There has been a lot of noise in the press recently about children and dining out. Come to think of it, there's been a lot of noise lately about children making noise everywhere - on planes, in restaurants and in general.
This post isn't about any of that. This post is about a different disturbing trend I've noticed recently when dining out: the inability of restaurant staff to recognize children as people. To be fair, this probably isn't really a "trend" - it's probably simply that I never noticed it (or experienced it) before I had children.
What's the issue? It goes something like this...we're seated at a restaurant and a very efficient waitress whisks away one of the place settings.
Excuse me, could we have one additional place setting - as in on for each of the people at our table, please?
At times, this request is met with a puzzled look. At other times, the request has been met with, "are you sure?" and the "helpful" wait person glances at the baby with a concerned look. Yes, I'm very sure that I don't want my baby to eat off the table and I don't want her to eat with her hands (unless she chooses to), so please bring her a place setting.
Yes, a complete place setting. Thank you!
A similar situation happens when we request water for everyone at the table and we receive either 2 or 3 water glasses for our family of 4. Yes, we'd like water for all of the people at the table. Yes, the baby is a person.
Yesterday, we had perhaps the worst of this category of experience ever. After our waitress took away one of our place settings and gave us 2 water glasses, she said, "Oh, your baby is so adorable! How old is she??". Island Boy, who is also incredibly adorable, spoke up and said, "I'm 3 and a half!". She glanced at him, did not respond, and continued to comment on and attempt to interact with the baby. Island Boy continued to vie for her attention, to no avail. I told him he was adorable, too and asked for the check.
If you do not have the courtesy, energy or common decency to provide an older sibling with at least as much attention (if not more) than you want to give to a baby, please don't say anything. Older siblings are people(!) and they are completely aware of what is happening. That means they might actually enjoy engaging in conversation and they might actually feel confused and hurt if you don't respond to them.
I am happy to report that we've also had some incredible experiences at restaurants with our little ones. It is such a pleasure to dine at a place where the staff "gets it". We come in early. The children are treated with respect. We're served quickly. We love it. And we return.