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Restaurant discounts check for a well-behaved kid

Chaunie Brusie is writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. Her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, a guide to young motherhood, was released in May 2014. She writes about life as a young mom of three.

Can't kids just be kids?

Did you hear the one about the parents that got a special Mother’s Day surprise?

One lovely young family in Canada decided to have a special meal out for Mother’s Day, but were surprised when they received the bill — and a discount for a “well-behaved kid.” The restaurant was Carino Japanese Bistro in Canada and the parents were quite proud that their child was recognized for her table manners.

A reflection of good parenting

Although the parents noted that the Bistro is not exactly “kid-friendly,” they often take their 1-year-old daughter there for special visits and on this occasion, the owners took notice of a mother doing a good job. "We welcome the kids and wanted to show some appreciation for kids (of course for parents) with dining manners,” commented the restaurant’s owner.

The parents agreed that the gesture was a gracious one. “I feel it was just a really nice gesture,” Daley Welsh, the husband of the dynamic parenting duo said. “And it really made my wife’s Mother’s Day special, affirming her hard work as a parent for the last year.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

On one hand, I’m very happy for this little family and their perfect angel of a daughter. I’m even excited that they got a discount, because like any cost-contentious mother, I can appreciate a good coupon when I see one. But on the other hand, can I please just say, what the heck?

This story has circulated throughout the media outlets as a heart-warming one, a reward for good parenting, but I can’t help but see it in another light. I see two concerning assumptions.

  • That restaurant employees assume that customers with young kids are all hell-bent on causing everyone to have a miserable experience and
  • Every public child meltdown is the direct reflection of how adept we are as parents

A learning experience

Like the couple in the story, I went out to eat with my family and my parents for Mother’s Day with my three young children, ages 5, 3 and 1. Over the course of breakfast, my 1-year-old spilled his chocolate milk, my 3-year-old broke a plate, and someone — I’m not naming names — ate an entire packet of butter. And honestly, we had a wonderful time. They weren’t out of control, they weren’t wreaking havoc, they were just being three normal kids crammed in a restaurant booth and to some extent, I expect a little controlled chaos when we take them out.

But we still take them out. With the assumption that we deserve a meal out as much as the next person and with the understanding that we are teaching them — with every menu, every wait and every admonition to “sit down, please” — how to behave properly.

We aren’t perfect parents, our kids aren’t perfect children, but for goodness sakes, can we not make a parade out of it every time a child behaves out in public?

Good behavior happens, just like bad behavior. And yes, I’m a bit partial, as the mom of many young children, but it just rubs me the wrong way when the “normal” expectation is for kids to be total terrors and for parents like me to be too tired to care about it.

Sometimes, kids have meltdowns, in public or not. Often they are inadvertently clumsy and active, but not necessarily in a bad way. Sometimes, kids behave so perfectly you wish you could bottle it up and take it out for the next round of bad behavior. And sometimes, they are a strange mixture of both in the span of mere seconds.

It doesn’t make us any worse or any better as parents. And believe it or not, parents with young children do deserve to eat out in public.

Even without the “good behavior" discount.

More on eating out with kids

6 Tips for taking kids out to eat
Eating out with kids: Restaurant behavior
Tips on dining out for families living with autism

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