In Defense of the Parents at Grant Achatz's Alinea

In case you missed the baby-inspired brouhaha of the week, allow me to fill you in: Grant Achatz, superstar chef of Alinea, found himself in a pickle on Saturday night when a couple’s unruly infant cried during the restaurant's dinner service. Alinea happens to be one of America’s most celebrated restaurants, where you too can enjoy a one-of-a-kind gastromolecular experience at the cool price of about $400 per person (with wine).

BabyCryGate unfolded when Achatz tweeted:

"Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.."

achatz-alinea-babySince the tweet, the Internet has gone bonkers. Most of the comments I’ve seen are of the “what kind of f’n parents would bring a baby to such a fancy restaurant” variety. But the outrage doesn’t stop there. It appears Achatz has inadvertently opened the 'Get the Goddamn Baby Out of Here’ floodgates. In the last few days I’ve seen scores of people angrily and publicly ruminate about all of the other places clueless and disrespectful parents are lugging their kiddos.

In theory, I agree. Kids don’t belong everywhere. I wouldn’t take a baby to the opera or to a club (not that I’ve gone to either in the last decade but let’s use our imagination). I also wouldn’t take a baby to Alinea, since the restaurant is not all that different from a Broadway show; you pay a shitload of money to get in, you can’t cancel, and the overall experience of being in that space is just as important as what you’re eating.

So I’d like to think that my mind is made up: bringing a baby to Alinea is self-centered and wrong. Then I remember what my life was like six years ago, after I had my kiddo. We had moved to Boston for my husband’s career. I had almost no friends, childcare or family around. Lonely does not even begin to describe my existence. It felt like any semblance of my former life was gone, completely gone.

So I started a business. And on a day I had a very important meeting, my babysitter cancelled. My daughter was about 10 months old. I knew rescheduling would be difficult, so I bundled her up, put her in the car seat and hoped with all my might that she’d fall asleep by the time we arrived at the office.

Of course she didn’t. Instead, she screamed from the moment we entered the building. Panicked, I took her out of the car seat and placed her on the floor, hoping the man I was meeting with, whom I really wanted to impress, wouldn’t notice a human being the size of a dachshund commando crawling around him. I innocently averted my eyes as she crawled through his legs and under his chair, chewing on its shiny metal base.

Was it wrong for me to bring a kid to a business meeting? Yes. Did I get sympathy and help from the people around me? Yes. Obviously, a business meeting is not a $400 per person dinner at Alinea. But I'm surprised nevertheless to see such vitriol directed at parents whose major crime (since that's how we're treating it) is bringing a baby to a restaurant.

There were so many challenging moments during my first few years of motherhood, times I didn't have the support I needed and thought I could make it work regardless. Perhaps that's what happened with the parents who brought their baby to Alinea.

I agree with what most critics are saying; if a couple can afford a ridiculously expensive dinner then they can afford childcare. But I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think it was not their intention to have a screaming infant with them on Saturday night. They brought the kid, hoping like I did six years ago, that the little bugger would stay in the car seat, fast asleep.

If this BabyCryGate has taught us anything, it’s that people's patience with having kids in adult-oriented environments is wearing thin. It's also shows that even parents who can blow hundreds of dollars on dinner are still like the rest of us, with kids who scream whenever and wherever the heck they want. Parenthood. The great equalizer.

(photo credit: imagerymajestic/freedgitialphotos.net)

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Filed under: In the Loop

Tags: babies, childcare, parenthood

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