Dining with Toddlers is Fun for Everyone!

Training Manual for Childless Restaurant Staff:  A Practical Guide to Winning Parents’ Approval and Increasing Earning Potential!

As a parent of a toddler, I can imagine no worse fate for a server than to wind up with the table comprised of frazzled parents and their insufferable offspring.  I feel your pain, I truly do.  I submit to you, the following guidelines.  When followed to the letter, they will net you major financial gains.  Because the truth of the matter is, lavish enough praise on their progeny and parents are pretty much the biggest bunch of chumps you’ll ever encounter.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

Host or hostess (who themselves appear to be in violation of child labor laws):
Seat us promptly.  Do not request I park my stroller in a designated area.  Do not refer to myself, husband and child as “two and a half for dinner?”  Yes, I have heard this.  No, I did not laugh the first time.  Nor will I laugh the 1,734th time.  Stop it.  Stop it now.  To the same end, do not make me ask for a high chair.  Yes, the toddler attempting to pry himself from my arms and launch himself onto the floor will, in fact, need some manner of containment device.  Unless you are waiting for an available straight jacket or restaurant-grade baby kennel, make haste with the high chair.

IMMEDIATELY upon approach, begin lavishing my child with compliments and praise.  Extra points for referring to his as “Mr. Handsome”, “Little Man” or “a young James Dean, except smarter..and you know, more together” You will feel the urge to touch the cherubic boy child; resist at all costs!!!   This takes our interaction into creepy town.  I do not know where you have been.  Nor do I care to know, as it is probably infinitely more interesting that my usual haunts (i.e. Target, my sofa) and I will be jealous.  Do not, under any circumstances, be skinnier than me.  Male servers, you can sit this one out.  You’re off the hook.  But ladies, know that the dying embers of my body-confidence are stoked only by the notion that you are able to maintain that flat stomach consuming a diet comprised solely of tap water and left over lettuce garnishes.  If you tell me about how you “can’t get enough of the fettuccine alfredo!”  I will fucking eat you.

When you bring the drinks (Yes, I am having a drink while out to dinner with my baby.  Perhaps the knowledge that I am a far more generous tipper with a one-gin-and-tonic buzz may wipe that judgmental look off your face?) do not place them within reach of pudgy baby arms.  In fact, take what you believe to be arms-length and double it. The lure of off-limits consumables has something of a Stretch Armstrong effect on toddlers.  Ditto that for scalding hot plates.

As soon as said plates hit the table, just go ahead and grab that check as well.  Leaving us to linger will not encourage increased consumption of food or drink.  It will only increase the likelihood that some unfortunate bus person will be scrubbing leftovers from the floors, walls and ceiling.  As a matter of fact, grab some takeout boxes while you’re at it.  Chances are we’ll only make it through half the meal before Junior’s saint-like patience is exhausted and screeching ensues.  No need to box it for us.  Whisking our plates off to the kitchen and returning with carefully separated and labeled containers or leftovers encased in some manner of tinfoil waterfowl may be impressive to some patrons, but rest assured those minutes are critical and we have foil at home.

Finally, the goodbye.  Now this one is important.  Timing is everything.  When you see us begin to return the now food splattered books and toys into our Volkswagen sized diaper bag, you may want to make your move.  We’re still easily swayed to throw down a few extra bucks for proper parting fanfare.  “Bye bye, sweetheart!  I’ll miss you!  Really I will.  In fact, you’re so painfully adorable I’m that doubting my own life choices.  Forget this freewheeling lifestyle of mine, I must leave immediately and attempt to conceive a child who I hope will be just like you.”  Disgustingly placating?  Maybe.  Will it work?  Absolutely.  Extra points if you acknowledge the hellacious mess he’s made in a congratulatory manner.  “Looks like someone sure enjoyed his meal!  Good job, buddy!”  Good job indeed…good job indeed.