Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Art of Dining Out Graciously

Tonight, we went out to dinner as a family. We expect difficulties to arise, because our smaller children tend to misbehave. I somewhat dread these little excursions because I never know how they will act. Still we go, because the kids will never learn proper social behavior without being introduced into society. Every time we take them out to eat, I view it as a lesson in comportment.

The climate was already a bit testy. Trevor had just gotten onto the computer to begin drawing an image he liked there. Bryce was chomping at the bit to go, since it was his favorite restaurant. Trevor begged for ten more minutes to draw. We explained he could draw when he returned home. That answer didn't satisfy him, so he began to complain. Hubby suggested I take the two other boys and he would remain home with the sullen boy. This managed to light a fire under Trevor's rear.

Once we arrived at the restaurant, we learned that it was packed. Almost every single table in the place was filled. We waited for a long time just to talk with the waiter. We planned to order water for the little boys, since last time they didn't really finish their milk. As I tried to place our orders, Trevor continually interrupted me. He was trying to tell the waiter that he would like his water to come in a grown-up cup, not the Styrofoam ones that come for children ... and he wanted a slice of lemon in it. I finally put my hand over his mouth and finished placing our order.

As soon as the waiter walked away, I whisked Trevor off to the bathroom. I emphasized that he is never to interrupt and is to allow the grown-ups to place the order without his help. He cried big crocodile tears. I assured him that I still loved him, but that what he had done was very rude and also difficult because the restaurant is full of people and the waiter cannot be bothered by his interruptions.

After he had calmed down, we returned to the table. At this point, another melt-down ensued. A Styrofoam cup sat in front of his seat, while across the table, his younger brother was sipping from a grown-up cup of water (no lemon). Trevor was incensed at the injustice of this and began to sob his question of why a 3 year old was given a grown-up water, but he wasn't. I quickly exchanged my water for his and tried to hush his loud emotional outburst. He wondered why we didn't get lemons when every other table had lemons in their water. All I could suggest was that every time I order there, I ask for a water without lemon and usually they forget and bring me one with lemon. This was the first time that I didn't make the request and ... wah-la! our water came without lemon.

From that point on, they did really well. At this particular restaurant, they know Dad will buy them a ring pop at the register if they have been well-behaved. Sadly, due to the interruptions, my order was incomplete and had to be fixed.

I overheard another jumbled order from the table behind me. The woman had ordered nachos supreme but instead of the beef, she wanted steak. She claimed that the waiter had assured her that she could get this substitution for the same $9.99 price. They had brought her nachos with beef. She sent the plate back. When the waiter came to inform her that he could not give her the nachos with steak at the same price, she snapped that she didn't want anything and that he should merely strike her order from the party's bill.

On the way home, I was remembering a friend I once had who was overly demanding (she had specific instructions and dragged me to three different places before her order was finally filled to her satisfaction - and I mentally determined that I would never eat out with her again). It struck me as arrogant that the issue of ice in her drink (it was something like that) was more important than whether or not I enjoyed the restaurant and wanted to stay there. In fact, I remember feeling that she seemed to be the only person who mattered in the equation of our dining experience.

Somehow, I hope I'm teaching my boys to be patient, flexible and accommodating ... and to never interrupt! But next time we eat at this restaurant, I think we'll leave the boys home and make it a date for two.


Elizabeth A. said...

I completely agree the boys need the social behavior. I wish I had a suggestion, but I have absolutely no experience with boys.

And as a former server, being demanding is asking for your food to get dropped on the floor.

Wendy said...

Liz - sometimes I write this stuff down in my blog just because I want to be able to remember what it was like when they were young. I know that my oldest was difficult, at times, in public, but the memory of it has faded.

I can imagine the temptations that servers face when dealing with a demanding customer. Thankfully, the servers at this restaurant know us (b/c we eat there often) and seem to like the boys.