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Remember my post titled "You Can't Take A Toddler Anywhere" from a few weeks back? Well, one comment was from Brenna from Suburban Snapshots. She said there wasn't enough easy-to-follow rules for waiters when they are dealing with small children. I thought— BRILLIANT and immediately emailed her to ask if she'd like to write them.

Now— I don't trust Mommy Shorts with just anybody. Suburban Snapshots is poignant, insightful and incredibly funny. Evidence: her post called "Why Having a Toddler is Like Being at a Frat Party". Seriously, read it— it's short.

And now I'm handing over the reins (but I'll peek in with a graphic or two).


Admit it – before you had kids you often scowled at parents who brought their own little charges to restaurants that served food out of anything but buckets or baskets. You dreaded watching a family of four being escorted to a table within twenty feet of your own. You didn’t understand how anyone could enjoy a meal while simultaneously catching mid-air crayons and sopping up inevitable spills.

Now that you’re a parent and yet still someone who enjoys cuisine a few notches above chicken fingers and hot dogs, you occassionally bring your kids to restaurants that don’t require waitstaff to wear character costumes. You do your best to contain your offspring but wish that some of these un-costumed servers were more familiar with the needs of the toddler set.

I'd like to offer some helpful suggestions to restaurant staff. If we all work together, parents won't roll their eyes at servers for not knowing the specific needs of their two-year-old and servers won't run back to the kitchen bitching about the demanding parents at Table 2.

End result: larger tip and spit-free food. Win-win.


Strategy #1

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While the entire restaurant might be following the sound of that sizzling, cast-iron pan with their eyes bulging and tongues wagging, the parents at the table that ordered it unknowingly are watching in horror as you place it inches from their dexterous two-year-old.  Let it cool in the kitchen or place it as far from the child as possible without finding yourself in the parking lot. Likewise, just because we ordered steak, doesn't mean you should hand the child a steak knife.

Strategy #2

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We understand that many establishments don’t offer lids for every cup. If this is the case, and if no alternate take-out vessel is available, do not put said un-lidded cup full of juice directly in front of anyone under four feet tall. You’ll be out of napkins before you’re out of the dinner special. Ditto for that frazzled mother's glass of wine. Spilled alcohol is sad for all involved.

Strategy #3

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We don’t expect to walk into your four-star bistro and be handed a pack of crayons and a placemat maze. But please know that without these happy distractions, each minute that passes without a greeting or a bread basket is another minute those kids have to occupy themselves with whatever’s handy. No one likes a fork to the forehead.

Strategy #4

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When you notice that most plates are empty, or food is being sculpted into zoo animals by bored little fingers, make haste with the check.  Chances are one of the parents is drunk, and the other is now outnumbered by the children who, having eaten, are growing increasingly restless.  Meltdowns are looming and the busboy will appreciate your promptness.

Strategy #5

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First of all, it's probably best you don't tell us about dessert unless we ask. Once you mention doughnuts with assorted dipping sauces, there is no turning back. Secondly, please listen, this is quite possibly the most important tip I have to offer. Never, ever, audibly offer the supreme chocolate brownie molten flourless sundae only to return minutes later to announce that it has sold out. The disappointed children will mutiny and their exhausted mother who desperately wanted one, maybe two bites of that delicious, gooey serenity might throw more crap at you than what her kids have already left stuck to the floor.

Lastly, please know that most of us parents don’t want to create more work for you; we know you’re underpaid, that you take crap from people who just like to complain, that your feet hurt and your boss is an asshole. But if you can keep even a few of these tips in mind, we’ll all have a more enjoyable evening.


Editor's Note: Hopefully, these rules will make change happen soon. In the meantime, I suggest printing out the letter below and handing it to your server at the onset of your next meal out with the kids.