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 rewarded 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, which 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. 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.
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) Your efforts will be gratefully reflected in the tip.
If restaurants would follow my manifesto, we probably wouldn't need discounts on the bill to keep kids happy and well-behaved. Well, perhaps "well-behaved" is stretching it a bit, but we'll all head off a few disasters by following my advice. It takes a village, right?