The woman leans over and smiles expectantly. I take a deep breath and wait. This is the moment. We’ve trained for this. We’ve run the drill again and again, and now we’ll see if it’s paid off.
“I will have a cheeseburger wif ketchup, pwease. And fwench fwies.”
And the crowd goes wild! He did it! He ordered and said please, unprompted! I can barely order my own meal because I’m so busy silently congratulating myself.
“Restaurant manners.” It’s what we murmur to the kids as we’re walking into a restaurant, whether it’s fast-food or the “fancier” Italian place with dim lighting. It’s the quiet reminder that there is a certain way you behave in a restaurant.
We’ve taken the kids to restaurants since they were babies, and of course it wasn’t always easy. Babies don’t understand about not disturbing the other diners, and toddlers can be impossible if they’re feeling cranky. There were years of bringing puffs and crackers and toys and anything we could think of in order to keep them entertained in their highchairs. As they got older, that morphed into snacks, crayons and colouring books.
Today, with our three-year-old and five-year-old, we bring nothing but ourselves. If the hostess or server offers crayons and a colouring page, we’ll gladly accept, but it’s almost better when they don’t because the kids practice what it means to wait.
When you actually break it down, there are so many things kids need to learn about proper restaurant behaviour. Speaking politely to the server and remembering their pleases and thank-yous. Not pointing at other diners (pointing = rude). Not peeking at people over the tops of the booths. Not making an unholy mess under the table. Not messing around with the jam packets or the salt and pepper shakers. Walking quietly to the bathroom — and going before the meals arrive, rather than announcing they need to go the very second the plates hit the table.