Sunday, February 15, 2009

Inadvertently wrecking your holidays since 2002!

Mr. Sandy is in New Hampshire this weekend, sledding with friends. It's an annual thing they do that sometimes coincides with Valentine's Day, about which we don't much care anyhow (especially now that Russell Stover no longer makes the Elvis Presley collector's tin of chocolates).

Yes, I said sledding. I should add that they aren't sliding down little golf course hills like school kids. They take several hours to hike up a mountain, then sled down the whole thing at great speed. I went myself a couple of times, before we had children. It's really, really fun.

Anyway, I have the girls to myself this weekend, which is also fun. Yesterday they had friends over, then we chilled out and watched March of the Penguins (which, if you haven't seen, do. It's a stunning movie.)

All of a sudden it was dinnertime, and I decided on the spur of the moment to go out to eat. We opted for a local casual place we like. It was very busy, but we waited just a few minutes for a table. Getting settled, I overheard from the table behind us: "Omigod, I would NEVER bring kids. They WRECK holidays."

It took me a minute to realize what "holiday" we had wrecked by our mere appearance. I'd forgotten it was Valentine's Day. So sorry! But you know... if you want a quiet Valentine's Day dinner, maybe don't choose to go at 6:00 PM to a place with a children's menu? Just a thought.

Valentine's Day notwithstanding, there are times when I take the girls to a restaurant (and I promise you I'm not talking Le Cirque; we go to appropriate places), and I register that unmistakably dismayed eye contact between people dining at adjacent tables as we sit down.

I do understand. Lord knows I have had my fair share of meals/flights/whatever disrupted by obnoxious whining rugrats and their inept parents. But here's the thing: I have well-behaved kids. Yes, I am biased in their favor, but I also work very hard to rear children with good manners, and the consistent hard work pays off. They know what's expected of them. They say "please" and "thank you." They do not shriek in restaurants. They know that if they pull something like that, we will leave.

What often happens is that people who expected to be put out by the girls' presence end up complimenting them on their good behavior. Which is nice, but those not-so-subtly exchanged looks can be demoralizing, even if you eventually decided we didn't warrant the eye rolling after all. The benefit of the doubt would be a nice change of pace.

We're not the only ones. There are lots of well-behaved children out there, and lots of parents working hard to make it so. Our families don't deserve your preemptive scorn.

So please, fellow diners. Save your obvious displeasure for when kids actually are being brats -- at which time, I'll join you. Unless they're my kids, in which case we've already left.


  1. Here here! We often get complimented on how well behaved our kids are when we're at restaurants, too. Of course, Rocc is a charmer and talks up everyone who looks his way, so that helps. But when we lived in the city, I was always shocked to see people with their kids out at 9:00, 10:00 in loud restuarants that aren't really designed for little ones. These people were always surpised and embarrassed when their children acted up (which they always did becuase DUDE! it's 10:00 at night!) but they never actually left the restaurant or did anything about their child running around or generally being disruptive. But 6:00 at a casual family restaurant? Those people who gave you the stink eye can get bent!! :-)

  2. dennis from dennis3:03 PM, February 15, 2009

    Well, you know me. I always scowl at children in restaurants, but I never dine out before their bedtimes, and if the "12-and-under" section on the menu is longer than the wine list, I'll walk out without ordering.

    Yours are the only children whose company I can tolerate, dear.

  3. For what it's worth, I save my demoralizing eye-rolling and dismayed glances for AFTER the kids start screaming and their parents ignore them.

    Up until that point I usually stare at the cuteness and smile every time I make eye contact with either the parent or the child.

  4. I have a child and I STILL hate sitting next to people with kids.

    The worst time was when my sister and I sat next to a couple with a toddler and the kid crawled out of the booth they were in and crawled in and out of booths and kept LICKING the salt shakers. I couldn't eat, kept furtively looking at the salt shaker and wondering if it was sanitary.

  5. Amen!

    My son, being autistic, sometimes has breakdowns in restaurants. Usually he regains control fairly quickly - if not, one of us takes him outside while the other gets the food boxed up and settles the bill. If he has had the breakdown and quieted down, but others around us still look horrified, I generally explain that he is autistic and "x" set him off; if it happens again we'll be leaving. I apologize for disrupting their meal. Most people are pretty nice at that point. I try not to get defensive, because they have a reason to be concerned since my son has acted up once.

    But the folks who are horrified to merely see children walk in at, say, Red Robin? They can bite me.

    But generally we try to only go to restaurants where are kids are not only expected but welcomed.

  6. There's a brew-pub in Portland that was close to my apartment, that I loved to take the eldest to, when there was just an eldest. On a couple of occasions when we went in there, we got furtive looks from other patrons - coupled by comments about bringing kids into a nice restarant/brew-pub. I was thrilled on the occasion that the waitress overheard the obnoxious commenter and responded by saying rather abruptly, "So I guess this means you'd prefer not to sit next to the play area?"

    Because aside from having a reputation for particularly lovely brews and food, this place is famous for having a huge, enclosed play area, that includes a massive Thomas train set. There's a sign on the door that mentions that strong language will Not be tolerated and neither will children who do not want to play reasonably well.

    I'm the sort who has no quams about responding to such remarks with; "I know how you feel. I hate it when rude morons try to ruin my dinner."