I don’t really have a problem with kids. Well, not a huge problem. And not with all kids. And the problem isn’t really with the kids, it’s with the parents inadvertently (or, I guess, sometimes advertently) raising jackass kids who don’t know how to act in public.
(Disclaimer: I don’t have kids and don’t necessarily want kids. I’ve dodged that bullet a fair many times, thank you, and the world is better off for it. One of me running around is more than enough for everyone, myself included.)
Having kids in restaurants is almost always a total hit or miss. They’re either good, meaning they act like normal human beings in a social setting, or they’re kids. Meaning that they are loud, fidgety, selfish, and just plain annoying.
Since a vast majority of my future material deals with bitching and moaning about things that piss me off, consider this happy story about a pleasant and amusing family a welcome reprieve from horrors to come…
Last summer, I was waiting on a busy night and got sat with a six-top; Mom, Dad, and four kids (three girls, one boy), ranging from ten to four. I internally groaned when I saw the table, but soldiered on because, goddamnit, it was still four hours until closing time and there was no point getting nasty that early in the evening.
When I greeted the table and took the drink order, I noticed that all four kids were just… Cool. They weren’t loud, weren’t fighting amongst one another, weren’t pestering their parents, weren’t fidgeting. The parents both ordered beers, and all I had to do was look at the child and point, and they went down the line without the normal bratty bullshit. “Water.” “Water.” “Can I have a Coke, Mom?” (Nod of approval.) “Water.”
Two of the kids started coloring on the kid’s menu while talking amonst themselves, the oldest girl was already lost in a Nintendo DS, and the youngest only looked at me and asked, “Do you have shrimp?”
“Yes, ma’am, we do.”
She smiled and gave me a double-thumbs-up. “Good!”
The weirdest thing about it was that none of the kids ordered off the kid’s menu. They all found something, from cold-boiled shrimp to clam chowder, that they wanted and, unlike most kids and old people, didn’t take half-an-hour to decide. Between the coloring, game-playing, and family conversation, the kids acted like normal, intelligent adults. They acknowledged and thanked me when I brought them things, and treated me like a fellow human who happened to be waiting on them, not as a servant.
All in all, it was my best table of the night. The kids were almost disturbingly well-behaved, to the point where I openly wondered (amongst my fellow servers, of course) if the parents had implanted shock chips in the brains of their own children and sat hovering over the trigger.
We were busy, and it took a while for the food to come out, but never once did I hear anything negative from the four younglings.
Usually, kids will bitch out anyone within ten feet, family, waiters, or other diners, within five minutes of ordering a meal. “I’m hungry! Where’s my food!”
These kids were, with only a slight bit of hyperbole, perfect. Once the food showed up, they ate most of it, which is very unlike a majority of the whippersnappers I run across, who pick at their food for a few minutes then get bored.
The two who didn’t finish asked for “doggie bags.” (One thing I love about kids is that they almost always ask for a “doggie bag” specifically. Adults ask for “boxes.” “Doggie bags” are much more fun.)
They were polite and quiet but still funny and, like every kid should be, weird in weird ways. I talked to the parents as I pre-bussed the table and noticed the second-youngest girl giving me what I thought was a critical look. “What’s going on over there?” I asked.
She took a second to answer me, and said, in a very serious manner, “I like your beard.”
It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, and I laughed accordingly.
Before I cashed them out, I had to compliment the kids on being awesome and the parents on raising awesome kids. Luckily, the place was starting to slow down, so I had a good, if brief, conversation with the family. They promised to come back this summer, and I genuinely hope they do. And, despite the fact that they were great tippers, I hope that they end up with someone else so that another server can experience a child-heavy waiting experience that doesn’t make someone want to hurt children.
The best thing about this family, though, is that, unlike every other table with more than zero children, there was no mess. No crumbs, no torn paper, no massive chunks of un-eaten food strewn across the floor; just a single, lonely napkin band.
It was such a strange situation, to have a table be much, much better than you expected, that it remains one of the only really good memories I have from work. And I like to think that those kids are, at this very moment, being just as awesome. It gives me hope for the next generation.