Two years ago, my husband, Paul, and I went to Slate’s restaurant in Hallowell to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was early evening on a weeknight, so the dining room was pleasantly filled, but not overcrowded. A couple with a baby about 6 months old came in and were seated nearby.

I enjoyed glancing at the baby as we ate; she was adorable, and well-behaved. But as it pushed on toward 8 p.m., the child began to fuss. Soon enough, she was bellowing like a beached whale. I’m always amazed by the lustiness of the cries that can emanate from such tiny mouths.

This one had a future at La Scala.

Since this meltdown occurred precisely as Paul and I were exchanging our little gifts, I was not in the least amused. Obviously, it was baby’s bedtime. Or, perhaps, diaper-changing time, which I didn’t want to think about over my dessert. In any case, it was time for baby to go home, wasn’t it?

No, because, as I have observed time and again, parents who think it’s fine to take a baby to a restaurant with cloth napkins after 7 p.m. just don’t understand that other people do not want to hear their child squalling.

Thus, I was quite intrigued to read about the Texas restaurant where children are now banned after that magic hour. What an idea!

I can understand how such a rule might rankle parents, especially those whose children do stay in their seats and eat their food without screaming. Really, though, is there any reason to take an infant into a restaurant at an hour when she should be in her crib? I can’t think of one.

Babies are unpredictable. They can be fed, watered and freshly diapered and still decide all is not right in the world. There is no training a baby to behave in a restaurant. It cannot be done.

This fact doesn’t matter so much in a fast-food joint. I can be annoyed by running and shouting children anyplace, but I will allow that if I choose to eat at McDonald’s, I’m just asking for it. You can’t expect kids to drink 16 ounces of soda and then behave themselves. Having a playground as part of the layout just adds to the festive atmosphere.

A restaurant with waitstaff, cloth napkins, a sophisticated menu — that’s another matter entirely. A diner in such an establishment expects a certain atmosphere. She is paying considerably more than she would at McDonald’s to enjoy that je ne sais quoi.

Sunday brunch may be lively with multi-generational families, lunchtime with business people making deals, but after 7 p.m., don’t adults deserve some quiet time?

It is possible to teach children to behave appropriately in restaurants. I just don’t have faith in the average American to do so, given the fact that a growing number of kids enter school without being potty-trained. However, those who do take the time can make life a lot easier for themselves, their children and their fellow diners.

My cousin and his wife, who live in Rhode Island, began taking their son to fancy restaurants in Providence when he was quite young.

Now, at 13, Jackson is quite an accomplished cook. He recently concocted a meal of stuffed calamari. I couldn’t even name another adolescent who would even eat calamari — and I’ve been working with that age group as a school librarian for 23 years.

The benefits of restaurant socialization go beyond an appreciation of fine food (though that’s certainly a plus). Many a job offer has been lost because a young person talked with her mouth full or didn’t put her napkin on her lap during an interview. It also helps to know which water glass is yours when you are dining with your boss and hoping for a promotion.

Frankly, I don’t understand why parents of very young children want to put themselves through the ordeal of eating with them. Paul and I were in a cafe at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this summer. Sitting across the room was a mother and two children — one about 4, the other less than a year old. All was well for 20 minutes. The little girl had good manners, and not a peep was coming from the table.

Then the baby let loose. There was no consoling him. I suspected a full diaper. The family had not finished their meal, which I estimated cost about $30. The mother, however, frantically paid the bill and ran off to the restroom with her children in tow.

I felt badly for mother, but questioned her choices. Perhaps the cafeteria would have been a more appropriate option. It’s always better to have two adults on hand with small children in a restaurant.

But, really, don’t we all say they grow up too fast? Why not stay home and enjoy a platter of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until they do?

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]

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