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