Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.
By itself, carrying a tray full of martinis through a busy restaurant is not so bad. But when two screaming kids playing a game of tag suddenly shoot into my path and decide to make me "it," keeping the drinks full becomes decidedly more difficult.
I'm fine with kids in my section -- I just want them to save the cartwheels, crayon throwing and screeching sing-a-longs for home. And Mom and Dad, don't pretend to not notice when your kid is slinging around french fries like he's trying out for the Broncos.
I worked for a surly Dutch man who made a point to seat every party with children. He told each parent the same thing: "I'd like to remind you that this is a fine dining establishment and I wouldn't want your child to bother other diners."
Half of them left immediately and half stayed and gave him a dirty look every time he walked through the dining room. I stop well short of taking his position, but a certain group of parents and I have agreed to disagree when it comes to their children. They think everything their kids do is magical, and I think it's annoying when little Johnny does his elephant impression with chocolate milk.
I'll smile and play along with your kid. I'll ask what his or her favorite color is and dish out some free ice cream. And I deeply appreciate well-mannered kids who get more than fifty percent of their food in their mouth. But the parents who treat a restaurant like day care should be charged a pain in the ass gratuity. This is an opportunity for parents to teach their kids social skills, not a free hour and a half to down merlot and let the waiter deal with the screaming kid covered in ketchup.
The five things kids should not do in restaurants:
5. Use meal time as play time. Yeah, childhood obesity is a huge problem in this country. But kids need to get their cardio at recess, not dinner. Not only is a child on the loose more likely to collide with a server carrying hot meals and heavy plates, he or she is destroying other peoples' meals. Get one of those weird kid leashes if necessary, but please keep children from underneath the table of the couple celebrating its anniversary.
4. Scream orders. It's awkward when Mom asks her daughter to "Tell the waiter what you want," and the kid freezes up as if unable to speak. But it's overwhelmingly preferable to the little girl shouting, "I want a cheeseburger!" or "Get me a purple crayon!" every time I'm within two feet of the table. It's like a needy guard dog.
3. "Pretend" eat at other tables. A kid is going to make a big enough mess as it is. If I'm lucky, I'm only cleaning up food after the meal, as opposed to additional beverages and bodily fluids. Don't compound that by letting the little one sit at every nearby table and slobber on the silverware.
2. Find the bathroom by themselves. I strongly believe kids are far too protected today, but a large, busy restaurant is not the place for young kids to learn independence. More than likely, the child will end up hurriedly running around the restaurant in a panic, peeing in the wrong restroom, or if it really goes wrong, out back grabbing a smoke with the dishwasher.
1. Have their diaper changed on the table. This made the comments section of Melanie Asmar's Highlands Mommies story, but I've heard of it happening elsewhere, too. Just so we're all on the same page: The changing station and the dinner table are two very different things.
Did I forget anything?