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Dinner with Children

Growing up I was taught that children should be seen, but not heard. The only place appropriate for shrill giggles was outside. I have three siblings and we did run wild around the neighborhood. We could get loud, very loud. The rules were strictly enforced so when we passed the threshold of the back door our voices lowered and our giggles hushed. Unfortunately, the golden rule of not being heard was enforced more than I liked. The freedom to express opinions, talk politics, religion, or sex were all off the table.

I am a parent now, but unlike me, my children have been raised to be seen, heard, and expressing their opinions is encouraged. Our religious beliefs are openly discussed, we grumble about the state of politics, and we get loud together. My kids are now young adults so going out for a sit-down dinner is getting more rare. When we do get an evening out we put our cell phones away and enjoy each other’s company.

The other night, we had one of those rare evenings that brought not just my family, but also my brother, his wife, and my elderly mother to the dinner table. Unfortunately, we were seated next to one of “those families”. I assumed that they were a husband, a wife, and a female friend, along with four kids under four feet tall.

Having four pint sized kids is a wonderful mix of riotous behavior. I love watching a pack of kids run and squeal. Their joy is so contagious and I can’t help but smile. That is, I love it when they are zealous at home or outside. At some restaurants, like Chuck E. Cheese, it is expected that kids are running everywhere. Screaming laughter should fill those types of restaurants, but at a casual steakhouse where the atmosphere is quiet and patrons want great conversation, kids should be seated and hushed just like everyone else.

“That family” next to us was the epitome of what should never happen at a peaceful, sit-down restaurant. The mom and her female friend were fully engrossed in their cell phones. I can only assume they were texting one another because they couldn’t hear each other with their children running circles around their table screaming. Their male companion (I’m guessing Dad) sat in stupor like an overwrought father who has spent the past four years under child-induced distress.

When the kids actually did sit down they turned on their own cell phones and watched cartoons with the volume set to maximum. In the mean time, we patiently sat and tried to have fun. We did attempt “the looks” in hopes the moms would catch a hint that the kids were bothering us, but in the end that failed. My mother, who is 87, turned to the mom sitting at her back and said, “You need to control your children. They are being very disruptive and rude.” The mom was quite put off about the whole affair. She immediately packed up her kids and tersely informed my mother,  “Your opinion was so helpful,” then stormed from the restaurant.

We were happy to enjoy a quiet meal, but it left a negative taste in the air that took awhile to clear. Once the staleness settled, I noticed another table near us. There were four adults and five kids (three under four feet tall). The children were coloring and talking quietly among themselves, and the adults were having a lively discussion. I scanned the rest of the room and everyone, young and old, laughed and talked with one another. It reminded me that most families are not out of control, and that “those families” are in the minority. The vast majority of children will grow up to be great parents and their children will too.

Put the cell phones and iPads away. Enjoy dinner out with the kids. Let them be seen and heard in all the appropriate places. This is a fun world to be human in and even more so when you have dinner out with children.

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Waiting for a Table

The lobby was filled with hungry customers waiting to be seated, wait staff were running from table to table taking orders and delivering food, busboys cleared as quickly as the laws of physics would allow. The smell of steak and fish filled the air and our mouths watered with anticipation. Our hostess took our name with a smile that strained to be sincere. With a furrowed brow she added us to the wait list. “I will seat you as soon as a table becomes available. If you would like to wait in the bar area you may find it more comfortable. Your wait will be about thirty minutes.” Neither of us drink alcohol so we thought it more to our liking to wait in the lobby.

We needed to find a small spot of the floor we could claim as we waited for a table when a gentleman burst between us. “There are empty tables and I demand to be seated immediately! Look Miss, over there! I see three tables ready to go. I want one of those tables!” His arm swung wide nearly missing my head. Before any physical damage could be done the hostess turned him back toward her, “What is your name sir? Let me see where you are on the wait list.” He gruffly shared his name and she checked her list. “Well sir, there are several people ahead of you and I will be happy to seat you when your name comes up.” His glare would have melted the polar ice caps. This gentleman (and I use that term very loosely) would not be satiated. The hostess was a monument to calmness as she looked at him straight faced. “I would be happy to seat you at one of the empty tables, but there would be no one to serve you. Would you like to sit where you will get service, or would you like to sit where you will wait until a serviceable table opens up?”

She held up her index finger pausing his next tirade. With her other hand she held the intercom close to her ear and listened. Nodding to the voice on the other side of the conversation she turned to the gentleman and said, “If you will follow me sir, my manger would like to speak with you.” They headed out of the lobby. He sauntered behind the hostess like a man who had just won the war. Only a few moments passed when the hostess returned with what could only be described as a victorious look on her face. Soon after the gentleman squirmed back to the lobby of the restaurant and slid solemnly in his seat waiting just like everyone else. The lobby sighed with relief. Looking around at one another we silently agreed that it was nice to see who the true victor was.

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