I take the kids out to restaurants all of the time - probably more than the average person. The reason is threefold:
1) I enjoy eating out and refuse to allow motherhood to take away this joy from my life.
2) It is an excuse to get out of the house and kills at least two hours.
3) It means that I don't have to cook for the kids at home, watch them not eat the food I cook for them at home, battle them when they continually refuse, and ultimately clean up all of their uneaten (and thrown) food.
I try not to take the kids to fine dining establishments, but I also don't only take them to kidcentric restaurants either. My rule of thumb is if I show up at a restaurant before 6pm, it's all fair game. If people want to ensure that they do not encounter screaming children while dining out, show up after 7:30pm. These are the unwritten rules that I have decided to live by, and I am at peace with them.
My kids are generally well behaved at restaurants. I come equipped with Ipads and LeapPads and arsenals of matchbox cars and cheerios and goldfish crackers. I have perfected the art of bribery with ice cream and the staggering of juicy beverages. I am a pro at this. I have even had random strangers come up to me and tell me how well behaved my children are. I smile with pride and graciously accept the compliment.
It isn't always so smooth, however. There are missteps and low points. There are thrown objects. Spilled drinks. Breakdowns and tantrums and shrilling screams. I have carried a perpendicular kicking child out of a restaurant more times than I'd care to share. But it all comes with the territory. If you're going to brave a restaurant with two kids under five, you're going to have your war stories. I usually take it in stride.
But a restaurant rocked me yesterday.
My dad was in town from North Carolina, and he is an Indian food aficionado. He has been wanting to go to Rasika, one of the top rated restaurants in DC (which happens to serve Indian food), for ages, but it is always impossible to get a reservation. In fact, each time I have called for a weekend reservation and planned on getting a sitter, the receptionist scoffs at me as if to say, "Um, are you serious? You're only calling two weeks in advance? For a Saturday? Hahahahahahhahahahah. I don't think so."
I've tried multiple times.
This time around, I figured screw it - lets just go for lunch. I booked a reservation for Monday at noon, for three people. Three being myself, my dad, and a two year old.
I didn't want to bring Casey with us. Rasika is a nice restaurant, and I knew it would be full of business people eating business lunches talking about really important business. But because of preschool drop offs and return flight plans and traffic and blah blah blah, if I had gotten a babysitter, I would have been gone for six hours, and I really didn't want to pay $90. Remembering my 6pm rule, I figured I would go for it and hope for the best.
The restaurant called around 10am that morning to confirm my reservation. I confirmed, and asked that they set aside a high chair, as we would have a toddler with us.
"We don't have high chairs," she said in a polite voice.
It wasn't that I needed a high chair per se. Sometimes Casey doesn't even use one. It's just the implication of what that meant. It meant KEEP YOUR DAMN KIDS AWAY FROM OUR BUSINESS PEOPLE RESTAURANT.
Usually the pinnacle of confidence and calm about dining with my children, I started to cower. Would they give us dirty looks when we walked in the door? (Yes.). Would the waiter groan when he saw his patrons? (Yes.). Would my fellow diners look down on me in disgust? (Yes.). I felt a feeling I hadn't felt in a long time - hard core intimidation.
I called my husband in frenzy - Could I please drop Casey off at your office so just my dad and I could go to lunch? Just for an hour? Please!
No. (I may or may not have hung up on him.)
I already had my usual resources, but I decided I needed reinforcements. We stopped by a toy store on the way to the restaurant, and I bought a book. A car. Some weird magnetic drawing pad. I began hyping up the fact that a high chair would not be available. Casey, isn't it cool that you'll be in a big boy chair today?
He furrowed his brown at me in response. "No! High chair!"
Oh dear God.
We showed up at the restaurant ten minutes early. My anxiety was escalating. I again asked for a high chair (not sure why), and was denied once again. I considered asking for the kid's menu just to be funny, but I resisted.
As we sat down in our booth, I silently pleaded with Casey. Please don't freak out. Please don't freak out.
They came and took our order right away, and we ordered immediately. Our food was brought out in record time. And aside from Casey spitting out some chewed up food onto the floor (which a waiter immediately came and removed with a cloth napkin), he was GREAT. A model toddler patron. The anxiety was all unfounded, and was all mine.
I left the restaurant with a kind of smirk on my face. See, bitches? You may not want my two year old here, but I am going to bring him anyway. And he will show you.
It wasn't until later that day that I really thought about it and got kind of annoyed. Really? You don't provide high chairs? The restaurant doesn't have an official policy banning children from dining, but they might as well. They are making it perfectly clear.
I get it - people don't want to deal with screaming kids, especially when they are dining at a nice restaurant. But the fact is, kids aren't always screaming. Lots of time they are quiet and harmless. And when they are not, then I will remove them from the table and restaurant and trust me, I will be the one who ultimately suffers. That doesn't constitute an enjoyable meal for me.
If I, as a mother, want to bring my child to Rasika, or any other hoity toity business people frequenting establishments, I should be able to do that without enduring dirty looks or judgment. I'm going before 6pm, and I am paying just like everyone else.
And by the way, help me out a bit and give me a high chair.