When my daughter was about 2 years old, my wife and I decided to see if she was capable of experiencing her first restaurant meal. Exposing your child to experiences early and often is a great way of getting him or her socially adjusted. At least that is what the books say.
We dressed her in all her frilly finery, brought along games and books, as well as a few bright baubles, just in case. We parked and unloaded all of our new parent stuff — diaper bag, stroller, you name it, we had it. A family’s first child often reaps her own reward.
We arrived early for our reservation; we both had restaurant experience and knew that reservations are not guarantees, they are best guesses. A little early is sometimes possible as well as is a little late.
We got lucky and sat early. Drinks were ordered (nonalcoholic as we did have a toddler in tow) as well as two entrees. We figured that salads and appetizers would be asking too much of a 2-year-old. It turned out that we were being overly optimistic.
Our drinks arrived followed quickly by our entrees. Sometimes in the restaurant equation, the staff will slow things down for diners and sometimes they will speed them up. A couple drinking nonalcoholic beverages and ordering just entrees with a 2-year-old usually falls into the latter category.
As soon as our entrees hit the table, my daughter started crying. Loudly. We tried everything, but within 30 seconds it was clear that she wasn’t going to stop. My wife took her to the bathroom and tried to calm her. It didn’t work. I took her outside. That didn’t work either. We then did the only thing prudent under the circumstances. We boxed up our food and left. There was no way we were going to allow the behavior of our child to ruin the experiences of anyone else in that restaurant.
We, however, appear to be in the minority, at least these days. I can’t count how many people will let their children scream uncontrollably for as long as they want to in a restaurant, or anywhere for that matter. People often unleash their children (pun intended) and let them run amuck for everyone else to deal with. It might take a village, but sometimes the villagers want no part of it. Just ask Frankenstein’s “child.”
Recently a story exploded on the Internet about a Portland, Maine, diner owner who yelled at a couple and their child, and asked them to leave after their child reportedly cried for 40 minutes.
The couple posted a negative review on social media. Of course they did.
Nowadays people don’t take responsibility for their own actions, much less their child’s. Recently I had an experience in which a couple with a screaming child wanted me to tell another group of people to stop complaining about their child. And I quote: “They are ruining our experience.” I instead told them that maybe they should take their child outside. They instead, complained about me.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “the best defense is a good offense.” Well that seems to be the go to these days. Instead of saying “I am sorry” or correcting behavior, unconscious people lash out at the people complaining and then continue along with their behavior. “Good for the goose, good for the gander,” has become only good for the goose. “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” has become just do unto others and then blame the others.
I applaud the diner owner Darla Neugebauer. “Life is full of choices and you’ve got to live with all of them. I chose to yell at a kid, it made her shut-up, which made me happy, it made my staff happy, it made the 75 other people dining here happy, and they left. They may never come back,” Neugebauer said.
To which I say, thank goodness.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• The righteously indignant are so rarely dignified or right for that matter.
• In public, your experience is connected to everybody else’s experience. If you don’t care about theirs, then don’t expect them to care about yours.
• If the owner has asked you to leave, you better leave because from that moment on you are criminally trespassing.
• “The customer is always right” is trumped by “the owner is always right.”
• “I am never coming back here” is often most welcome by the people hearing it.