Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Occasional Comments - Kid's Welcome?

Written by Shaila Creekmore, illustration by Brittney Guest, as printed in the March 2010 edition of Jonesboro Occasions.

We strike fear into the heart of every seating hostess. Waiters and waitresses panic at the mere sight of us. Customers sigh a breath of relief when we are not seated next to their table. We are a group of mothers with small children.It is not our intention to cause such mayhem in our local restaurants; we just want to enjoy a non-chicken nugget meal with friends. But the looks of dread are noticed all the same.

Usually at least once a week, I enjoy lunch with a group of girlfriends and our small brood of children. Over time, the looks of dismay by various restaurant staffs across town have become a little joke among us.

The most notable was on a visit to a family friendly restaurant for brunch one morning. The two hostesses ran around, nearly falling over each other trying to figure out where they were going to put our group of four moms and seven children. The confusion over how many highchairs and how many adult verses children’s menus was nearly too much for the pair. When we reached our table, we quickly realized our experience would not improve when our waitress asked, “Are ALL these children yours?” To top off our trip that morning, the waitress sat a small plate in front of one of the two-year-olds who promptly knocked it off the table, shattering it on the tile floor.
But not all of our trips are that exciting – well except for the day I set off an alarm on a fire door adjacent to our table – most are a time for visiting, laughing and asking for more spoons or straws to replace the ones thrown to the floor.

It is always our intention to be as respectful as possible to those around us and for the restaurant staff. We expect our children to behave, we attempt to make as little mess as possible and try not to bombard the server with requests.

But in return, we expect a few things as well. We expect a clean highchair with properly working safety straps. A working strap in a highchair is a matter of safety and yet getting one with buckles that work is a 50-50 shot. If a restaurant wants to make a momma a happy customer, never bring a highchair to the table with missing straps or broken snaps. I will just send it back for you to find one that does.

We ask that you don’t pass food or drinks over the top of a child’s head. When my oldest, Samuel, was nearly two years old, a waitress dumped a tray of drinks on top of him as she passed our drinks across the table. He was cold, wet and had red marks on top of his little bald head where the ice had hit him. He immediately started screaming and I quickly rushed him to change his clothes and calm him down. Part of my frustration was that we had intentionally seated him near the wall and left an area of the table clear for her to serve, but she still stood over him as she waited on us. As I returned to the table, the manager was there helping to clean the mess up and apologized for the accident. He tried to make light of the situation and remarked, “I guess just be glad it wasn’t coffee.” I quickly turned to him with a look only a momma can give and said, “No, YOU better be glad it wasn’t coffee.” Our meal was free.

So what are a few things that can be done to keep a momma happy? Please give toddlers appetizer plates, salsa or cheese dip bowls or silverware just like everyone else. They like to eat too. Don’t place refilled glasses directly in front of small children. That empty area on the table in front of them is there for a reason. Children can be sneaky, so please only take food and drink orders from the parents. And bring extra napkins – lots of extra napkins!

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