Sunday, February 17, 2013

Table Manners of a Lesser Primate

Have you ever been rewarded for your child's good behavior? Nope? Me neither.

One family in Washington state got $4.00 off of their restaurant bill, because their children displayed excellent table manners during their meal. Some people reacted negatively to the story, saying that families shouldn't be compensated for doing what they should for free. What do you think? Personally, I just got a kick out of it.


But, being the mom of a toddler, I immediately thought about all the things a restaurant could do to help families with young children have a peaceful dining experience. Things that don't involve cash bribes. 

I'd like to hand out the following manifesto as a pamphlet to any restaurant employee willing to listen:

1) Put us at a table in the back, the one near the kitchen and/or bathrooms, the one no one else wants. Yeah, that one. We want it. There's no need to be in the thick of things. We'd prefer to be out of everyone's way. We want to be secluded, segregated even, on our own island of chaos.

2) Before we sit down, take away the plethora of breakable items that incorporate the standard restaurant table set-up. There's just way too much going on to tempt tiny little fingers. Oh, and don't just stack them to the side, unless you're trying to create a tower for my child to desire to knock over.

3) Realize that many things about our dining experience will need to be expedited. Bring the drink in a plastic cup and the bread quickly. Anything novel and unbreakable will serve to occupy tiny hands. 

4) When our menu closes (which should happen quickly), take our order right away. Let us know if any of our order requires extra cooking time. Many a diner may want to indulge in your made-to-order risotto. We don't, no matter how much the chef swears by it. We'll just choose something else instead. Simple, right?

5) Expedite the cooking. I used to work in a restaurant. I know that our ticket can go right to the front of the line. I don't consider it cutting; I suggest you think of it more like triage. We're doing everyone a favor, really. The sooner we eat, the sooner we're out. And everyone wants us out, including other patrons, including us.

6) Don't say the word desert too loudly, unless you either a) want us to stay longer (you know you don't) or b) want to incite a tantrum.

7) One last thing to expedite: the bill. I'll go back to #5. We all want us gone. We won't take it personally, I promise.

8) Know that we know we're a pain. We know that our presence is a special circumstance that requires special treatment. We know our child possesses the table manners of a lesser primate. We're working on it. And we're doing the best that we can. It would be great if you could too.

9) Know that we don't venture out from our cave that often. It's either a) a very special circumstance, like a family obligation that has been timed by the hosts to occur at exactly the same time as our child's nap or usual bedtime or b) We have just plain had it: 1) Our house has no food in it, 2) We've been up all night with a child who has decided that night is day, 3) Our babysitter cancelled at the last minute, 4) etc., etc. ETC!!

9) Your efforts will be gratefully reflected in the tip and in our speedy departure.

If restaurants would follow my manifesto, we probably wouldn't need discounts on the bill to keep kids happy and well-behaved. Well, maybe, "well-behaved" is stretching it a bit. But we'll head off a few disasters by following my advice.

It takes a village, right?


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84 comments:

  1. Ha! This is so funny. Violet isn't quite a toddler yet so she behaves pretty well....now. We shall see how she does as she gets older.

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  2. Oh you NAILED it, dear. I have gotten to the point where I make (nearly ALL) of these requests as we go about the restaurant experience (though I didn't know about the triage with the orders). Still you always get the childless servers who put the hot plates and ice water directly in front of the 18month old...but oh well.

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  3. Too funny Rachel!! I agree with all of it!!

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  4. Nailed it, indeed! This manifesto is perfect!

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    1. Thank you! Glad to be of assistance to humanity! :)

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  5. Gah! Hate trying to eat out anywhere with my kids! Loved your pic too--I think of my kids trying to eat at Downton and just laugh and laugh. Can only imagine what Lady Violet would say ;)

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  6. Oh those items on the table... or the lotto tickets w/pencils (hurrah, color time, Mommy!) are way too tempting for the little ones. Mine will even stack sugar packets if he's done eating before the rest of us. ;)

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  7. Brilliant, Rachel! Especially the one about getting all the junk off the table. My kid will turn ballistic to rip open a sugar packet. We don't need them. Take them away! :)

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    1. I've never found sugar packets annoying until I had a kid.

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  8. Haha. Great tips, Rachel. I'd never think to ask the waiter to bring bread quick and fast. What a great idea. My baby's crazy for bread and it takes her a while to down it, so that'd be perfect! Thanks for the giggle.

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  9. Seems simple enough. Get in. Get fed. Get out. Where were these tips when I was waiting tables??

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  10. Wouldn't this be ideal, they should teach this at hospitality school! Great post Rachel :)

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  11. God yes, this is SOOOO needed in restaurants! Once children get used to the restaurant atmosphere, the manners will increase/improve over time to the point where you won't have to worry about all these things. But for now, this should be a printed manual passed out to every restaurant owner!

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    1. Oh, please, dear lord, our children used to the restaurant atmosphere!

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  12. Great! I would only add #10: No matter what your menu actually says, there are no more deepfried foods, coke or French fries, unless we specifically ask. There is only healthy food left.

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  13. Rachel,

    These are hilarious!

    Thanks for stopping by my post "A Coffee Break with the Stars." Sorry for my delay in getting back to you.

    Jennifer Dougan
    www.jenniferdougan.com

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  14. You said a mouthful here and omg I couldn't agree more. These rules should be printed out for all restaurants, because as the mom of two little girls, I have had my fair share of restaurant traumas and this would totally make life that much easier going out to dine with my kids!!

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    1. I know...restaurant traumas. It's too much!

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  15. I have one more for your list. And it is an important one: Do not seat ANYONE behind us in a booth that does not have children with them!

    The other night in an almost empty restuarant the hostess sat an older childless couple in the booth right behind us. I thought to myself, these poor people hoping to enjoy a night out...

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    1. I don't even like sitting next to kids and I have one and am, therefore, slightly more tolerant!!

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  16. YES! All the yes! You nailed it :) I am totally going to share this. I've got to give a run down of our favorite three with the kids and why they work, for us. It's SO hard sometimes but jeebus us Moms need a break sometimes, ya hear?!

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    1. We do deserve a restaurant trip or too! I'm refuse to hide out!

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  17. That manifesto is perfection! I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about triage and said the restaurant would be doing everyone a favor by getting you fed first! I totally concur with the dessert thing, and my personal (least) favorite is when my daughter orders milk and the waiter/waitress asks, "White or chocolate?" It makes me want to scream. DON"T SAY CHOCOLATE, YOU FOOL! If we wanted her to have chocolate milk for dinner, we would have ordered it, and now she's having a fit. Sigh. At least when the second one hits preschool age we will know enough to say "WHITE milk" when we order it! ;)

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    1. ha, ha! I LOVE that people are adding to this list. It's AWESOME!

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  18. Hey Rachel, I'm assuming that due to your comment, you do NOT want to be tagged in the answer these questions game? I would love to tag you if you feel like it, but the questions ARE a little bit of a pain, so if you'd rather I leave you off the tagged list, could you let me know ASAP pretty please? :)

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  19. My wife insists that the restaurants put this manifesto in force for when she takes me out. I have a habit of making fun of the other customers by making up conversations based on appearances, perhaps a little too loudly at times. It takes up the time we have to wait, but we sometimes get strange looks from those I'm discussing. I think I'll pass on the plastic cup for drinks though! lol Great job!

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    1. Too loud is a problem with our LO too, Rich!

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  20. Sending some readers your way, because this post inspired me to write about our top four family favorites (to eat at). Thanks for keeping it real, we seriously need to print these off and hand them out to servers :)
    http://fluffimama.blogspot.com/2013/02/kid-friendly-restaurants-that-work-for.html

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  21. That is so funny! Just found your cute blog through the blog hop. I'm a new follower. Hope you'll stop by sometime!

    RebeccawithanR

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  22. I wish they would follow that!

    I've noticed that most of the waiters we have had have learned to whisper dessert or just sort of gesture or trail off their sentences so we get what they are asking, but the kids don't. So helpful.

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  23. Spot on - just perfect! I particularly like the suggestion to remove anything breakable - my son's personal favourite are flower vases....

    Found you via the GYB hop and looking forward to following by e-mail.

    Kate x
    http://www.kateathome.com/

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  24. These are great recommendations. Yes, it can be annoying when children act up at a restaurant. I always keep in mind. It's how the parent is reacting to their child that is most important. Are they trying to do something about the situation?

    http://heidiswanderings.blogspot.com/

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    1. We try, that's all we can do. I refuse NOT to go, because I might offend someone.

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  25. Great recommendations! We dine with our preschooler quite a bit, mostly because it is good practice for him to learn to wait patiently and how to behave well in public. We are ALWAYS ready to order as soon as the waiter comes to take our drink order. We realize that we've got about 45 minutes to make it through a meal before chaos breaks loose.

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    1. Yup! There's a limit to the fun that can be had!

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  26. I think I may take this with me the next time we take my 2 year old out to dinner! We were THAT family at Olive Garden recently and I really wish I could've told the server this!

    New follower from Aloha Friday!

    http://holly-higgins.blogspot.com

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  27. I enjoyed the post. My little one's order is always the first to be placed to avoid too much fussing and downtime. Following you and found you through the Thumping Thursday blog hop. http://georgielee.blogspot.com

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  28. This is a funny post. I have never heard of a restaurant giving a discount to a family because the kiddo was behaving, but you know that really isn't the norm. I see too many kids running their parents lives that it isn't funny. Frankly, I don't know what to make of that. Babies do cry and toddlers can get cranky, but tots who throw tantrums need dealing with and I'm concerned parents just aren't tackling the root of the problem.

    Thanks for sharing these hilarious tips. For restaurant owners then this may be excellent advice in most cases, if nothing else to be on the safe side. lol

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    1. Toddlers throw tantrums. It's developmental. That doesn't mean they should run the show, though.

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  29. Amen. That is it. Just amen to all of the above!

    Brilliant

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  30. They are all great ideas. Good behaviour should be rewarded & I'm sure the kids knowing someone else noticed their behavior was great for them too. Thanks for linking up to Eat.Pray.Love. :)

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  31. This needs major circulations, Rachel! Brilliant!

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  32. Also following from my new blog - Pay Me 2 Blog About U - Thanks Athena

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  33. I.Love.This! I have a 3 year old and am constantly "gently-reminding" waiters/waitresses who is with us and our "needs"!! This should be part of their training!

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    1. I love that! "Gently reminding"! Too often, they don't take the hint!

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  34. Love it! Let's not forget the dumping of the salt and pepper shakers, the ripping open of sugar packets and the creating projectiles with creamers. And then there are those family restaurants that think it's appropriate to leave "pour yourself" water pitchers at a table. With children. WHAT??!!! Are you crazy! I completely agree with you and support your manifesto!

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  35. I LOVE this post! Found you on ILMP BLog Hop! Too funny and so, so true!

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  36. Haha! This really made me chuckle! Glad I discovered your blog via the ILMP blog hop. Looking forward to reading more and catching up on some of your old posts. Have a lovely weekend. Sarita x

    saritaagerman.blogspot.it

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  37. Too funny! We have a 3 year old and one year old, so I know what you mean. :-) However, the table by the bathroom is NOT where we want to sit. And we usually get a booth, to "lock" the 3 yo in. But it seems we mostly get servers who have kids themselves, so we haven't had too much trouble.

    Thanks for linking up at Lovin the Weekend!
    http://an-ordinary-housewife.blogspot.com/

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    1. Oh, I know that "lock" the toddler in thing!

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  38. Yes! VIP for toddlers! And a discount for good behavior! (I'm still recovering from restaurant nightmares, I mean memories, with our monkey boy when he was young!)

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    1. Yes, eating at a restaurant can resemble a zoo sometimes!

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  39. You're one wise woman Rachel!!! Totally agree with all of these, I just get so anxious at dinner, which is why we rarely go, 17 months + 3 year old + and nearly 5 = totally demanding. Love your blog xxx Em

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    1. Wow, yup. I refuse to avoid going out though. Sometimes, I need a break!

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  40. We avoid most restaurants but we do have our favourite Indonesian restaurant with super speedy service and know us so well that it's always a smooth experience dining there.

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  41. My Dad was a table manners Nazi. My daughters learned their good table manners from him. There are two types of restaurant parents that I dislike. Type 1: Our children do anything and everything they like they break everything and harass other dinners and we think it is cute and funny. Type 2: We take our children to a stuffy adult type restaurant and bring nothing with to entertain them but we constantly shout at them for behaving badly.

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    1. We try our best, but toddlers will be toddlers. This too shall pass!

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  42. How did I miss this? #5 cracked me up the most.

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  43. Ah that made me smile... I can relate to so much of it. But I guess one thing I would put top of my list is 'understand' - understand that kids can't learn to eat out with manners unless they are able to do it!

    We have a few restaurants we go to with all four kids, and those are the ones where the staff are welcoming and helpful and follow all your tips!

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    1. YES! It's part of the learning process! It's like asking to put the horse in front of the cart!

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  44. Expediate being the key word in this post! This is absolutely the most helpful thing they can do.

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