After seven years of bringing my kids to restaurants, here is the definitive list of things that we as parents want from restaurateurs, chefs, and servers as they preparing and serve our food.
1. This may seem obvious, but apparently it's not because it fails to happen more often than you'd think: SERVE THE CHILDREN FIRST. There is no point in delivering my entree if my children do not have food. Little children require attention before they begin eating. There is cutting and cajoling and blowing that needs to be done before anything is edible. It's a full time job. It's maddening. Give me their entree first so I can get to work.
Even better, if their entrée is ready first, offer to bring it out early.
2. We don't want our children's food to be piping hot. In fact, we would prefer it to be lukewarm, if not downright cold. Little kids are heathens who can't or won't eat hot food, and as a result, parents spend half the time blowing on their kids' food while their own dinner gets cold, too. If at all possible, have the kids' meals sitting on a counter somewhere in the kitchen while the rest of our order is completed. Give us a fighting chance in terms of eating our own food at the correct temperature.
3. We never want you to suggest items to our children. We know what we want our children to eat. We had a conversation with our kids long before you arrived to take our order. If we ask for milk, don't you dare ask if they want white or chocolate milk. Assume white, you goddamn savage. Don't even acknowledge the existence of a dessert menu unless we prompt you ourselves. It's hard enough to wrangle in our children's desires without you opening Pandora's Box to them.
4. Crayons. You should have them. We have learned to bring our own, but only because some of you think crayons are optional. If you're operating a kid-friendly restaurant, they aren't.
If you are really good, you will have triangular crayons. The kind that won't roll off your wobbly, uneven tables. Get yourself some triangular crayons and some paper to color on, and we will love you forever.
5. Extra napkins. We need them. We needed them the moment we arrived.
6. Don't offer my child a balloon. Balloons are nothing more than heartaches waiting to happen when a child accidentally releases it in order to try to catch a butterfly or pick a nose. This is followed by wailing and weeping and general sadness for the next 3-900 minutes. We don't need this kind of uninvited tragedy in our lives. Balloons also make for lovely visual obstructions when driving home, increasing our chances for a vehicular catastrophe. I came to your restaurant for food. Not circus paraphernalia.
7. If you're still going to offer a balloon to our children after the previous admonition, at least have the decency to ask my children which color they want. If you think the color of the balloon doesn’t matter to a child, you have apparently never been a child.
8. Those new computer ordering/game systems on your tables? We hate them. If we wanted a video game at the dinner table, we could've handed our kid our phone, an iPad, or any other portable gaming system. We think that actual conversation with our kids might be a good idea. You know? Socialize them at bit. Teach them to chat. Make them potentially datable in the future. At least when they are coloring, they are still talking to us. Making us pictures. Sharing crayons. Displaying their creations. You know who wants these electronic monsters on their tables? Socially inept cretins who played with Nintendo Gameboys at the dinner table as kids and never learned the value of good conversation.
9. A footstool in the restroom is a delight. Have you ever tried to hold a child in one arm while adjusting water temperature to the single degree with the other? This might be the primary reason that Americans end up in traction. Help us out.
10. If we ask for a "tiny amount of ice cream" for our child, give us a tiny amount, damn it. Not a little less than normal. Not three quarters of what you'd normally serve. We want less than half. We want an amount that would insult an adult. It's not because we are terrible people. We simply want to clear out sometime within the next three hours, and we know how slowly our kid eats ice cream.
11. If we inform you that our child has a food allergy, or if our child informs you of this fact, we would like you to widen your eyes a bit, nod vigorously, and treat this news as seriously as a heart attack. Even if there is nary a peanut in your establishment, make a note of this important fact. Tell us that you understand how critical it is. Assure us that that the chef will be informed. We don't need to hear that the hot dog doesn't have peanuts in it. Just let us know that you understand the gravity of the situation and put our minds at ease.
We're not crazy. We just don't want our kid to die today.