Once in a great while, my husband and I try to be spontaneous with our brood of three (and counting) young children.
And by “spontaneous” of course, I mean hit-up-the-closest-and-quietest restaurant for pizza. Because nothing says Saturday night like cheap pizza and broken crayons for the kids.
But as it would so happen, even our grand plans to go out without any type of a bang don’t always go over so well.
One night in particular, my family rounded the corner into the restaurant dining room — my nine-month pregnant belly in the lead and my three young children (ages 6, 4 and 2) trailing behind me like a pack of hungry ducklings. Without hesitation, the hostess slapped some menus on a round table directly next to the only other customers in the restaurant. Warily, the diners eyed me up, glancing behind me and involuntarily gripping their bread sticks a little tighter.
“Um, would it be OK if we sat over there?” I asked the hostess, gesturing towards any of the other tables in the wide-open restaurant. “I’d hate to disturb these nice people,” I explained, flashing a smile their way to show them that I was a considerate mother.
The customer sat up straighter and dabbed her napkin delicately to her lips with disdain. She nodded vigorously, dismissing us with a wave of her hand. “Yes, I think that would be a fine idea,” she said scornfully.
Gritting my teeth, I kept a smile plastered on my face as I waddled with as much dignity as I could muster towards our new table. “Did you hear that?” I hissed to my husband. “How dare she!”
He sighed the tired sigh of fathers-of-many everywhere, pulling out a menu for our 2-year-old while simultaneously opening a straw for the 4-year-old. “Yeah, I know,” he said ruefully. “But I get it. I wouldn’t want to pay money and have an environment of screaming kids.”
And because my husband happens to be one of the nicest people ever, I conceded to his point. But I am not the nicest person ever, especially at nine months pregnant, and the judgment we face every day out in public simply because my children are young and somewhat plentiful is ridiculous.
Here’s the thing: I do understand not wanting a meal ruined by out-of-control toddlers, screaming babies or tantrums over chicken nuggets. But here’s the other thing: Not every meal with kids goes that way and, more importantly, parents taking their children out for a meal aren’t exactly looking for that type of dining experience either.
Parents of young children take their family out for a meal for the same reasons as everyone else — because we’re hungry, because it’s a fun night out or because (gasp), we’re trying to teach our children good behavior. We’re obviously not taking them to restaurants with crystal-and-china-laden tables and if a child does happen to act up, you can bet your apparently-superior dollar that the guilty party will be appropriately dealt with.
So the next time you want to judge a family with young children in a restaurant, do me a favor.
Give them a chance before you assume that they are going to ruin your entire dinner. Or better yet, send them an appetizer. I can almost guarantee you that food plus toddlers is an excellent way to ensure a moment of silence.
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