Ok. The kids in restaurants thing. I had a deeply conflicting experience several weeks ago.
Previously, my thoughts on babies/toddlers/preschoolers/kids in restaurants was that I hated bringing mine to restaurants because I was constantly afraid of disrupting other diner’s experiences. We brought Gia when she was a baby because she literally NEVER. CRIED. Like, ever. Don’t hate me. Once she started to become mobile, we sort of stopped bringing her. We had a massive, epic failure of a dining experience when she was around 1.5 that scarred me for life and after that we didn’t take her out to eat for almost an entire year.
I cared so much about not disturbing others that I couldn’t possibly enjoy a meal out with her.
I bristled when those stories would go viral about restaurant owners or servers or diners yelling at parents or banning kids or being just in general, huge assholes about kids at restaurants. It sort of boiled my blood, made me get super defensive on the part of the parents. “Do you even KNOW how stressful it is to be a parent?? Have you EVER EVEN TRIED dealing with a tantruming child???” I would fume at the computer screen. “DO. YOU. EVEN. KNOW??? And now we aren’t allowed to even LEAVE OUR HOMES TO EAT???” I wished these evil people colicky babies and being trapped behind super slow drivers and super long waits for any appointments they had in the future.
Then, a couple weeks ago my husband and I went out to dinner. Our date night, as I have ranted to him multiple times when he suggests having friends over and cooking for them, IS THE ONE NIGHT EVERY WEEK someone else gets to take care of ME at mealtime. The ONE NIGHT PER WEEK I CAN LOOK FORWARD TO AN UNINTERRUPTED MEAL. The ONE NIGHT PER WEEK where I don’t have to do dishes. THE ONE NIGHT PER WEEK we can have an actual conversation together over food. THE ONE NIGHT PER WEEK I can actually taste and enjoy my food without trying to shovel it in my mouth as quickly as possible before our daughter makes some other outlandish request that will send me either up for a new food item, up for a new drink, up to clean up a mess, up to deal with a tantrum, etc etc. Parents, you get it.
So anyway, here we were. I am hugely pregnant and short on patience as it is. The restaurant is packed, we have been seated and ignored for 20 minutes without so much as a glance. I am hungry. I am tired. I am in jeans, which make me even grumpier. But at least, at least we aren’t having to entertain our toddler. At least we can have an uninterrupted conversation together.
Then who should come walking up directly to the table less than a foot away from us?
That’s right, you guessed it. Family with a toddler.
Toddler who has voice immodulation disorder (anyone? Will Ferrell …. Anyone?). Toddler who only has one volume and that’s scream volume. Toddler who loudly demands to watch his favorite cartoon on the smart phone. At highest volume. On repeat. Over and over. ONE I DON’T EVEN LIKE. ONE I HAVE TO HEAR AT HOME EVERY DAMN DAY. Toddler knocking silverware on the floor, toddler melting down, toddler being a toddler. Toddler doing all the things I am 100% sure our toddler would be doing if she were there.
You guys. I wanted so badly to be sympathetic to the parents. (Though, side note, it seemed like they were the type that were kind of like “Fuck you, our child is DESERVING of this dining experience and you should respect and delight in his toddler-ness” although that could have just been my general mood and I never actually made eye contact with either of them because I was afraid I would do something angry with my eyes). I wanted SO BADLY to be able to shoot them a friendly smile. I wanted to give them a knowing and cheerful and reassuring “We’ve been there!!”
What I wanted more was for them to take their kid and get the hell away from me and my ONE NIGHT AWAY dining experience.
Serious first world problems, I know.
So what do I make of this experience? I think it re-affirmed my belief in the importance of recognizing AND/BOTH and rejecting the EITHER/OR.
Either the toddlers are assholes or the other diners who aren’t compassionate are assholes = INCORRECT.
The toddlers are assholes and the other diners who aren’t compassionate are assholes = more like it.
Or even better:
The toddlers are being toddlers. What can you do. Parents need to eat too. Sometimes they don’t want to do the dishes, you know? You don’t have to like it, but other people who are not toddlers can still be major assholes at restaurants. I’m looking at you, rude diner who is yelling at the server/loud drunk bro/super loud obnoxious bachelorette party. Also, sometimes you just want to enjoy your ONE DAMN MEAL PER WEEK. Its inconvenient to be around other humans sometimes. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to be jolly and pay for the dinners of our fellow restaurant goers and smile at everything that is actually really annoying.
Also, after that dining delight, we saw a drunk girl completely naked from the waist down peeing on the ice several feet from the front door at Target. Fun little date night. So it may have been a full moon, I don’t know.
So cheers to the asshole toddlers, the crabby pregnant women, and at least we aren’t the girl stumbling around flashing her vagina and peeing on the ice, fully illuminated by the fluorescent light of Target.