I'm on a "Friendly Friday" email list with a bunch of old grad school buddies, and every Friday someone sends out a question to get a conversation rolling, and it's a fun way to keep in touch. This week, the question came from one of the single people on the list, and it was as follows:
Why is it that people with kids a) take their young children to nice restaurants and b) don't seem to care that their children are screaming and yelling and running through the aisles and annying everyone? When you are childless and single and eating with friends at a nice place, you used to make fun of these parents...so what happened to make you become one? Will I become one too?
This is what I replied:
The other day a guy with a mustache cut me off in traffic and gave me the finger. Why are people with mustaches such jerks? If I grow a mustache, will I start giving people the finger too?
On point a), a little clarification: Define “nice.” If by nice you mean someplace WITHOUT a child’s menu and crayons at the door, where entrees cost more than $10, where you would order a bottle of wine with your meal, and/or would take a date for dinner, then the answer is, “I have no idea. They must be clinically insane.” I would no sooner take my kids there for dinner than pay $50 bucks to buy them an opera ticket—-we’d all be miserable and it’s money down a hole, and when I eat at a nice restaurant I like to linger over coffee and dessert and not eat my dinner in 19 minutes or less.
On point b) if you mean literally running through the restaurant screaming, then the answer is “those people are assholes. They don’t care about other people around them”. Those people were never like you back when they were childless and single. They were the jerks who would crash your party, drink all your beer without asking, and steal your CDs. Becoming a parent doesn’t make you an asshole, but becoming a parent doesn’t cure an asshole either.
On point a), if by "nice" all you mean is someplace where you don’t order at a counter and they actually refill your drinks for you then, first, you need to elevate your standards and, second, it’s no surprise that the second date never happens. And, if at one of these “family restaurants” you mean on point b) not literally screaming and running through the aisles but really mean periodically throwing their silverware on the floor and crying every three minutes because you won’t let them put your steak knife in their mouth and keep trying to get up and go to the hostess stand because they need a different shade of blue crayon, then you don’t realize that children will break your will to the point where you just don’t give a crap anymore.
Yes, you will become like this, too, just like you will slowly turn into your dad and make the same corny jokes you hated when you were eleven. Your wife will turn into your mother in law, you will become unable to turn a corner in your car at faster than 3 mph, and you will lose the ability to stop rambling on about “when Coca-Cola used to cost fifty cents and came in 12 ounce cans” and there’s NOTHING you can do about it. Until then, I advise eating at places without a kid’s menu. The buffets at strip bars are usually pretty reasonable priced.
Maybe for next week's list we’ll pose this “question that people without kids ask stay-at-home mothers” (actually posed by my younger cousin to my wife at Thanksgiving), “Aren’t you terribly bored? I mean, what do you DO all day?” I’ll let The Wife tackle that one.