I have been a mom now for 6 years, 5 months and 9 days. I will never forget the first time Kevin and I took Mairead to a restaurant. She was maybe a week or two old, and I had to nurse her in public. It was a horrendous experience, but I didn't let that experience haunt me forever and from that moment on, we continued to bring our child to restaurants, and still do, quite frequently, in fact.
We have always been that family who walks into restaurants confidently with our crew, attracting attention from all over, because there is high probability for big problems - you know, temper tantrums, spills, accidents, whatever - but, most often, we walk out feeling great about our experiences especially after other customers will comment on the behavior of our children, but things quite didn't go like that this evening....
I had made plans with my girlfriend, Kate and her family for tonight. We were heading to watch her husband sing in a barbershop quartet then head to dinner. We had both wanted to try a local restaurant in Westbrook called The Frog & Turtle. We had both heard many good things about it, so we thought we'd head over since we were close by. Kate is like us, she has raised her children going to restaurants since they were newborns.
Kevin and I walked in with our kids first. It was a rainy, windy night. People kind of looked at us a bit weird with our crew, but nothing out of the usual. I didn't get the most welcoming vibe either. We were early for our reservation for 11 people, and the hostess didn't seem accommodating at all at first. Kate walked in with her family and assured me the person she had spoken with on the phone while making the reservation was seeming very accommodating with our larger party, and our party consisting of 6 children, ages 8 and under. Within a few minutes, they had a table ready for us and we all sat down. They even had a baby highchair all ready for Callum at the table.
It took several minutes to get a menu and even longer to get our drinks ordered. The kids ordered chocolate milks and shirley temples. The adults ordered beers. When the drinks arrived for the children, they were in small plastic cocktail cups.....yes, without lids. Callum was getting a bit ansy, so I had to request bread. It took several minutes at least for the bread to come, and for a party of 11, the bread arrived to table with about 8 slices. Barely enough for the kids, and definitely not enough for the entire party. Callum ate the bread as did the other children. Then, the waitress returned and finally took our food orders. We ordered from the childrens menu for the kids - macaroni & cheese and chicken fingers. Perfect, I thought. Callum continued to get a bit more fussy, and I pulled a fruit leather from our diaper bag. He sat quietly for a while eating it....until it was gone. I saw him get more ansy, and tried to look for our waitress to get her to bring more bread to the table to get us through dinner. Well, before I was able to talk to our waitress, the head chef (or a chef) came over to my right side, in between Callum and I, and said there had been "quite a few complaints" about Callum and that I would either need to take him outside (in the cold, rain) or "tell him to get it together" - WHAT!!!! For one, he's 18 months old.
For the first time since being a mother, I was being asked to leave a restaurant because my 18 month old son fussed (if you even want to call it that - I think he was just voicing his opinion, but not even in a loud manner). My face started to boil, and I was embarrassed. Kate and her family supported us and offered to get up and leave. I got up, and walked outside. I was fuming mad. I tried to pull myself together, but I had to walk back in. As the rest of our party was following us, I walked back in to talk to the Chef who spoke with us. I told him if children were not welcome, they should not have high chairs. They should not have a children's menu. And they should not have coloring materials for the children. At that time, I had no idea that he had told Kate that the restaurant was not a place for children or else I am pretty sure I would have really been blowing up. The Chef asked me not to make a scene - and I didn't - and wasn't trying to. I was just upset because I felt as though we were being punished for something that we didn't deserve.
After I got the last word in, we all walked out. All 11 of us, and they lost our business. We walked across the street to Portland Pie for Pizza where we were welcomed with smiles. A nice couple offered to move seats so we could all sit together and our waiter was so very nice to all of us - including our children. He even brought Callum chips to get him to settle down. You see, all the waitress had to do was recognize Callum was getting ansy - offer more bread? Could she get him anything to settle down? Hey! What about take the children's food order first while she was getting the drink order? If there were people complaining about our child, then they should have offered things to help settle Callum, not belittle us, and force us to leave or take our child out in the rain! You see, if they don't want to attract families with children, then don't have highchairs available. And don't have childrens menus or crayons. Make it absolutely miserable for these parents to bring their kids, and believe me, we won't.
Too many parents are afraid of taking their children out to dinner for fear of this very thing happening. As a somewhat experienced mamma to small children, I can totally see how this experience can ruin you. Taking an 18 month old out to dinner isn't always fun. They are work. They don't want to sit in a highchair. They want to run around. BUT, how else are they going to learn to behave in a restaurant, out in public, if they are never brought up going out?