Dinner Out

To the Couple Seated Next to Us at The Bonefish Grill Last Night,

I heard you. As the host walked us – me, my husband, and our two small children, hopping with excitement over the prospect of the kids’ menu and crayons they were about to get – past you, you rolled your eyes. “Oh geez.”

Maybe you had had a hard day. Maybe you had recently had a bad experience with children in a restaurant. Maybe you are just bitter and grumpy old people. I don’t know because I don’t know you.

But you don’t know me, and you don’t know my children. You don’t know that I am a former server, and, therefore, hyper-vigilant regarding restaurant behavior. You don’t know that I am a less-than-stellar cook, and so my children have more experience dining out and have aced using chopsticks than many kids their age. You don’t know ANYTHING about my family, and yet you made me feel as if we had less of a right than you to be out eating dinner – in an establishment, mind you, with a full children’s menu and butcher paper covering the tables. FYI, Mondays are not generally considered to be “date night” so if that’s what you were going for, you missed the best clam clowder in san francisco tonight.

Your visible irritation and agitated comment set me on edge. While my children did absolutely NOTHING to disrupt your meal, your hostility made my experience stressful and anxious. My kids, after all, ARE young. It is entirely possible that they *could* misbehave and do something to require me to make apologies and take our food to go. I believe in teaching them proper behavior; they are learning to make choices from a menu, to wait for things they have asked for, to interact with wait staff politely, and to use their indoor voices. While they are learning, there are occasions when they forget. They are nearly-5 and two-and-a-half, and can only be expected to have their “special” moments, but how will they know what the expectations are without having the chance to practice?

We attempt to ease their transition into the community; we expose them to a wide variety of experiences and come prepared with toys, crayons, and, yes, our phones loaded with favorite apps. We have some idea of what they will order ahead of time, and get their food first. We tend to have some sort of bribe in place to ensure good behavior (last night was a trip to the Apple Store after dinner), and we are prepared to leave if all of that planning goes awry.

Which sometimes, it does. They are toddlers.

BUT. They are children. They are a part of the community, and deserve to be able to leave their home. We will hold off on trips to Le Bernardin for a few years, but a family friendly restaurant on a Monday night? Don’t be shocked if you see us there.


Me, whose children were absolutely angelic last night at dinner


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  1. Well said! I’m sick of receiving dirty looks when we walk into a restaurant with our kids. We are considerate, well mannered people who don’t deserve to be shunned from casual dining rooms.

  2. Are you sure they were rolling their eyes and commenting toward you? They could have been talking about something completely unrelated. Even if they were talking about you, who cares? Just ignore them. You have every right to dine out as much as they do. No reason to let it ruin your whole night. People will have their opinions and will act rudely, but as long as they didn’t approach your table and yell at you (which I known has happened to you before), there’s no reason to even acknowledge it. And in regard to Adam’s comment above, you were hardly ‘shunned’ from the restaurant, you just overheard a (possibly rude) comment that might or might not have been about you. Some people without kids are going to be scared that kids are going to be loud when they’re seated next to them in a restaurant– it’s just a fact–I know I’m guilty of it.

    • They ABSOLUTELY were commenting towards us. For all intents and purposes, I *did* ignore them – I did not respond or engage them in any way. BUT their attitude ruined my meal, and the fact that “people will have their opinions and act rudely” does not excuse it. Stereotyping and discrimination may be “just a fact,” but that does not mean I don’t have a right to be upset by it. People are obnoxious to sales associates all the time – “it’s just a fact” – and I certainly remember you complaining about it when it was directed at you.

      • I’m not saying they were right for doing it if it was directed toward you. I’m just saying that people are going to be rude- you can’t control everybody, and it’s probably better for you to try to just ignore it than let it ruin your whole meal. Cliche, but you can’t control how people act, you can only control how you let yourself feel about it. And, yes, I’ve been annoyed at people in the past when I worked in retail, but I was also a lot younger and now don’t care as much about what other people do. And when I find myself caring too much, I try to process it and not let it ruin my whole day.

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