Rambling of the Day: Bringing Your Little Monster Out in Public

3 Aug

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Let me just preface this rant by saying I’m not opposed to people bringing their kids to restaurants. I bring my daughter with me all the time. I also do not care how anyone wants to raise their kids within their own homes – excluding being abusive, etc. But raising your kids does not happen exclusively within your home, and lately I have witnessed a trend developing in which parents have lost all etiquette when it comes to bringing their small children out in public with them. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had those embarrassing moments in the grocery store where I’ve had no choice but to draw attention to my misbehaving child, and attempt to walk out of the store with the belief that no one witnessed my meltdown. I understand that, as parents, we all have incidents like this at some point. However, there are some things your children will do in public that are simply avoidable, and I will use the example of the restaurant to illustrate, since that is where I witness the most horrific cases.

I recently served a family of five on the outdoor patio at my restaurant. Now, the fact that we were outdoors does not mean it was a more relaxed dining situation. The patio backs almost directly up to the oceanfront boardwalk, where people are constantly walking, biking, and pedaling those awful four-person bicycle carriages (I recently witnessed this where two children were in the front pedaling at about a snail’s pace as they dragged their humongous parents, who sat in the back not pedaling – sad, but entertaining). The patio also tightly packs in about 20 tables along a narrow stretch of space, so that greeting one table means basically scooting your bottom up against the table across from them, making it a bit odd for them as they try to enjoy their crab legs. So under these interesting circumstances, I greeted this family.

Upon my arrival at the table, the youngest child, a three-year-old, her mother mentioned to me, began to wail at the top of her lungs. No distinguishable words came out, just the sound of pure spoiled brat. I tried not to show my frustration as I took down the drink orders of the father and two non-screeching children. When I turned to speak to the mother, she couldn’t be bothered to look at me. She was repeating over and over to her child, “Sweetie, what do you want to drink? Chocolate milk? Sprite?” The child continued to wail incomprehensibly. I mentioned to the woman that I could come back when she was ready, and she snapped, “Oh no, I need to find out what she wants. She’s just being a three-year-old right now.” And she continued to ask the screaming child what she wanted to drink, until finally the child allegedly (all I heard was wailing) gave her an answer.

I walked away horrified. She’s just being a three-year-old? Perhaps a proper response to your child talking to her imaginary friend or getting a little crabby before bedtime. These things are excusable by the “she’s just being a three-year-old” claim. But when did it become excusable to let your child behave like an absolute loon in a public setting, especially one in which there are other people around you trying to enjoy themselves? I kept waiting to see the discipline in this situation, but each time I returned to the table I saw nothing but the pampering of this whiny kid.

Now, frankly, I don’t care how anyone wants to spoil their kids in their own home. I don’t agree with coddling children, but if people want to do it, that’s fine and they have that right. It becomes unacceptable when you decide you want to take your coddled brat out into a public setting and are totally unprepared for dealing with her behavior. I’m not saying you have to drag your child onto the beach and whip her in front of a million tourists. But how about asking where the restroom is, taking your child there, and explaining to her that she can either calm down and be civil, or she can go home and have no fun?

Anyway, quickly, a couple of other things to note about bringing kids out to restaurants:

  1. If you notice your child throwing things on the floor or at other people, stop him (seems obvious, but you’d be surprised).
  2. If your child is the messiest kid in the universe and you notice when you are leaving that he has created an ample amount of evidence that he’s been sitting there (like mine does) either help clean up, leave extra money, or directly tip the busser. It’s just polite.
  3. Don’t let your kids run around the restaurant! Obvious, right? You’d think so, but no. I am constantly tripping over kids running around as their adult supervisors sit and enjoy some conversation. If you want a nice evening out, hire a babysitter; the restaurant staff does not get paid enough to make sure your kids don’t cause a collision in the dining room.

There are plenty more examples, but you get the idea.

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