Let me start with an admission. If I worked in a restaurant and saw a mom walk in with her young children I would try not to make eye contact. I'd yell, "Not it!" to my fellow servers. I'd take up smoking...just to duck out the back door.
Of course, that's not what happened earlier this week when a restaurant owner made headlines for yelling at a noisy toddler -- is there any other kind? -- who was eating pancakes with her parents. It was worse. It was much, much worse.
According to a first-person essay in the Washington Post written by the customer, the owner told the TODDLER to "shut the hell up".
Someone told a toddler to -- literally -- shut the hell up? It's sickening and almost unimaginable.
I mean, this isn't a particularly articulate way to put it but WTF?!
I could write more about this someone who yelled at a baby but, instead thought I'd tell you a nice story. It's not as unusual as a restaurant owner swearing at a little kid, but -- maybe -- that's the point. Because most servers are pretty nice. And they work very hard. And very young kids -- often -- aren't easy customers. So, I thought I'd tell you about some people who were incredibly kind to my kids when they were younger. It will never make headlines. It might not even get read by a lot of people. But, as Lesley Gore sang, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to.
My story is not about a small diner. It's about IHOP. And when I lived in Chicago and my three kids were six years old, three years old and an infant, I went there a lot. In fact, it was the only restaurant I remember going to around that time. What I loved about my IHOP was not the food. (Sorry. But my kids did...so there's that.) I loved the restaurant because everyone who worked at our location was so nice. And, yes, it was everyone.
When I used to walk in with my kids, the servers high-fived us. We got fist-bumped and slapped on the back. We were treated like a Kardashian walking into her local tanning salon. And, don't forget, they have syrup at IHOP -- five syrups on every table. I had two little children and a baby. My kids spilled more syrup than they ate. They ate a little and spilled a lot. And we STILL got high fives, fist bumps and slaps on our backs when we walked in. It was my happy place. (As, back then, was my bathroom at home when I made it inside by myself. So, yes, I admit the bar was low.)
Chris used to wait on us. Other times it was Romel. Or Sebastian. And their manager was Anwar. Let me tell you about Sebastian, Romel, Chris and Anwar. I'm going to guess that the staff at Jean Georges and Le Bernadin don't hold a candle to these guys when it comes to customer service. And, from what I hear, neither of those places have free crayons.
I remember one morning in particular where I was at the end of my rope parenting-wise. I think I had been up for six hours, even though it was only 11:00 in the morning. It was a Saturday. Eleven on a Saturday is prime time at a pancake place. Every table was taken. Every seat was filled with hungry people who wanted to stuff their faces with reasonably-priced bacon, eggs and pancakes.
Chris took our order -- went to the kitchen -- and then reappeared. He wanted to know if my sons could help him out. Could they help him carry the plates from the kitchen to our table when our order was ready? Could they? Could they?! Could Mary Richards light up the whole world with her smile? Heck yeah! They said yes and then we waited. We even called my husband, who was at work, to tell him the good news.
While we waited, a thought occurred to me. The plates were going to be hot. Maybe too hot? What if my kids hurt their fingers? My children used their fingers all of the time. They were incredibly helpful parts of their body. Please Chris, don't burn my kids' fingers, I thought!
And while I mulled over whether or not to talk to Chris about how hot the plates would be, I glanced at my three year old. He was about to explode. The anticipation of getting to bring his own plate to the table was almost too much for him. He had the same look on his face that he did right after his third birthday party when he learned he was going to get another birthday party the following year. And the year after that. And the year after that too.
Chris -- who was waiting on what appeared to be a dozen other tables that morning -- came to get my sons. "Are you ready?" he asked them. Yes, they were! And so, my three-year-old and six-year-old slowly walked with Chris to the outside of the kitchen. He handed each of them a plate. I winced. ("Please don't let burn their fingers," I thought.) And they walked. Slowly. Happily. Carefully. They reached our table. When they got to me, I saw that they were each only holding a tube of yogurt on their plates. And Chris was the one carrying the hot plates with pancakes. He didn't want them to burn their fingers either.
And that's it. It's not a fancy story. It's not a USA Today kind of story. It's not even a story that my kids remember several years later. But I do. And this is the story that comes to mind when I think of little kids and pancakes. And so, if they're reading this, thank you to Chris, Sebastian, Anwar and Romel. And to all of the other people who work hard to make little kids and their parents happy when they come into their restaurants and don't yell at them to shut the hell up.
Adapted from a post on Mammalingo, which is the author's mother's favorite blog in the whole world.