Tragic Sandwich

Food. Family. Fun.

We Don’t Want to Be THAT Family

Tantrum

Disclaimer: I’ll bet this little girl is a smiling charmer most days.

When my brother and I were small–ages 4 and 6, at the most–our parents took us to a nice restaurant and explained that because we were wearing our dress-up clothes, we were going to use our dress-up manners. Very conscious of what was expected of us, we tried to behave properly. A few tables over, another pair of children were running in circles and whooping. My brother leaned over to me and said, very seriously, “Those children don’t have dress-up manners.”

Flash forward a few decades.

One evening, before we had Baguette, Mr. Sandwich’s sister and her husband came to town. We met up with one of her friends, and we all went to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. Now, this was a nice little local place, with a slightly creative menu, but a perfectly appropriate venue for children.

Except.

Except not for the child at the next table, who spent 45 minutes screaming at the top of his lungs.

Now, I get it. Restaurants are not necessarily fun for kids. But no one at that table even said, “Shh.” No one took the child outside for a change of scene. None of them tried anything. (Why did none of us say anything to our server? Because we didn’t want to be those people without kids.)

Mr. Sandwich and I have a horror of being those parents, which is why as soon as Baguette was born, we came up with this plan:

1) Come prepared with snacks and entertainment.
2) Correct her behavior as soon as it starts.
3) Take her outside, trading off so that every adult gets to eat.
4) When none of this works, pay and leave.

We haven’t gotten to #4 yet, although I’m sure we will. Early days, and all that. (We don’t think we’re magical parents, after all.) But apparently a lot of people haven’t bothered with this plan, based on this Consumerist.com post about a Georgia pizzeria’s new policy.

Seriously, folks. This should not be necessary. We all share the world.

Photo by Turkinator, via Flickr.

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52 thoughts on “We Don’t Want to Be THAT Family

  1. modiramos on said:

    Those people suck!

  2. Chelsea on said:

    We never got to #4. When expectations are, you know, expected, kids usually live up to them.

    • I remember taking my mom’s friend’s toddler out for a “walk” during a lunch. We had a calm talk about how she was going to act in the restaurant and why, and she couldn’t have been better-behaved afterward. In general, I think people live up to expectations. Often the problem is with the expectations.

  3. Oh I totally know how you feel! We try hard not to be “that” family either. We threaten, bribe (I know, the shame), and take kids to the car when they’re naughty in public. However evidently I think they’re worse than they actually are: once when I thought they were being exceptionally bad someone stopped me in the restaurant and made this big deal about how impressed she was with how well behaved they were and wished that other people could control and teach their kids like we obviously do. I had no response. I was utterly speechless as I had just told my hubby that we needed to leave ASAP because they were out of control.

  4. Wow, I cannot imagine allowing that to go on–how could they stand it? Those parents aren’t even being loving–children need to learn to control themsleves, and how can they expect them to learn without any instruction?

    Had to laugh at Sarah’s comment, because I think i was always totally paranoid about it. At the first whimper, I was whisking the child out!

  5. Pingback: Tragic Sandwich - The SITS Girls

  6. Your restaurant plan looks pretty much exactly like my family’s. I always try to be very conscious of other patrons when we are eating out, so I try to stay on top of every movement and peep. It is sometimes a lot of pressure!

  7. triciaraisinghumans on said:

    Totally agree with you! We also try not to be that family and have also, not yet gotten to #4. But it’s always good to have a plan!

  8. I totally and completely agree. Restaurants are hard places for kids and frankly kids are kids but it bothers me when the parents or adults just sit there, ignore it and don’t make an effort. That’s fine if you’re at home but not when you are out! Luckily, we haven’t had to resort to #4 either but yes to all the others. I agree that kids pick up on your expectations and will often live up to them when out. Thanks for this post and Happy SITS Day!

  9. I could not agree with you more. I have 3 kids, ages 4,6,8 and have avoided going to restaurants for the past 8 years for THAT reason. Happy SITS day!

  10. I love proactive plains for behavior issues. Great job.

  11. ashleyinnc on said:

    Stopping by from SITS, so happy SITS day! 🙂 You are so right, it is all about managing expectations!

  12. The Bunny never gets to number 3. We have an ingenious plan though… brain freeze… Well… strawberry milkshake. If she has that, the world is a good and loving place, and she will sit for ages enjoying it. Generally we only go to restaurants that provide crayons and paper as well, so she’s a happy little bunny all the way through.

  13. Oh so true. I can’t believe when I see parents not disciplining their children when they have behaved badly. I see it in the playground a lot, when a child intentionally hurts another child, some parents who have clearly witnessed the act just turn a blind eye. It baffles me. I use all the same rules as you and they work and it’s not hard at all. OK, you might have to spend some time outside when you’d rather be eating but hey, that’s all comes with the package of being a parent. Perhaps they thought if they ignored him he would realise he wasn’t getting attention and stop. Sounds like your boys are doing well. Kids all have off days (especially when they’re tired !!!) so don’t worry about what other people think. They usually understand

    http://myfroley.blogspot.com

  14. We follow the same plan. We’ve never reached #4 either. I think it’s all about being clear to kids about expectations. If they can’t handle the restaurant, then there’s no sense in making everyone miserable! Happy SITS Day!

  15. I’m SO glad you’re not one of those parents! On the bright side, at least they’re patient?

  16. Kristi on said:

    For my family, we need a number #5. “Sometimes you shouldn’t show up in the first place.” 🙂 Happy SITS day!

  17. My worry about disturbing others was probably way more distracting for other diners than my kids.

  18. Oh how I have experience that! One time it was with friends AT OUR TABLE. Talk about awkward. … It is so important to have a plan and to be prepared to leave if you have to. Great post & Happy SITS day!

  19. Being the mother of an autistic teenager, we spent the first 5-6 years of her life not eating out. She’s 16 now and had a melt down just this past Sunday at IHOP, but it was calm. I so understand and try to remember what the parents are going through. Happy SITS Day.

  20. thebusymomsdiet on said:

    I’m totally with you on this one! I was recently, VERY worried about being that mom on a plane with a one year old, but my over-preparation paid off (Thank God!). Kids can be unpredictable, but it is our responsibility to come prepared and have OUR dress up manners on for the sake of everyone around us! I won’t begrudge the mom quickly carrying out a tantruming 2 year old, but just letting bad behavior go on and on, oh no, no, no. I always try to clean up around his chair as much as possible too and a bigger tip is definitely in order when a young one makes more work for a server. People are so much more understanding when you’re working at it. Let’s give parents everywhere a better name.

    Happy SITS day!

  21. My girls have grown up going to restaurants…a lot. That was part of our plan, too! Before we got married, I remember talking to friends with kids and they’d moan and groan about not ever being able to go out to eat because their kids acted so poorly. I was determined not to let that be my fate! We’ve eaten out, at least once a week, since baby number one arrived 9 years ago. Baby number two had to be taken out of a restaurant once, because she was “being 2”, but other than that, we have a pretty good track record! Kids crave expectations and routine. Why not give ’em some! Congrats on your SITS feature! 🙂

  22. My first child was easy so I thought, “I got this!” We were able to take her anywhere, then my son was born and we finally gave up and just didn’t eat out for like a year. We tried all 4 steps but after a while, it just wasn’t worth it. He grew out of though and became a fine diner in the end.

  23. Happy SITS day! I’ll admit – we’ve been THAT family before. Sometimes, especially when you’re travelling, you have to eat. And with two kids on the spectrum, sometimes that means noise and unjoy. Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I drag them out of the restaurant? Only when doing so would make a difference when feeding them wouldn’t.

  24. I like your website. Visiting from SITS. Great plan of action for any public time with children.

  25. I’m with you. I refuse to ruin other people’s meals if my child acts up. I only wish the rest of the population would be as considerate as we parents are expected to be. Do you know how many loud cell phone conversations have ruined my lunch? Ha!

  26. Happy SITS day! Great post. I admit, even the best laid plans don’t always work. After 5 kiddos, I have never had to pull #’s 3 or 4 at a restaurant, but I have been THAT mom while traveling by plane. It was #5 who created a whole new perspective and understanding for parents who deal with THAT child. lol Congrats!

  27. Classic NYer on said:

    Of course, I don’t have any kids, and some would say that means I have no right to speak, but personally, I think if people can’t control their kids, they shouldn’t bring them out in public. As far as I’m concerned, other people’s kids should be other people’s problem, not mine. Is that cold?

    It was totally cute to picture you and your brother speaking of your dress up manners, though! It makes me wonder if the parents of the kids who were out of control knew about dress up manners when they were kids themselves…

  28. I share this horror! We’re lucky our son is an infant – we’ve learned that as long as it’s lunch (before evening – his fussy time) he’ll be very good at restaurants. But we’ll need your plan once he enters toddlerhood!!

  29. Restaurants and children are a difficult thing and I fear being “that” family too. While our boys have never cried like that, they have been known to run laps around the restaurant. My husband and I usually take turns eating, and we do correct inappropriate behaviour. It is exhausting. Sometimes we wonder if it is easier to eat at home. But, we also really want our children to be used to restaurants. So, we keep going back and working on the skill and our “dress up manners” (love that phrase)!

  30. We try to be prepared when we take our daughters (twin 2 year olds) to restaurants and we always take them out, when they get unruly. Frankly, I don’t enjoy going out to eat with them. It stressed me out. I worry about bothering others. I feel like people are watching us. The girls don’t eat well. I much prefer to eat at home and save restaurants for very rare occasions (mostly when traveling). I don’t understand how anybody can have a good time, when their children are screaming or running around. This is a great post!

  31. I try to do the same thing. Now all I say is “Do we need to go to the car?” and my kids usually straighten up. I think if those parents actually made an attempt, it would be a little more bearable to the neighboring customers bc at least they were making an effort.

  32. Been there…done it. We have the same EXACT list of options for how to deal with our son in public. I am a food blogger…so I can’t afford for people to think “Oh Lord, here comes that food blogger with her noisy kid. Tell her she can’t blog here.” I can’t eat much in one sitting…so when we’re out my husband rolls the parenting magic out at the beginning so I get all of my pictures of the establishment and my food…and talk to the manager and gossip with other customers about the food if possible. I eat as much of my food as it takes for me to glean some things from it…lol…and decide if it was made properly and tasted great and then its my turn. I take over with our son while my husband gets to finish his food. Most of the beginning of dinner our son is fine. Its just when we get to the half way point and its MY turn to play goalie that he starts to become uncontrollable….and everything is in “to go” containers. >.< But….not paying ANY attention to the crying. As a mother…I couldn't. I couldn't just sit there while the kid wailed. I would constantly be trying to make eye contact….I also notice when other people's babies cry I subconsciously start humming lullaby songs. I caught myself doing it once in a restaurant when….for once…OUR son wasn't freaking out, someone else's son was. He heard me… I was humming soft enough though, that he had to stop crying to listen. Which was kinda the point. Lol…anything age appropriate and baby familiar works. But…really, I would hope everyone just does the best they can. You are…and that's all you can do. =)

  33. thefoodnatic on said:

    Been there…done it. We have the same EXACT list of options for how to deal with our son in public. I am a food blogger…so I can\’t afford for people to think \”Oh Lord, here comes that food blogger with her noisy kid. Tell her she can\’t blog here.\” I can\’t eat much in one sitting…so when we\’re out my husband rolls the parenting magic out at the beginning so I get all of my pictures of the establishment and my food…and talk to the manager and gossip with other customers about the food if possible. I eat as much of my food as it takes for me to glean some things from it…lol…and decide if it was made properly and tasted great and then its my turn. I take over with our son while my husband gets to finish his food. Most of the beginning of dinner our son is fine. Its just when we get to the half way point and its MY turn to play goalie that he starts to become uncontrollable….and everything is in \”to go\” containers. >.< But….not paying ANY attention to the crying. As a mother…I couldn't. I couldn't just sit there while the kid wailed. I would constantly be trying to make eye contact….I also notice when other people's babies cry I subconsciously start humming lullaby songs. I caught myself doing it once in a restaurant when….for once…OUR son wasn't freaking out, someone else's son was. He heard me… I was humming soft enough though, that he had to stop crying to listen. Which was kinda the point. Lol…anything age appropriate and baby familiar works. But…really, I would hope everyone just does the best they can. You are…and that's all you can do. =)

  34. Agreed! I like your policy. We have a one-year-old, and living in Boulder, CO, we eat out all the time. We’ve definitely had some fussy moments, and we have actually paid and left after scarfing down food, but most of the time our LO is content eating out, and if he’s not, we don’t let him sit and scream. It’s RUDE.

  35. Thank you for trying so hard! I am a server at a nice Indian restaurant and you WOULD NOT BELIEVE the stuff some people let their kids get away with. The other day I had a table of 2 nut-job parents and 3 kids of various ages. They came in, asked me to throw away a bag of weird trash from their car (I’m pretty sure it was a diaper in there), let the toddler run around the whole restaurant until he bumped his head on a statue and started crying, were ALL basically screaming and yelling and taking over the place the whole time, were super demanding of my service, made a HUGE mess with their kids throwing rice all over the place, and at the end asked me to wash the toddler’s bottle for them.
    Now, I grinned and bore it the whole time, hoping they realized the extraordinary lengths I went to for them and the craziness we put up and that the tip would reflect that.
    My tip….10%.

  36. The only time we had to leave was because of our rookie mistake. Took the 4 mo old out later than we should have. He was tired and cried. We were stupid and left. With to-go bags at least!

  37. Great post. I find number 3 works really well. We actually will often let our little guy walk some of his energy off in the mall or courtyard (depending on restaurant location) before we sit for the meal. We also order very quickly, as we’re aware that an hour seems like a lifetime to a 20 month old.

  38. So LOVE this post, I can relate. We used to be that childless couple, now we are the parents who are beyond prepared when we take out our crazy dinosaur. The diaper bag is now filled with dinosaurs, cars, leap frog computer, and cards. We also know ahead of time what we are going to order so it makes it a quicker ordeal.

  39. {Melinda} In general, my family didn’t even go to restaurants (except very occasionally) until the kids were out of high chairs. It was just too stressful to try to keep everyone happy and we didn’t think it made much sense to pay to be stressed! 🙂 I like your 4-point plan, though. Very smart.

    Happy SITS Day!

  40. That is a great plan to have and is pretty much what my husband and I have in place. We also have not had to get to #4…yet! Happy SITS day!

  41. I agree. We have paid and left early before with our food in boxes… It was early nap time that day!

  42. I work in a restaurant, and it was like a form of birth control for many years. I thought after I had kids I would be more tolerant of the kids dining, but now it’s even worse! Happy SITS day

  43. You know what’s worse? At least one parent making the scene WORSE by LOUDLY scolding the toddler in a litany of words hard to comprehend even for a teenager, driving MORE attention to their table… And of course the baby screams just get louder… 😦

  44. LaShawn on said:

    We dont want to be that family either! I’ve. Ever had to get to #4….yet. Lol I’m sure we will! Happy Belated SITS day!!

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