I know everyone (including myself) hates to be told what to do, but there's a reason that many people dread sitting next to people with children at a restaurant. An absence of social grace isn't something that is specific to people with kids. But I've been a waitress for a long time - and I can attest to the fact that many people believe that dining with a child gives them carte-blanche to behave however they want.
I'm a mother, too. I understand how hard it is to have a civilized meal with a toddler in tow. I still believe it is really important to bring him to restaurants so he can learn how to act while eating in public. I just choose my times wisely, because I know what a pain in the ass it can be for everyone involved. I also follow some very basic rules that make the experience better for everyone.
I'm going to tell you a few of the things that drive people who work in restaurants insane. Maybe you can see if you are guilty of any of these behaviors. Maybe you don't care. Don't kill the messenger.
(photo: nito / Shutterstock)
No, it's not. Those flowers that you're letting little Lucy dismantle, petal by petal? Somebody just went and bought those. Then they took the time to make tiny little flower arrangements for each table. There's not a flower garden in the back that we can pull from to replenish the arrangement that your kid just destroyed. Would you like it if I came into your house and let my child tear apart the flower bouquet in the center of your room? My guess is, most people would be annoyed by this behavior. Well, it's kinda the same thing when kids do it in restaurants.
The sugar packets. No big deal. Let your kid play with a few. But don't let them pull them all out one by one and suck on each of them. That's just gross. And what a waste. Also, not fun scrounging around on the floor to pick up the 20 packets that are strewn about. Not cool.
The salt and pepper shakers. You do realize that at best they will be wiped off by someone after each guests leaves, but they're not going to be sanitized. Don't let your child put those in their mouth. Disgusting for everyone involved. It may seem a little ridiculous when a parent sits at a table and immediately shifts everything out of reach. But there's a reason for it - it's called considerate parenting.
(photo: tulpahn / Shutterstock)
The Restaurant Is An Exercise Track!
No, it's not. Kids are antsy. Many times they don't want to sit in place for the duration of the meal. Again - understandable. But it's really not a great idea to start taking laps around a crowded restaurant. Yes, your child is adorable, but that couple having a romantic dinner maybe doesn't want to say "hi" when he stops by their table. All parents (including myself) are guilty of my-child-is-the-cutest-being-on-the-planet syndrome. And he probably really is. But don't get bent out of shape if the general public doesn't want to acknowledge this on their down-time.
Also, restaurants are crowded and actually - dangerous. I can't tell you how many times I've marveled at parents who let their kids toddle around with their shoes off. Do you have any idea how much glass is broken on an average night in a restaurant? You would be surprised. Not safe to let a kid walk around barefoot - ever. Also, waiters have their hands full of scalding hot stuff that could easily be dumped over your kid if he doesn't see him coming. I've witnessed this on more than one occasion. It does not make parents happy - but it's their fault.
(photo: Kitch Bain / Shutterstock)
Kids throw stuff. It's a fact. I have become very strict about taking my child's food away from him when he starts to play with it, but this is way easier at home. If you do it in a restaurant, you risk colossal meltdown. So I understand why parents might let their children play with their food a little more than they usually do when they are in a restaurant. But oh my god, you should see some of these floors when families get up and leave. It's like Hurricane Toddler rolled through the place. It's disgusting. I can't for the life of me understand why parents feel okay about leaving this mess behind. Maybe they feel like it's the restuarant's job to clean up after their child? I don't know. But it's really inconsiderate and pretty gross. It makes me wonder what these people's homes look like. I don't think I want to know.
(photo: Jaimie Duplass / Shutterstock)
It Sucks, But You May Have To Cut Your Meal Short
There are some other basics. If your child starts screaming bloody murder, take him out of the restaurant. It's not rocket science. The general public shouldn't have their dinner ruined because your kid is in a bad mood. If it's too cold outside, take him to the bathroom until he calms down. When you take a toddler out to dinner, always be prepared to leave early. Sometimes it's a must. I saw a woman let her child scream for 20 minutes while she enjoyed her brunch and chatted with her friends. Who are these people?
Like I said, I really believe it's important to take children to restaurants so they can learn how to behave while eating in public. But you always have to remember that things are different now. Until your child learns how to behave, you don't get to enjoy long, leisurely meals at the expense of everyone else in the place. But it's definitely something I'm aiming for.
Hopefully my kid and I will get there. If the French can do it, we should be able to master it, too.