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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Uploaded: Nov 23, 2013
As a new parent I try to stay extra-aware of places that are family- and kid-friendly.  Before having a kid, I thought that the distinction would be easy. Fancy restaurant = not kid-friendly.  Preschool = kid-friendly.  Well, I've learned that it's not so clear cut.

The Palo Alto Library parenting program refuses entry to parents mistakenly bringing babies or children.  Some preschools specify that their tours are for adults only.  And toddlers are not always welcomed trick-or-treaters.

On the flip side, I'm amazed by my doctor's office who (happily) accommodated my son when I had to schedule an immediate appointment but I wasn't sure if I could find a babysitter in time.  And semi-fancy restaurants with staff who not only invite us to dine in, but interact with our son, provide kid menus, high chairs and covered cups.

What venues did you misread as either family- or not-family friendly?
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Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm

In 2003 I attended the Mothers' Symposium. I brought along my infant daughter. I was sitting in the back of the auditorium on the floor with her so as not to bother anyone, but one of the event organizers asked me to leave because she claimed my daughter's babbling and cooing (not crying) was disturbing other mothers. As I was escorted out, I heard the symposium speaker, Sheila Kitzinger, lament how new mothers lack adequate support for breastfeeding and caring for their babies because societies isolate and ostracize them. I wondered how she would have felt if she knew that she was speaking at an event for mothers that prohibits babies!

Posted by emily, a resident of another community,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm

It seems like everywhere I go out to eat lately (talking nice places, not family-oriented establishments) are getting overrun by parents that think it's ok to bring their small, disruptive child to a fancy restaurant. I went to Carne Vino in a hotel in Las Vegas and was eating there well past 10pm and there was a crying toddler in the dining room. Not ok, when you're spending over $150/person!

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 1:36 am

I agree, emily, it is totally inappropriate for babies and toddlers to be taken to nice restaurants. Selfish of the parents and sad for the crying, up way too late toddler.

But I've never heard of toddlers not being welcomed at Halloween--very odd! Was that for trick-or-treating?

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:02 am

The only place I can remember a toddler of mine not being welcome was in my own car when I volunteered to drive for a school field trip. When being asked if I was available to drive, I explained that I only had so many back seats available as I would have my toddler, I was told that in that case I would not be needed. On 2 or 3 occasions I was needed due to insufficient volunteers and my toddler and I were told that we would have to find something to do while the field trip was in progress at the venue as they did not want us hanging with the rest of the class.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 10:29 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Parent - Thank you for reading and commenting. How ironic! One would think that a mothers symposium would be extra considerate of mothers. I don't understand why more parenting workshops/lectures aren't baby-friendly (as we've run into similar situations ourselves).

Emily and Nora Charles - I agree, it can be quite frustrating to dine next to disruptive children at fancy restaurants. Sometimes it is common sense (e.g., $150 a person) but sometimes it's more difficult for parents to judge whether a restaurant is kid friendly. I wish restaurants were more up front about this. We check yelp, call, look for a kids menu, etc., but we don't always get a straight answer. Of course, when we do the research and find out that the place is not kid friendly, it's hard if we end up sitting next to disruptive children (while our child is with a babysitter at home).

I've been especially impressed when restaurants seat diners with young children in a separate room or section. At one family-oriented restaurant, we sat in a private room with two other young families. This arrangement gave us more opportunity to relax and enjoy our meal.

Nora Charles - Yes, we went trick-or-treating in Palo Alto. A handful of people thought my son was too young to trick or treat because he wouldn't be eating the candy. I understand their point, but I just wanted him to get the experience (he'd be happy if they gave him a sticker or even a leaf).

Mother of 4 - Thanks for reading and commenting. Wow! It would be tough to volunteer to drive for the school again after that experience. It sounds like you were upfront with them and that they were desperate for another driver. I would be surprised if I couldn't hang out with the rest of the class during the field trip.

Posted by Jessica T., a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Cheryl, My mother-in-law just shared with me her trick for figuring out if a restaurant is family friendly which I thought was pretty clever. She used to call and ask if the restaurant had high chairs. If the answer was yes, children were welcome. If no, then she figured she'd have felt uncomfortable bringing a child anyway!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Jessica T., Thanks for sharing your tip! We'll add that to our check list (much better than asking "are toddlers welcome?"). I'll just need to keep an eye out for the restaurants that are more causal at lunch or brunch (but are more formal for dinner).

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

Well behaved children are usually welcome in most places and I always appreciate it when parents take their crying child outside when at a restaurant (it's hard to sit still as a toddler!)

Mother of 4 - parents are often expected not just to drive, but also to supervise the students that are in your car during the field trip, the school wants your attention focussed on the students, not your toddler.

Posted by Gertrude, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

Why do parents think that "kid friendly" means it's okay to let your kids jump on the furniture and scream at the top of their lungs. What ever happened to having a little consideration for those around you by teaching your kids some manners and removing them from the restaurant when they misbehave. I've had many a dining experience ruined because a kid - old enough to understand the word "no" - screamed very loudly while the parents just ignored the noise and made no effort to tell their kid to stop. Everyone around them had to suffer. If parents would teach their children proper dining etiquette at their dinner table at home, I'm sure their children would behave in public. If the child misbehaves then take them out to the car and give them a time-out, explaining that their behavior is not acceptable. Better yet, don't take your kids to a restaurant, other than fast-food, until they can behave. Parent's are to blame for not making the effort to teach their kids manners.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

palo alto resident - thanks for reading and commenting! When dining with our toddler, we're always on the look out for restaurants that not only allow children but also make it an enjoyable dining experience for all (some background noise, enough space for our child and his diaper bag, fast service, etc).

Gertrude - thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that parents should take responsibility when their young children misbehave (whether from lack of manners or from a random off day). Taking a moment outside can help a child reset.

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