My 5-Year-Old Quietly Manners-Shamed The Jerky Adults Seated Behing Us
I try to stay out of the restaurant wars, the constant bickering about children’s behavior in restaurants and whether fancy establishments should allow children. In general, I find it a little obnoxious that people just assume all little kids at restaurants are going to be assholes. But I get even more annoyed when some jerk comes in and proves them right, letting their kid run amok while other people are trying to eat. So I stay out of the debate and continue to work with my daughter on learning proper etiquette. Last night, all of that training paid off.
My daughter and I decided to grab some sketti at our favorite Italian restaurant last night. They have huge homemade meatballs in their pasta that my little girl is mildly obsessed with, not to mention awesome breadsticks. The place is what I think of as a “mid-level” restaurant on the fanciness scale. They still offer a kids’ menu but there’s also a really awesome wine list and specialty martinis. I would have never considered taking her as a toddler, and only recently introduced her to it after some polite dining practice at louder, more family-oriented restaurants.
When we were seated, I reminded my daughter about all of the lessons we had discussed over numerous meals out. Look your waitress in the eye and speak clearly when you ask or answer a question. Every single person you interact with deserves a please or thank you every time they drop something at the table or refill a drink. Napkins are there for a reason. Brenna gave me a non-committal, “Yea, yea” kind of look, obviously annoyed at being told the same rules a bajillion times.
Then, something magical happened in my life as a parent. Something that reaffirmed all my hard work and made me chest swell with pride. We sat there, eating breadsticks and discussing what my daughter wanted to get from the library next, and my darling daughter leaned across the table conspiratorially.
“Mom,” she whispered, “those people are too loud.”
She was completely correct. The group sitting behind us was so loud and rambunctious that they caused me to cringe every time a member of their party squealed. It was a group of women who seemed to have had a few too many Midnight Martinis. And if my daughter had ever been that loud in a restaurant, she would have been yanked into the bathroom for a very strict lecture about respecting the other people eating around us.
I smiled and nodded, oh so proud of myself for obviously getting through to my daughter. She followed up the comment with another whisper, “And she’s chewing with her mouth open!” I felt like I deserved a “#1 Mom” sticker at this point. Yay for know that this too common habit is inappropriate!
I quickly reminded my daughter that another part of being polite is in not pointing out other people’s flaws. I thanked her for making sure to keep her voice down so as not to make other guests uncomfortable.
Then, we shared a moment whispering that these fully grown women needed a Mommy at the table to remind them of fine dining manners. It wasn’t just me who felt proud of my little girl. She had a knowing and confident smile throughout the meal. As she thanked our waitress and wished her a good evening, the server commented on what a well-behaved daughter I had. I saw my daughter smile, seriously pleased with herself.
The whole evening reminded me that it’s not just children who are rude in restaurants. But that doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t continue to teach manners to their little ones. And really, I’m not worried about the restaurant wars between bratty kids and date night couples. I’m confident that my little girl can behave herself in any setting. And her behavior is the only etiquette I really need to be concerned about.