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The highs and lows of restaurant dining with children

You've taken your seats at table, and you're ready to start your family dining experience, but are your fellow diners pleased – or appauled – to see children at the table?

Posted: 30 September 2010
by Catherine O'Dolan

Read our helpful guide to identify friend or foe:

* The kindly elderly couple The sweet elderly couple who can't keep their eyes off you. Probably have grandchildren of their own (who may live far away and they don't get to see them often) and your cherub evokes a memory of one of them. They see only his cute face and view any naughtiness as the endearing behaviour of a spirited rascal. Befriend them, and they may even offer to rock your bawling baby for you while you eat.

* The haughty business type Male or female variety. May or may not have children (either way, they're in denial), but certainly resents having to share what they consider to be their working environment with youngsters. Likely to glare, stare, tut and rustle their newspapers in irritation. Less prominent at weekends. Steer clear at all times.

* The childless couple Can be any age and are the most difficult to predict in terms of reaction. She might secretly desire a child, he is much more likely to be horrified at the idea. Can be benign and indulgent of your child. More probably, both will try to blank you and your brood in between curling their lips in revulsion. When in more amorous mode (canoodling in public), try to keep any comments, such as "Mummy, why is that man's tongue in her mouth?" to a minimum.

* The chatty empty-nesters In their late 40s and 50s, their children have recently left home and they are bathed in a glow of misplaced nostalgia and awesome relief. Will view your child as gorgeous and well-behaved, because they have forgotten how stressful they found similar behaviour 20 years earlier (and because it's nothing compared to the antics of their wild teenage kids). Will keep telling you that it doesn't get any easier, only different.

* The affluent twentysomethings They sip cocktails, lounge lazily and peruse the Sunday supplements. They view you as something sad and washed up. They see your child as an annoying brat who represents a monetary and time deficit. Don't go there!

* The family with small children They can be your salvation… or a big disappointment. If the parents are urbane and your children click with theirs, your dining experience can be a ball. But if the parents lack charisma or if your respective offspring keep punching each other, you'll be back where you started.

What's your experience of dining out with children? Good or bad, share your views in our forum

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