There's a story on Huffington Post about an unnamed restaurant that added an unusual twist to one family's receipt: a four dollar discount for "well behaved kids." Does it say something about today's society that someone's children behaving with a sense of propriety and decorum would warrant an actual discount from their bill? I believe it does... and what it says is that we've allowed our children to ruin too many meals for too many people.
Here's how bad it's gotten for us: if we're seated at a restaurant and a family with children is seated nearby, we cringe in anticipation of what's inevitably on its way... a loud tantrum, or crying, or food slinging, or worst of all, the wandering child. Ever tried to enjoy a nice dinner out when someone else's kid is allowed to walk over to your table and "join" your meal? That's actually happened to us. A little boy was released from his restraint seat so that he might leave his frazzled parents in peace for a few moments while he wandered from table to table, reaching for things, or worse, just staring at patrons while they tried to chew. The owners of this nomadic little heathen simply smiled at their little darling's sense of bold curiosity, as if to say, "Isn't he precious?"
I had other words in mind. "Kill it" were two of them.
If strip joints served food they'd probably get a lot of business from people like me who would rather have their meals interrupted by fluttering dollar bills than a snotty-nosed child.
There's a reason my ex-wife and I didn't take our kids to nice restaurants. We wanted a night out without the hassles and headaches children bring to the table... which is why it pissed us off to have paid for a sitter only to discover the folks at the next table went ahead and brought little Tucker and Hunter to dinner with them, despite their head colds and those voices that could cut glass. On those rare occasions when we DID take our kids with us to dinner, they (by god) behaved themselves, or risked being hauled outside for a refresher course in manners.
Our kids were so worried about getting in trouble in public that they'd tense up if someone else's kids were misbehaving.
"It's not us, dad... It's that kid over there!"
If you've got little ones and this rant has offended you, I apologize. I'm sure your kids are the exception to the rule, and you might even be the person who got that four dollar discount for well-behaved children.
But it's far more likely there are people like me dreading your child's restaurant tantrum. We see you passing out the crayons, or distracting them with Smart Phone games, or letting them stir in additional sugar to their already saturated sweet tea with that clanky spoon... just before they turn over the glass and spill it on your baked potato.
Personally, I'd pay an extra four bucks to eat in a place that didn't allow kids.
Remember when restaurants had smoking and non-smoking sections? Wonder what would happen if some bold restaurateur set aside part of his seating area for a designated kid-free zone?
"Children, or non-children?" ought to become as common as hearing "Paper or plastic?" at the supermarket checkout.
Here's a handy guide for anyone who isn't sure if their kids are suitable for a restaurant: if the place has paper napkins, it's probably okay to bring your kids. If they use cloth or linen? Hire a sitter.
Feel free to call ahead and check... And if you see us there and let us know you left the little guys at home, we might even pick up part of your tab!