The topic for this week’s Writing Challenge from WordPress is kids, and wether they should be taken to adult centered places. I have not paid much attention to these challenges in the past, but since I experience this on an almost daily basis, I thought I’d write about my experience, and Tuesday seems to be my day to write a rant anyway.
The question is ‘How Do You Feel About Children in Adult Oriented Places”, with the two possible survey answers being “Kids are people too, they should be welcome where an adult is welcomed”, and “Part of why I go to a nice restaurant is for the ambiance and to spend time with other adults. Get a baby sitter.”
As a former Marketing person, I would first have to pick apart the wording of the first answer choice. I’m assuming that the phrase “where an adult is welcomed” they mean where a responsible adult would reasonably expect their child to be at least marginally accepted. I’m assuming they don’t mean boxing matches, smoky bars, strip clubs, cigar stores, and any number of other places that most likely would not be a place someone would bring a child. Maybe they should have limited the wording of the answer to just high end restaurants ? Then again, maybe people do bring their kids to boxing matches and I’m living in a delusional Victorian era prudish dream land where that does not happen.
I’ll just limit my rant to restaurants, since that’s where we mostly find problems with how we’re treated. We’re exceptionally cheap, so we don’t tend to go to many higher end restaurants anyway, but when we do, we do notice a lower standard of service since we have a toddler. I should also add that we do not go to the more expensive places at all. First, we just can’t afford it, and second I do think that there are places where parents just should not bring their kids and why risk a disaster for not just you but those around you when you are spending $50 or more per person? I do think that it is ok to bring the kids to the less expensive places though.
I will often end up going into the restaurant before my wife and son. He likes to be taken out of the car seat by her, and will walk with her through the parking lot, as I go ahead to request the table. I will walk into the restaurant alone, and the usual enthusiasm of the host of hostess will noticeably change once I let them know that the party will include three people, one of whom is a toddler. The smile fades, shoulders slump, and they will grumpily say “Come this way”, as I am lead to the worst possible table in the restaurant. I then have to send up the flares and wave the semaphore flags so Ms. J can find where I am when she and Mr. C come in.
One time we were placed not just in a back room, but in the far back of this room too. Included in our exile were two other couples who also had at least one small child with them. This was at a restaurant that might be considered mid level, maybe $20 per person for a dinner entree, not quite a high end $50 – $100 per person place at all. Since I didn’t think the place was very exclusive, I was surprised by the exile. The waiter barely came by at all, did not ask how the meal was, did not come by to ask if we wanted anything else, and we were rushed out as soon as possible. The other two families along with us seemed to be treated the same, maybe worse if they had more than one kid.
This has happened more than once. We are almost always placed in the deepest darkest corner of the room. Sometimes next to the kitchen door, sometimes next to the bathroom. Seems as though people with kids are seen as trouble. We’re not going to order alcohol so the bill will not be very much, and the kid is probably going to break something. Restaurants will throw us a few broken crayons and a scrap of paper for Mr. C to draw on, but other than that, ‘please do not come back’ is the impression we get from most places that serve anything more complicated than pizza or burgers.
I think if the wait staff are grumpy, the dinners will be grumpy. Grumpy parents lead to grump kids and then bad things happen. I see it happen with the other parents we’re exiled with. They will be left alone too long, tempers run short, the kids start to go nuts and something ends up getting broken and someone starts to cry.
It would also help if the staff were a bit more aware of what it means to be eating out with a toddler. We had a meal at a fairly high end fish restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Mr. C wanted some lemonade. The waitress brought out a huge glass, it must have been about a quart of lemonade. In a tapered glass that was extremely top heavy. So instead of bringing out a small glass, and then coming by to refill it, they just served the standard adult serving to a 3 year old. A 3 year old who could barely see over the table, and there he was trying to reach for a glass of lemonade that was about a foot taller than his head. ‘I don’t like the looks of that lemonade glass’ I said to Ms. J. Within seconds of saying that, C had reached for it and knocked it over. All over himself, all over the table, all over the floor. A very uncomfortable little 3 year old then had to have his pants changed in the bathroom. As parents we have to think of things like this happening, so we bring a change of clothes when we go out, why don’t the restaurants try to help out at least a little and be a little more conscious of what it’s like to be a 3 year old?
We recently did have a good experience at a restaurant though. At the Simon Pearce restaurant in Vermont, we were not placed at a bad table at all. If anything, it was probably one of the best tables. The waitress actually knelt down to ask our son what he might like to have for dinner, came by frequently to see how we were doing, and each time also made sure to ask Mr. C how he was doing too, and wanted to see what he was drawing each time she came by. Simon Pearce is primarily a high end home furnishing store, located in a converted mill building, with the restaurant being one of the best places in the area, maybe the state. They serve their meals at the restaurant on their own china and hand blown glassware. Average price for a drinking glass is $50 each. Mr. C was not given one of those glasses, he was given a small plastic cup. But I was a little worried that Mr. C would find a way to break someone else’s $50 glass. Of course he did, late in the evening, while sitting on Grandma’s lap, he knocked over a $85 wine glass. Which rolled off the table onto the brick floor and broke into a million hand blown pieces. The hostess came over and assured us that it was nothing to worry about, they would clean it up and melt it down to make a new glass. That was nice, and it was a very nice meal, and no one cried.
You get what you give. If you treat people with respect, they will treat you, and your restaurant, and the other patrons with respect as well. At least they do in my Victorian era prudish dream land.