30-year old who won't simmer down or an obnoxious 11-year old or a cranky 70-year old yelling and carrying on. If restaurant owners don't have the balls to handle difficult situations as they happen, then they should probably go into another business that doesn't involve dealing with the public.

my heart just broke. wonderfully said, lady.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

I saw a news report about restaurants banning young kids. For me, obnoxious adults on cell phones are more annoying than any kid ever has been. Our kids deserve better.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara R.

I think this post is one of your best.
When my son was little, he went pretty much everywhere with us, including restaurants. My then-husband and I used common sense and took him outside quickly if he became disruptive. I think it's well within the restaurant's rights for a staff person to come to a table and say something if kids' behavior is affecting other patrons.
Sometimes adult behavior is just as disruptive, especially when alcohol is involved.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I'm really glad that the owner of McDains is openly banning children from his restaurant--I won't bother taking my family there and having him and his staff openly roll their eyes. I won't have to hold my breath if the food takes a little too long to come out or my kids make an itty bitty mess. I'll go somewhere else where my kids will behave and I will be able to enjoy my meal and not feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. And if my kids make a mess, I'll be sure to tip outrageously to compensate accordingly.

On another note, Michelle, if a high end salon isn't kissing your ass (and Alexis' ass when they find out she's the customer) you should leave. Part of the reason to go to a high end salon is for the ass kissing and no customer should ever be treated like the business is doing them a favor.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMo

Maybe I should open a restaurant that bans pretentious a$$holes from dining there. I have a feeling it would do a good business...

This reminds me of a discussion I got into last week:

Regarding this article/op-ed piece:

PS I stink at technology so you might have to copy and paste those links.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mommy

Great post! I love how that restaurant calls itself an upscale establishment in some of the press documents. If that's upscale, what word would describe all of the nicer restaurants in the Pittsburgh area?

For those of you looking for a wonderful restaurant that welcomes kids of all ages you should try Legume when it reopens in Oakland late this summer. And no I do not work for or own legume. I just love their food and the fact that my kids are always welcomed!

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I love this post. You really nailed how most adults treat kids.

Your kid is a good kid. My kids are good kids (or so I'd like to think). And yes, they are treated poorly and deserve way better. But I still think the restaurant owner as a right to create an atmosphere where unruly or otherwise asshole kids could no ruin another patron's meal. Easiest way to do that? Ban them. Is he an asshole? Yup. But he still can choose to do that just as we can choose not to eat there, ya know?

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndreAnna

It had to be in my town?! I've never been there, and now I never will. As you said, when you are dealing with the public, you should probably be capable of dealing with the public... and that means all of them! I think a lot of adults are still of the 'children should be seen but not heard" philosophy. Children have feelings too, and it's sad when adults don't understand that. I'm glad Alexis isn't affected by it, but sadly at some point she will be.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

This makes me sad. Children are definitely treated lesser-than. I don't think that it would be such a problem if more parents exercised some common sense about what's appropriate for children to handle. I'm saying that out of respect for children, not in concern for adults. We've skipped events that we know Madeline won't be able to handle just because it's NOT FUN for her to be taken somewhere she's not wanted and continually bothered to "behave." Sometimes it's just beyond kids, you know?

But this... what you describe makes me so sad. No child should feel like they're lesser-than, and that's what bothers me. People running into her and not apologizing? Unacceptable. And the salon thing... oh that makes me BOILING mad. Those people should be ALL ABOUT creating customer loyalty in a little girl and her mom, but apparently they're too stupid to see the opportunity.

I'm ranting now - I'll stop. I'm just sorry about all that.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbessie.viola

Well said mama! :-) You always have your baby girls back. So glad you understand and treat her with the respect she deserves.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

As a waitress, I would just like to say that I usually have far more problems with teenagers misbehaving than young children. Parents usually make an effort with the young ones, but it seems like they've all given up by the time the kids turn 14. Teenagers can also come in on their own, which is its own recipe for disaster.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I’m so with you on this.
I was shocked to hear a mom of 3 say she was glad restaurants were doing this and she didn’t think it was too much to ask that when she go to a nice place on date night that she not have to children anywhere near her. I haven’t met her kids, but I’m guessing they are little monsters who don’t know how to behave in public. Because she doesn’t think that children are capable of behaving like humans.
I felt insulted by her and by this restaurant because…well, I have a child. He is not a monster. It offended me.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbecoming-mommy

The whole restaurant ban confuses me. If i had a restaurant and I banned people over 65, I'm pretty sure I would be sued. If I try to ban people from openly breast feeding, I would be protested and find it impossible to enforce. How is this restaurant enforcing this? This is age based discrimination. It is okay simply because it is a population that isn't able to vote?

I'm sure there are lawyers who read this blog, can someone explain how this is not age discrimination? I realize that 5-year olds are probably not a protected class under the law, but maybe they should be.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrmd

@rmd--You hit on it exactly. Kids are not part of any legally protected class. For example, you can't refuse to hire someone because they're over 40, but you can absolutely can refuse to hire someone because they're under 40. Discrimination laws are very specific in who they "protect."

First - This guy has the right to be as dumb as he wants to be - but honestly I think his goal was to get talked about. Mission accomplished. His place wasnt a real family friendly one anyway, but regardless I never went before and I wont now. Its a dumb policy even if he has the right to create it.

Second - it is very easy for those of you with good kids to say that it is "easy" to tell parents with misbehaving children to control their kids. I think I can safely assume you have never attempted this. If the kids are obnoxious as hell...the parents are generally 10x worse. When their 3 kids are running around and you DO stop to tell them they need to keep their kids in their seats if for no other reason having a tray of food dropped on their heads will most definitely HURT the diatribe you get to hear from the righteously indignant (usually its the) mom about what right do I have to tell her how to raise her children at the top of her lungs in the middle of the dining room is embarrassing, infuriating, rage inducing and pointless. She is NOT going to control those kids because in her mind that is why they go to restaurants - so her monsters can destroy someone else's stuff and not hers. There is nothing quite as evil as having to confront a parent about a bad kid, there is no right way to do it, there is no kind way to say it and 99% of the time they see NO prob with said behavior. These people are not reasonable and to assume you can talk to them reasonably is insane. Even when its a safety issue and not a volume one - these parent dont care, they will filet you open for even insinuating there is an issue with their kids behavior, especially when it is being delivered by a lowly "restaurant manager".

The issue is NEVER the children, it is the parents complete inability or lack of desire to be there with their kids that is the problem.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermindymin

Am I the only one who read this and thought "quit whining"? Nothing bad happened!

There are rude people everywhere, children aren't exempted from experiencing that. And, frankly, I think you should cut the tall guy a little slack... he just didn't see her.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanica

@Danica *STARES*

Yes, you are the only one.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScareHouse Bunny


Furthermore, I think one of the reasons your (and my) children act so well is not only because they've been taught how, not just because expectations were clearly communicated and reinforced, but because they were treated with respect. Like PEOPLE.

They say you get what you pay for and I think you also get what you expect. Want more? Expect more and help that person meet your expectations as much as possible.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA

Wow. It amazes me, and not in a good way, how badly people treat kids. All of those situations make me sad. No child or any person should ever be treated like that. Rudeness should never be acceptable behavior. And, Frankly, I think those people should have all apologized (especially the tall guy who had to have noticed he ran into someone) when they realized how wrong they were.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J.

@Danica It's "exempt" and I think you're missing the point-- NO ONE deserves to be treated with a rude attitude; whether they're a child, a grown adult, or a senior. I wouldn't be happy if someone treated me the way Alexis has been treated, and I think others would agree. I don't see michelle's post is complaining- but rather stating fact and disappointment in the behavior of society. Treating someone without respect, unkind. Bottom line.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter@krkernes

Love this post, I completely agree. Instead on addressing specific individuals, this restaurant owner decided that ALL children are loud and obnoxious and ALL parents are bad parents. And discriminating against a group of people - in this case, young families - is bad business besides just being wrong.

Also, how did he come up with the magical age of 6?

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana

I loved this post, very well said!
Our 3 kids are very loud in shops, but never disrespect anyone and have really good manners (in front of strangers). We decided not to take them to restaurants where they wouldn't have a good time with us and luckily Cape Town and surrounds offers plenty of child-friendly places.
That restaurant has made a big mistake..

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTania

My take on the restaurant's policy: McDain's has every right to implement a policy like this if they choose, just as patrons have every right to take their business elsewhere. I am sure it is upsetting to people with young children but here's the thing... If you discipline your child and don't allow them to act out in public, YOU are not the problem. And the children that McDain's are no longer allowing into the restaurant aren't the problem either. It is the parents that REFUSE to reprimand their children for their behavior. Those same parents, when approached by a restaurant staffer regarding their child's behavior, would be the first ones to start a battle with said staff member, questioning their right to reprimand the parents for the child's behavior. "Who do you think you are telling me how to raise MY child?" It's a cycle. A$$holes are raised by a$$holes and a few bad apples have spoiled the bunch.

Having worked in restaurants during college, I understand where the owner of McDain's is coming from. I could tell horror story after horror story of children behaving badly, throwing food, running around, screaming... And the parents, who have learned to tune them out, just let them go. It's disturbing to the staff and other patrons and it's unsafe. Heaven forbid a child fall while running circles around the restaurant because you know that parent would walk right out of the building and straight into a lawyer's office to sue. Cleaning up after a table of young children can take the better part of a half hour. The way some parents leave tables after they are done is shameful. I would be mortified if I left a table at a restaurant in the shape that some do.

But I stress... It's not the children that are the problem, it's the parents. I feel bad for the parents of well-behaved children however, just don't go there. End of story. I've never been to McDain's even though I live very close to Monroeville, I have no idea where it is, and I don't plan on going there any time soon.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

LOVE this post!!!
It just breaks my heart!

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaytabug

I have mixed feelings on this. I agree that banning kids under six seems a bit harsh.

On the other hand, I've waited tables, tended bar, and been a patron of restaurants for 20+ years, and there have been all too many instances of kids ruining meals (and expensive, high end restaurant meals at that) for not just their family but for all the patrons. I often get attitude because while I'm an adult, I look young, I'm disabled and walk with a cane (plus major dietary restrictions), and I tend to dress in blacks and jewel tones - I get pissed, as I am for your daughter, for being treated that way.

On the other hand, Harborplace on a Saturday was an absolute nightmare of parents who had no interest in controlling their kids, and who got belligerent at best when asked to do something or pay their check and go visit the food court where such behavior didn't matter. Little Italy was slightly better, as long as you didn't mind mom or dad taking the child outside for a spanking and bringing them back in still sobbing. The uber-formal Center Club and Tavern on the Green both had it's fare share of kids running screaming through the dining room while the wait staff is trying to do french service from huge trays and table-side flaming dishes - and the parents still didn't want to take their children outside to calm down or better yet go home. The answer is always kids will be kids, they'll calm down soon.

I think the best solution I've seen is that ToG had an upstairs dining room; if that wasn't booked for a party we'd throw people with kids who appeared 10 or under upstairs, and the suggestion would be made that for safety reasons we'd prefer not to do table-side service. Some of them got angry, others seemed to take it in stride - they still got all the attention from the staff that any customer would, the same excellent food, and no-one had to worry about flambe' -ing the children. Unfortunately, that didn't work on our busy nights or brunches - the times when we were so slammed there would be three or four carts at a time on the floor firing up food, and the kids would be at their worst because there were so many people.

A middle ground would be my suggestion here, but I also think that a lot of parents don't teach their kids how to behave at meals when they're at home, and it translates when they're out. If I had done any of those things as a child (by age 6 we were attending client/embassy things with my parents) I wouldn't have gotten anything to eat that weekend that wasn't bread, fruit, or oatmeal. One of our family stories (it's funny, really) is dad was taking care of my 5-6yo sister for the day, and at breakfast she forgot to slice her English muffin after applying huge gobs of butter & cream cheese (all using the same knife that was in the butter dish - not the right way); as soon as she went to take a bite dad smashed the whole thing in her face. Neither of us ever forgot the appropriate use of a butter knife nor to cut our bread again.

And before we got allowed out to fancy restaurants or dinners, we were drilled and coached on proper table manners. I was allowed at the 'adults' table at family dinners by age 5, my sister by 6 - but that was a reward for not behaving badly or forgetting proper etiquette.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkim

Totally shared this on Facebook.

What annoyed me the most about the restaurant banning the Under 6 crowd is that my 4 year old twins and 18 month old baby behave better in restaurants than most children. Oy.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Alexis is beautiful. And you are absolutely right. Children should not be treated like second class citizens. Good for you for being a voice for your daughter.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie Roberts

Hear fricking hear. Nicely said, Mama!

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

love your view. your daughter is lucky to have you.

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Michelle --
I first want to commend you on the excellent writing in this post. I agree with the previous comment that this may be the finest thing I've read here, and I'm a fan to start.

This ban makes me so sad and disappointed. And the hypocrisy of those who say they support the ban but it's NOT THE KIDS' FAULT, it's the parents' fault, don't get them wrong, they LOOOOOOVE kids, it's just the PARENTS who don't discipline their kids .... gets to me. Then ban parents. If the parents are the issue, don't even let those who get babysitters in, because they're the bad guys, right?

Or yes, just use your judgment and authority to boot misbehave-ers of all ages... I don't think the owner has a problem with confrontation and controversy. The PG article on this nonsense rightly pointed out that Eleven and the Grand Concourse have no problem accommodating guests of all ages.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren S
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