I Had My Children To Ruin Your Pleasant Dining Experience
posted by: gretchen
It was my husband’s birthday, so we decided to celebrate by taking our family out to lunch at a downtown Denver restaurant famous for their dairy-based desserts. Our six kids were very well-behaved, and one of our fellow diners complimented me when I stood to take our toddler daughter to the bathroom.
I thanked the woman. Then she said, “Do you beat your children?”
The look on my face prompted her to add that she was just joking. But I didn’t believe her. It was a little too late and a little too brusque.
We are used to people asking to change tables in restaurants if they are seated near us – even when we are at “family friendly” places. We’ve watched entire tables rise, move their drinks, napkins, bread plates, and menus before we’ve cracked open the menu. We’ve witnessed waitstaff arguing over who has to take our table, not knowing we are really, really good tippers because we require a little more attention. I’ve often left tips and thought of the scene in Pretty Woman when Vivian goes back to the store that snubbed her to tell them they made a big mistake. Big.
Most of the time, I don’t let these things bother me. I realize the world has low expectations of children as smelly little ill-tempered oafs. I don’t expect everyone to love or even like my kids, but when people go out of the way to avoid us we feel about as welcomed in the world as a wad of hair in a hamburger patty.
Is there any other class of people where it is perfectly acceptable to express such obvious disdain?
Being asked if I beat my children into good behavior is deeply insulting, even if it’s only a joke. I feel baffled by anyone who thinks you get the best out of people by hurting them. Our children are well-behaved in restaurants because we’ve eaten out at least once a week since our first baby was five days old. They are well-behaved in restaurants because with six kids in our home, we do our best to encourage order and thoughtful behavior. There is a time to party like it’s 1999 and a time to act like ladies and gentlemen. Of course, the kids have their moments – especially when the food is long gone and we are waiting for the check, or my husband and I are talking too much. They aren’t perfect, but neither are the adults who audibly groan when we deign sit in their sphere.
I’d rather be seated next to a table of fifteen children than two middle-aged adults who honk the entire contents of their noses into cloth napkins. I’ve endured self-important adults blathering on cell phones about real estate deals or about needing to get a mole removed from their neck. My kids also get to hear bathroom talk from waitstaff who think they’re out of earshot.
To be fair, we’ve had some truly fantastic, friendly, quick, and intuitive servers over the years, including the person who served us on my husband’s birthday. Her name is Mandy (you rock). We’ve had people compliment our children on their behavior, and mean it. This simple gesture of telling children they are doing well is the most effective way to reinforce good behavior. The kids remember compliments. They beam. They sit up a little more straight.
And so do I.
Have you ever felt slighted when out in public with your children?