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Friday, March 12, 2010

Today In A Restaurant ...

I have a small family ... two siblings, some in-laws, a niece and a nephew. And we all have busy lives. So when we can coordinate work and sports and dish installation and such, dining out together can be a magical experience. It can also be a trip through the zebra dung, thanks to little unsupervised children.

Before your colons burn and you transfer the discomfort to your typing fingers, I love kids. They're cute, inspirational, genuine, and see the world in a way most of us have forgot. But when I choose to eat in public, I expect others who have made the choice to NOT bring their brood along and then opt to pretend to not know them.

Case in point, the salad bar. I'm restocking my plate with bland-at-best macaroni salad and a tasty little square of less-than-homemade cheesecake when I hear a small "splat" and realize that my left shoe is now decorated with a sturdy glob of mashed potatoes. Hovering there, looking not in the least bit sorry or responsible, is a probably seven-year-old girl. She's alternately eyeing me while dragging a younger boy through a spill of cookies and soft-serve ice cream dripping from a bowl in his guilty little hands. After a stern second or two, they look at each other and just walk on past, spying something else edible to destroy.

I casually deposit the spud lump under the edge of the salad bar. I know what you're thinking ... I should have picked up the mess or alerted a restaurant employee, but I was literally frothing to return to my family's table (there's seven of us) to recount my misshap. Now I get seated, take a breath to begin my tale, when a "mom and dad" or "couple without a condom" seated beside us start giving a boy of about four his marching orders to "go get your own food, and bring back some more napkins."

I'm shocked, stunned even, until I look around and notice a fair amount of young people roaming about on their own, getting plates of desserts, dropping utensils on the floor or into serving trays, and just plain getting in other people's way.

When I was young, which wasn't all that long ago, my parents did this crazy thing called "hiring a babysitter" when they wanted to go out to dinner and spend some quality time together. They also did it to spare us kids from places and events that were too adult or too boring, and, honestly, to just get away from us from time to time. And when we did go out as a family, if one of us "acted up" ... WHISK! ... we were sitting in the car with Mom or Dad relearning the basics of manners and etiquette.

Occasionally, during the current with my family, I heard a parent or two make the same threat about "one more time and we're leaving" or "do you wanna go to the car?" But apparently, one more time never came or the kid in question didn't want to visit the family sedan or minivan at this time. More likely, it was to much bother to be an effective parent.

POINT OF RANT: You don't have to leave your kids at home all the time. But as parents and supposed adults, you should know your children, their behavioral norms, and their attention spans. Don't make them any more uncomfortable than you are the rest of us! Think before you dine out.

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