Dear Parents Who Sat in My Section of the Restaurant,
I get it; I do. It's not every day that someone else will have to run to refill your toddler's milk, cater to your child's demand for nothing but plain noodles with a tiny bit of butter on top, and--best of all--clean up the floor afterward. I mean, this is why you took the kid out to eat in the first place. So you could eat your meal sitting down for once in your life. It's a big deal.
And I understand that you don't always want to go to McDonald's, or Chik-fil-A, or somewhere with a Play Place so that after your child has eaten two tiny bites of plain noodles with a tiny bit of butter, they can spend their energy in the ball pit. Mama needs a decent meal too, sometimes, one that comes with wine. And our restaurant does, after all, provide high chairs. I don't particularly object to their participation in fine dining.
I expect a mess, and I don't expect you to vacuum up when you leave. I don't expect that your kid is going to be totally quiet, and I get that they might have a breakdown at some point. Kids are kids; you do what you can.
But listen. Can you please, please stop treating me like I'm less than human, just because you've got kids?
When I come to the table and say, "Hi folks, how are we all doing today?" the appropriate answer is something like, "Good, how are you?" Not "We need milk in a child's cup first thing." (And, by the way, it's kind of uncool to ask me to first bring a milk and then take the rest of your table's drink order. See these other tables? They need drinks too. Maybe instead of asking me to take double the time to get your drinks, you could have your kid wait an extra half a minute for their milk so you can throw in your drink orders there too. Patience is a virtue; this is a teaching opportunity. How about you just give that a shot? And if you can't wait, then maybe bring milk in a sippy cup, 'kay?)
When I come to take your food order, I find it a little jolting to hear "Bring me my macaroni!" from a scowling minion who is half my size. This, parents, is a good time for you to step in and say, "Honey, we're going to order our food nicely. Let me show you how. I would like the spaghetti please. Now you go." It is less appropriate to ignore these rude demands and bark out, "Spaghetti with a salad, ranch on the side." I am not a computer that you punch your order into. I am a person, and I appreciate politeness. I get that you can't always make a child say please. But you could at least model appropriate ordering and do a little gentle prompting.
Here's something else I'd love for you to understand: I don't make the food. I can't make your child's mini pizza magically cook faster. I understand you've been waiting 10 minutes; that's what happens in this sort of restaurant. We don't advertise being a fast food joint; the cook time on your order is 12 minutes. Parents who want to avoid this sort of thing bring a little snack in their bag--I promise outside food isn't illegal here, especially when you're stuffing it in a hungry toddler's mouth. Other parents distract their kids with little games, or coloring on the provided kids' menu. I'll bring your kid's pizza as fast as possible. Please don't accost me with demands for your child's food, especially when I have my hands completely full of dirty dishes that I'm bussing back to the kitchen. You sound just like he does at home, when he's demanding noodles NOW and you're trying to explain to him that they have to COOK first.
When I bring your kid his pizza, I will transfer it to a cool plate so he doesn't burn his tiny fingers. I will provide extra napkins. I will make sure there is a little dish of extra sauce for crust-dipping, because I know how much kids like dipping. I will check to make sure there is a shaker of parmesan cheese on the table. The appropriate response to these gestures is "thank you." Extra points if you prompt your child to say thank you as well. I'm still a human, and appreciate basic civility. When you just ignore me or take the opportunity to make additional demands (still no please, huh?), you're teaching your kid entitlement and rudeness.
When your meal is through, I do not expect you to clean up. That's why you went out to eat--to get a break from the table wiping, floor sweeping, and dish washing. This is my job.
And since it is my job, I would appreciate being paid a fair wage for it. If you have a kid and kids are expensive and you are strapped for cash and you can only afford to leave 10 percent at a place like this, then please don't come back. I did twice as much work at your table than I did at my others; unless I made a huge mistake, 18 percent is considered the norm. Personally, when I take my toddler to a sit-down restaurant, I never leave less than 25 percent (unless the server made a huge mistake) because I know that they're going to have to wipe spaghetti sauce from the back of the booth and get down on their knees to retrieve dirty napkins from under the tabl. (Gross.) If I can't afford that, we go to Chik-fil-A instead. Maybe you should do the same.
Note: These were all my pet peeves when I waited tables in the pre-parenting days. I haven't changed my mind about them now that I have one of my own.