So we got kicked out of a restaurant last night.
And as much as I want this to be a post about how upset I am and how embarrassing it was – because trust me, that’s all I want to write right now – I’m going to try to focus on projecting a message here. I’m going to do my best at being balanced in my views, to be more informative and less raged. Yes, it would be a lot easier to write an anger filled letter to someone who is going to do nothing but apologize and invite me back for a better experience, but I rather explain why all of this is so upsetting rather than sit back and just play the victim.
I will, however, tell you that it was a Chili’s Grill & Bar, as you may have guessed. I feel like knowing the actual restaurant will help with the understanding of where I’m coming from.
See, we were kicked out because our kid was making too much noise. So much noise, in fact, that the manager was getting “tons” of complaints and felt obligated to come over and tell us so.
It was about 7:30pm on Sunday. The restaurant wasn’t slow but they were far from busy. We sit down, order our food, and that’s when it starts. Our 1 year old has developed quite the appetite. He began getting bored with the chips and his snacks that we pack for such occasions, as anyone would do after waiting 45 minutes for their food. So when he’s hungry, he gives out these short burst of 1-2 second screams between his bites. Parents should be familiar with this as it is universally translated to “I’m hungry, hurry up and feed me.” Those bursts are followed by our wincing because even though we’re his parents we know it isn’t pleasant to hear. While we try our best to distract and give snacks and muffle with the knuckles of our fingers, it can still be heard when he does it.
This is certainly not the first time he’s acted like this, and there were times I had to take him outside because he got so bad. But I didn’t feel like this warranted such an action since the little bursts were not a continuous cry or scream, it was just one burst or so at a time, and just happened when he realized he wasn’t eating fast enough. Not to mention the fact we were surrounded by other families with children similar in age who I could sometimes hear over mine, so I thought nothing of his bursts other than I knew we had to feed him chips and snacks quicker to stop them from escalating.
It wasn’t until just after we got our food 45 minutes after ordering that I noticed something. The table on the other side of the wall next to us – an older woman with a couple our age – got up with their menus and were ushered away by a waitress. They weren’t sitting in the “kiddie section” as I like to call it. If you never noticed, hostess’ usually sit tables with kids in the corner of the restaurant where they are surrounded by other tables with kids. You don’t really notice it until you have kids and you’re put in the kiddie section, then you realize it everywhere you go. It hit me then they probably moved to get away because of my kid. Alright, I thought. At least now the food is finally here and he can eat since that was his issue. Not ten seconds after that thought did the manager come to our table. He kneeled down and said, “I’m sorry but I’ve been getting tons of complaints about the noise your child is making. Can you find a way to control him?”
I was in shock. So many questions flashed in my mind. On the top was who were these tons of complaints coming from? The 3 people in the table that just moved? Or from the other tables around us with kids who were making noise too? But no, the question that both my wife and I asked angrily was how would you like us to control our hungry 1 year old that was waiting 45 minutes for his food? He replied with “there’s just a lot of noise, I’m sorry, is there anything you could do? Because I can’t do anything about the complaints others have.”
Now I know the situation he’s in. It’s his restaurant and if someone complains he’s the one that has to say something. I’d imagine it wasn’t easy, and I’m sure he was expecting our reaction. But still, he could’ve gone about it a lot better. He could’ve sat down next to me and talked to us and explained it while showing understanding, instead of standing over our table and saying it so loud that it won the attention of everyone around us, putting us on stage for all to see and hear. My wife and I both did him a favor and got up, making sure to let him and those around us now paying close attention know that it’s totally fine and we didn’t have to eat there in their so called “family restaurant”.
But as we were walking out, an old man in the corner having dinner with his wife just couldn’t keep to himself and said clear as day “good riddance” as I was walking by.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re following, but at this point I was already upset, embarrassed and about every other negative emotion you could imagine. I turned around, found him staring at me and I said excuse me? And he said it as if he had been wanting to say it for a while. “I said good riddance. Everyone else here doesn’t need their dinners ruined, no one is enjoying themselves because of your kid.” I told him to look around and notice that it was a family restaurant and that meant there’s a great possibility of kids who are going to be kids and make a noise here and there. Again, with no remorse, “obviously, you’re not doing something right as a parent if you can’t control your kid. I have raised plenty of kids myself and none of them behaved like that. You need be a better parent.”
I don’t think I ever wanted to hurt someone I didn’t know so bad in my life. And I’m a big guy, it would’ve been very easy.
But as his words were still echoing in the now deadly silent corner of the restaurant. The 2 seconds that it took for me to look away from that bitter old man, and down to my 4 year old whose hand I was holding and who was hearing every word – seeing him look up at me confused as to why he’s not sitting down and eating because he was still hungry, why was this stranger talking to his father this way, why did his parents seem so upset – those 2 seconds, they felt like hours. It was a situation that I never prepared myself for and one that I never want to be in again.
I looked back at the old man and he was still staring at me, while people all around were trying their absolute hardest to not look anywhere in my direction. I had a thousand things I could’ve said, and a thousand things I could’ve done. None of which would’ve made the situation any better and I’m being completely honest when I say I probably would’ve ended up in jail if any of them were carried out. And the only thing holding me back was the tiny hand of a 4 year old. Amazingly, it was enough. Because with every curse I knew in english and spanish swelling to the tip of my tongue I still managed to bite it. Not only that, I kept my mouth closed and didn’t say a word despite how bad I know the old man was waiting for it. He wanted me to retort so bad he was almost foaming at the mouth. I turned around and caught a quick glance of the twenty-something eyes rapidly turning their heads away from me again like a school of scared fish. And with one hand gently holding my 4 year old and the other clenched so hard I felt my heart beating inside of it, I started to walk away. My wife stopped me after about 2 steps and asked what happened. I told her the gist of what the old man said, and her being from the south couldn’t walk away as easily without saying something. But once she did the old man had nothing for her and we walked away with dozens of eyes weighing on our backs.
When we got back to the car we were in so much disbelief, with so much anger and emotion that we were both shaking. I didn’t plan on getting into details here but it had to be said. Because contrary to what the world of childless restaurant goers may believe, we don’t like the screams or cries of children either, namely our own. We know not everyone may be used to it like we are, and the mindful parents try our best to stop or prevent it. But the bottom line when all is said and done is kids are kids. And I don’t know what magic the manager at Chili’s wanted me to pull out of my ass, or how much of an amazing parent the old man was that he never had to deal with bad kids (which I highly doubt but whatever, I’m sure he felt great saying it), but you cannot keep a 1 year old kid constantly happy. If they’re hungry or tired or need to be changed or anything, they’ll tell you the only way they know how.
Now where does that leave us parents in the restaurant world?
We’re already put in the kiddie corner when we go out to eat, but that’s something that doesn’t bother us. Obviously though, it’s still a problem to others. So what does that mean?
Are we not allowed to go out to eat anymore?
Should we not even bother with attempting to live somewhat of a life outside of our home?
Or must we be forced to stay at home every night where our uncontrollable children can scream and cry and throw fits to their hearts content without bothering anyone?
Because right now, that’s exactly how I’m feeling thanks to last night. I thought we were safe going to a “family restaurant” where they supposedly welcome you to have dinner with your kids, even going as far as having a dedicated night not too long ago inviting mothers to come have dinner with their sons. But that’s obviously false since we’re not safe going there if our kids are too hungry and uncontrollable and doing crazy stuff like, I don’t know, acting like kids. Hell, we’ve been there countless times as well as numerous other family restaurants around the area and never had any issues. But now, thanks to that trip to Chili’s and that wicked old man, I’m never going to be comfortable in another restaurant again in fear of my kid making any audible noise louder than a giggle. So thanks for setting me up for that situation, Chili’s.
And that’s a terrible feeling, by the way. Because on top of it all, that old man’s empty words are still echoing in my ears no matter how weightless they were. And so are the things I wanted to say and do to him. But I know deep down inside I would’ve been going down to his level if I didn’t walk away. It would’ve been the easier way to go, of course. But I knew even if he was Grandfather of the Year to 30 kids, none of it mattered the second he opened his mouth as I was walking by. If he was a quarter of the person he was making himself out to be he would not have said a word. But no, he did, and that showed me all his cards at once and the type of person he was. And he crossed a huge line when he doubted my parenting while I was holding my kid’s hand and while he was listening. I’ve been around enough to know people like that are not worth anything to you. And while his words stung like a thousand needles and are still stinging everything from the thoughts of how I parent to the tears in my eyes, I know my choice to keep my mouth closed and walk away made me ten times the man he was claiming to be. I currently don’t care if you’re thinking otherwise right now because that’s the only solace I have, and I feel good by it.
Yes, I know. There’s a great possibility you’re reading this and you’re on the side of the old man and the “tons” of other complainers. But as I said – by my heel, I care not. Yes, I’m aware of my kid’s noise level, and if you were witness, you would have seen my wife and I doing all we could to tone it down without having it pointed out by a manager and other patrons. If you’re sitting there and you’re judging me or shaking your head at why I’m making such a big deal about, then what exactly would you have me do? Go ahead and explain it to me because I’m all ears. Matter of fact, let’s run through it.
Let’s see, there’s taking my kid outside which you’re probably wondering why I didn’t do that.
I didn’t because yes, it would’ve been a quieter time for everyone while waiting for the food. But once I brought him back inside again it would’ve been the same situation since he makes the noise between eating if we’re not fast enough to feed him. Probably would’ve been worse because he would’ve been even hungrier.
What’s next? Taking him outside whenever he made a sound? If so, what’s the point of even being there if I’m not going to be having dinner with my family?
What’s left? Either stay home and not go out at all, or be a better parent since we’re obviously so terrible at what we do?
Do you see the situation we’re in?
And by we, I’m not just talking about my wife and I, I mean parents in general.
I know I’m sounding defensive and I’m doing it on purpose. I could play it cool and just let the storm pass, but that wouldn’t be right, this being the internet and all. It’s one thing to turn around and walk away from a bitter old man, it’s another thing to voice your opinion on a matter that needs attention. Because when it boils down to it, the people who complain about kids in restaurants are the people who don’t have kids. Maybe they did once, maybe they haven’t thought about it yet, maybe they never will. I never had any quarrel with those who don’t have kids and I still don’t because it’s absolutely silly to. Some of our closest friends don’t have kids and we never had problems with any of them when going out to eat or going anywhere else public.
There is a big issue though and here’s what it is: It’s when those without kids look at parents as if we’re terrible human beings for subjecting them through the torture that is a noisy child. The point of all this rambling and ranting is we’re in a situation you’re just not understanding. You give us looks and you whisper to each other as if we’re blind and cannot see you and your dissatisfied judgement. You complain to management about how unpleasant, disruptive, and inconsiderate we are and all for what? To what extent is all that for? Getting us to leave so you can have a quiet, peaceful dinner in a restaurant where you can hear tv’s blaring and a hundred conversations going on at once? Getting one of us to take our kid outside while the other one sits there and eats their dinner alone? Or should we just stay home and practice really really hard to be better parents since we’re not meeting your standards?
I’m going to stop now before defensive turns into offensive. Because trust me, there’s plenty more in my head right now. And remember, if any of this is bothering you or making you think differently of who I am or what I think, then you have every right to feel that way because you are exactly the person I’m talking to.
I’m a stay at home dad. My wife is a hard working woman who uses the only car we have to bust her ass in a demanding job. She comes home from work and within 3 hours we’re getting the kids and ourselves ready for bed. It’s a life we’ve grown accustomed to and don’t mind it at all. So sue us if we decide we want to go out somewhere and have dinner in a setting that isn’t the one place we see all week long.
Am I saying it’s perfectly ok to have a disruptive child in a restaurant? Heck no, I’m not. There’s a world of difference between the parents who try to calm their infants down, and the parents who let their toddlers and small children run rampant and wreak havoc throughout the restaurant while they eat without a care. That’s a totally different conversation with totally different views.
But I am saying open your eyes to those who are trying and see that parents are people too. That our kids are people. And we deserve and have every right to be there in a restaurant just like you do. If we’re trying to keep a child quiet, then we’re trying. Give us that much credit and just carry on with your dinner. If there is a constant, non-stop cry or scream that can’t be contained, then rest assured we’re getting the check and leaving on our own terms, because that’s been done before. But if my kid is telling me he’s hungry by a 1-2 second scream between his bites, then I’m going to sit there and feed him.
If that’s not good enough for you, I suggest you find a 5 star fine dining establishment that doesn’t allow kids to walk through the door. Not a “family friendly” grill & bar that has a constantly high noise level to begin with.
Speaking of which, I’m glad I went this way to get it off my chest. While I know Chili’s had their hands tied with the whole situation, it’s hard to blame them. But at the same time, they could’ve handled the situation in a much less degrading way. The manager standing over us and not caring how loud he was in addressing the matter. Apologizing, but not really apologizing since there was no understanding in his voice, just reprehension and annoyance. I felt as if we were being punished and segregated for taking our kids out to eat. And like I said, that’s not a feeling I ever wish to feel again, so it’ll be a long long time before we go out anywhere. And Chili’s could offer me free meals for life and it still won’t get me to step foot in any of their restaurants again.
So thanks again to everyone involved for a lovely and memorable evening. If anything, we were taught something:
No matter how well you’re doing as a parent – constantly showing affection, teaching all you know, never raising a hand to discipline no matter how much you are tried – none of it matters because there will be plenty of people out there who are more than willing to push you into a crowd where you’ll get your feelings and self-worth kicked around in the dirt until you’re questioning everything you do as a parent.
I guess it’s true what they say about opinions and what they’re like.