On Fine Dining and a Parent's Right to Choose

I woke up this morning after an amazing weekend including my daughters Christening to see the mommy webz and my email inbox ablaze with chatter about some parents taking their 8-month old to Alinea in Chicago. If you don't know Alinea, it's along the lines of a French Laundry in terms of dining experience, exclusivity and cost. I haven't dined at either and they're both on my bucket list. My "things I will do without my child" bucket list.


Before I had a child I was smarter than every parent. I'd spent a lot of time with kids of all ages, working at a day care center in college, and having lots of younger siblings and cousins. I was well educated on the broad points of caring for a child and absolutely stupid about being a parent, because I wasn't one. I was that person who would frown when I saw a kid with a runny nose, wondering why on earth any parent would leave their child's nose like that.

Now that I have one I know that wiping a child's nose is one is the hardest things to do. A baby runny nose is impossible to keep clean. So I've adapted. I wipe when I can, when she lets me get in there. Maybe with a tissue, maybe with my hand or sleeve. It's not ideal, it's often disgusting, but I've adapted to my situation. 

The same applies to dining out. I did it all the time before I had a baby, and I still do it quite a bit-this entire website is a testament to that! But I've adapted to the reality that if my baby is coming with me, we have special needs that not everyone is equipped to deal with, nor are they required to.  

Alinea sounds incredible. I'm hoping to visit Chicago next summer and already have designs on going, with the thought that my husband, who wouldn't be anywhere near as excited about that type of meal, will watch our bundle of joy while I have what I'm already sure will be an incredible dinner with a good friend. 

So what if my husband changes his mind. He's sick, he can't make it, whatever? I probably won't go to Alinea then. Unless Grant Achatz adds a baby matinee meal to his lineup, it's not the place for her. It's not the place for she and I together. She's a joy, but she's my joy, not necessarily everyone else's. And she's a lot of work! In a setting like that everyone should be their most comfortable including my child, and it's not designed for her comfort. I already know that. What I don't know is brought these adults to the conclusion that Alinea was a good place to bring their child, but it couldn't have been enjoyable for any of them. Who wants to sit with a lap child flailing all over such beautifully crafted plates?

My in-laws came from the East Coast for the Christening and we're going out to dinner tonight before they head home tomorrow. We'll have a wonderful meal somewhere delicious, upscale (haven't decided where yet) and yet stroller friendly. I think I can safely assume no one else's experience will be negatively affected by my daughter's presence. There will be high chairs and maybe even a changing table. If she cries no one will tweet about how it ruined their meal, no chefs will consider a ban on babies as a result. It's our choice and we want to ensure everyone is comfortable, including our little girl.