I used to say that I’d never take my children out to restaurants, ever. Of course, I said this before I had children, and while I was a server at a restaurant. It is true that most children at restaurants make horrible messes, scream, and/or pretend the restaurant is some sort of playground, so I vowed never to contribute whenever it was that I would become a parent, because it seemed to me that this happened every time a child was offered food:
Fast forward ten years or so. I’ve got a three-year-old and a one-year-old, and we take them out to restaurants fairly often. I say screw that annoyed server self of my past; parents need a break every so often while still slinging the kids along. And that break is usually just getting someone else to cook dinner and clean up after. It’s a relief.
But the screaming and running around restaurants still doesn’t fly. My three-year-old knows that if she stops listening, starts screaming, or starts pretending that she isn’t a guest at a restaurant, we go home. And she is perfect. She behaves well, has fun, orders her own food, and is generally sweet and respectful. We worked at that. It wasn’t handed to us; we earned that as parents. The one-year-old, well, he’s still learning, and we’re still working at that. But we have to go out in order for him to learn. And honestly, he’s pretty good, too.
It’s a shame we nearly gave him away when he was five months old…
I’m joking. Well, kinda. We did nearly give him away, but we didn’t mean to.
Back to taking our kids out to restaurants…as a family, we particularly love going to Mexican restaurants. The people are always nice, they come to the table with chips and salsa immediately, and they cook all of the food in five minutes somehow. It really doesn’t matter what or how much you order, it’ll be five minutes, tops. And there are margaritas, which is never a bad thing, unless you give away your baby after two of them…but I’ll get to that.
Mexican restaurants also expose my daughter to a new language. I know a bit of Spanish, but I’m much better at writing it than I am speaking it, but a Mexican restaurant is a great place to get down the basics. She’s gotten to the point where she was able to give the cashier our check and credit card and say “muchas gracias, seenyor!” It’s cute. They always compliment how cute she is in Spanish, and of course she doesn’t understand, causing her to look at me as though I set her up to be the victim of something. It’s a work in progress, but it’s come a long way since the first “Spanish” phrase we taught her was when she was about half her age and someone (probably her dad) taught her to say “HOLA BITCHES!” when she walked into any Spanish restaurant, just because I love Ben Stiller’s entrance in the fight scene in Anchorman that much. Her toddler tongue could only make it to sound like “lola beaches” anyhow.
To this day, whenever we drive by that Mexican restaurant in particular, she still says “Hey! It’s lola beaches!”
(Side note: today we went to the beach on Lake Erie, and from her car seat she said “We’re going to the bitch! Beach! Heh. I called the beach bitch. I shouldn’t say bitch.” Yes, we are terrible parents, but at least our children don’t scream and run around in restaurants.)
Let’s get back to the day we (nearly) gave away our infant baby boy. We went to a restaurant called “Sí Señor,” which I think is pretty funny…it’s like naming a restaurant “Yes, Lord,” if you stretch the translation a bit.
We first fell in love with Sí Señor when we brought our little daughter there a couple years back and they gave us a free round of tequila shots because we had a daughter who was so “pretty and well behaved.” Well played, restaurant. Well played. Naturally, we’ve been customers ever since. They’ve even changed locations and we’ve remained true. On this particular day, however, we had our 2.5-year-old daughter and our five-month-old son en tow, and it was a stressful day. We did not mind having someone deliver us margaritas and clean up after us. That kinda thing can be a dream vacation for parents upon occasion.
So, I already have most of the set up in place for you. Food was there and ready. The serving staff was charming. My daughter was well behaved and trying to speak Spanish with our server. Our infant son spent most of the meal asleep in his seat, receiving compliments about how cute he was (and still is). The server in particular was sweet and kind. She was a small young woman who was almost excessively complimentary about my children, and she went out of her way to help my daughter with her basic Spanish. The server let us loosen up and relax, and the meal was great. This was an ideal dinner for parents of a toddler and a child who was still waking up at least twice every night for bottles.
Parents occasionally need someone else to make dinner, clean up dinner, and keep the margaritas flowing. Don’t judge. (For those of you concerned, nobody drove home drunk, ever. The excessive drinking of margaritas as new parents is mainly stated as a humor device. Seriously, we are awesome parents, so don’t call CPS on us about drinking. If you’re going to call them, make it about the next part of the story.)
As our dinner and charming conversation with our server was coming to a close, our infant son started waking up hungry. Of course, we got him out and gave him a bottle. He was as cute as can be. Our son is and always has been content and mellow. Even as a baby he never really got upset for long. And when we’d bring him out in public he’d just look around and flirt with everyone he’d see. Our server was no exception.
Once she saw him awake, he had finished his bottle and was cooing and reaching out to her (and everyone else in the restaurant who would look at him). She swooned at the sight of him. She shared a little conversation with our daughter about her baby brother and taught her a couple more Spanish words. She was happy to see him, and said so in expressive and adorable broken English.
By the fourteenth or fifteenth time he reached out to her and smiled, she finally asked it.
“I can hold him?”
We had a good time. She was a sweet young woman. We had margaritas. There was only one answer.
“Of course! Here!”
And I handed over my infant to a stranger. It was fine, though. She worked at the restaurant, we had joked and had a good time, and it was obvious that she was kind. No big deal. She would hand him back over pretty quickly, just like everyone else I had handed him to during his five-month existence thus far.
Then, like nothing, she smiled at us and said the strangest thing.
“Okay. I take him now.”
We had been joking back and forth all night with this server. She was sweet and able to handle my sarcasm, so, the joke was a fine one to make. She stepped away a few steps from the table and laughed. We laughed, too. Our infant son even laughed. I think our toddler daughter was the only one to say “where’s she taking Andy?”
And like that, the server, carrying our infant son, was across the restaurant and dipped around the corner out of sight near the host station…and the front door.
My wife and I just looked at each other and said in near unison:
“Did we just give away our son? Were we just involved in the stupidest case of child abduction, ever?”
Damned idiot parents on margaritas.
Of course, I launched up from the table and met the server around the corner, where she was just showing my son off to other staff members, but I scooped him back into my arms with no problem. He was happy. He even kind of gave me a look as if to say: “Damn you’re stupid. And lucky. Can we go home now, before someone actually steals me?”
We didn’t get mad. We didn’t act out against the server or anything stupid like that. We just did as we always do: we left a damned mess and tipped well. Naturally, the entire way out my wife and I just kept looking at each other and sighing, concerned about the stupid in our genetics and whether we had passed any of that idiocy down to our children. We wanted to get home as soon as we could and laugh it off.
On the way out, one of the staff members noticed our daughter and son and talked about how beautiful they both were. She asked if she could take a picture of them for their Facebook page. After our son was nearly abducted by one of the servers, what in the hell did this woman think our answer would be?!?
“Sure! Why not!”