Thursday, January 29, 2009

May I Be Excused Please?

Because Jack and I enjoy eating in restaurants, we have made every attempt to teach our children how to behave in restaurants. Very early on we decided that bringing these people into our lives meant sharing our lives with them and not hiring a babysitter every time we wanted to venture out for dinner. And so, at 10 days, they lunched, al fresco, at an Irish pub. The following week they had dinner at our neighborhood sushi spot. They have progressed from sleeping through the entire meal to sitting next to us, in chairs, and eating actual food. And we do this with as little accouterments as possible, working hard to make meal time family time. Most importantly, they are expected to remain in their seats the entire time, as they are at home.

Perhaps we are simply too strict, we expect too much, as recently I have been besieged with children wandering restaurants. The girls and I had lunch at Chipotle yesterday, a very easy place to stop for a quick bite with them, black bean quesadillas and guacamole and they are quite happy. Immediately after we sat down the child appeared at our table. She was without a parent, her snow pants were falling down, unzipped, and her shirt had food all over it. She stood staring, from the end of the table. We made small talk, mine mostly being "where are your parents?" while my children were a bit more hospitable, asking her name and age. She said nothing. She wandered off. We started lunch. She appeared again. "My name is Rebecca". And then she did the most horrifying of things, she reached out and tried to touch my food. I recoiled in terror having great fear of germ infested others, especially parent free children with runny noses and slouchy pants who are touching my food. I looked around and saw no adult looking for this child. "My dad is feeding my sister". Yes, there he was, on the complete opposite side of the restaurant, not so much as scanning the crowd for his other daughter. "Maybe you could go back and have lunch with your dad?". She wandered off and I watched to make sure she actually made it all the way over. She did.

We began eating. "Mom, she's back, that girl is back". No less than five times did this child wander to my table and stand, staring, as we sat and looked at her. Mary and Kate are wonderful eaters but had little interest in their quesadilla with this lost looking child standing at our table. Five times I sent her back to her father and each time she returned. At last he stood up, put on his coat, dressed the other child, and then stood, waiting for this one to return.

Surely he will come over and apologize, surely he will come over and thank me for watching his daughter, surely he will come over and pay me for babysitting, nothing. She shuffled back, still in disrepair, he zipped her coat and out they went.

Never at a loss for words, we parlayed this into a conversation about the importance of staying in your seat, thankfully. And they understood, although I did feel a bit sorry for Rebecca. Zip her pants, wipe her nose and clean her shirt, she's probably a lovely child who would just like to have lunch with her dad, not some germ freak woman and her two children, who happily like to sit in their seats.

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