Apparently one of the big to-dos these days is the issue of restaurants that ban all children because some children have misbehaved in those restaurants in the past, irritating the adults who are dining there.  Let us be clear that the children who are at issue here are infants and young children, not school-aged children or teenagers, who are usually “better behaved.”  For some, the premise still seems to be “children should be seen but not heard.”

Now let me also confess that I’ve had a few times as a father and grandfather where the kids were “rambunctious” in restaurants, and may have been annoying to other diners if not for the presence of happy meals, playlands, and plastic furniture.  But as I think back on those times, I realize that this was not the fault of any of the children, but rather the adults at our table (including myself).

This morning at a restaurant there was a table where a mom and toddler were sitting with Grandma and Grandpa.  The toddler was toddling merrily through the aisles while the adults were having an adult conversation.  The toddler wasn’t really being disruptive to anyone else, but the adults were largely oblivious to his presence.  At another table sat two adults, one of whom was in a wheelchair that stuck out a bit into the aisle.  The wheelchair wasn’t really bothering anyone else, but the two adults were largely oblivious to its presence as they carried on their adult conversation as well.

And that’s really the issue:  adults who expect children to act like that wheelchair so that the adults can have an “adult” conversation, without including the child who

  • may have just discovered the joy of running, and like an incipient Eric Liddell is also discovering the pleasure of the Father in that running; or who
  • may have just discovered the application of Boyle’s law of air pressure as it applies to her own lungs, and is also discovering the meaning of Scriptures like “the voice of the Lord strips the trees bare”; or who
  • may have just discovered that the Dadaists may have been on to something; or who
  • may have just discovered that he has a highly discerning palate after all, and that it was actually a french fry tree that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; or who
  • would probably not have been too surprised to see Jesus leave the “adults’ table” at the party to come to sit at the “kids’ table,” where He might have put olives on their finger tips and made gravy lakes in their mashed potatoes and blew straw wrappers at the backs of the adults’ heads and generally told them how much He loved them.

All this is to say, of course, that a child is not a wheelchair or a doorknob or a thing – a nuisance or a bother or an annoyance.  Any child is a precious human being whom the Father knit together in the mother’s womb, whom Jesus gave His life for, whom the Spirit is working sanctification on as they grow. 

(If I were the restaurant owner, I think I’d ban parents who bring their children to the restaurant and then ignore them as if they were nothing more than pieces of the furniture.)