It happened. I’m being discriminated against (well not really) but I’ve been labeled. Going to a restaurant with my son in his carrier is like walking in with a sticker on my head that says “keep away from everyone else”.
In the past it wasn’t much of a question. I would walk in to a pub, I would be asked how many in my group, and then given a choice on where I would like to sit. Sometimes I would take a stool at the bar, others at a small table in the corner, sometimes out on the patio where I could catch a cool breeze with a cold one in my hand. All of these options are gone for me now.
Having a child with you is like playing restaurant monopoly and landing on the jail space. Go to the back, go directly to the back, do not go to the bar, do not go to where the people having fun are, go to the back.
We sat at our table, I looked around. The bar was far, the crowds were far, the bathrooms were close, the emergency exit was closer.The air smelt like chicken nuggets and hot dogs. In this section of the restaurant there were no couples, no first dates,no business after hours crowd, no bachelorette parties. There were families. People with anywhere from 1 to 5 children of all ages. Instead of beer coasters there are crayons and place mats you can color, instead of being asked for my ID, I’m asked if I would like a high chair, instead of a wine list, I get a kids menu (who knew you could get mac n cheese anywhere).
It was like visiting a foreign country.
Still, it wasn’t all that bad. Service was fast (because they want you to get the hell out before your kid has a meltdown) and everyone else around was int he same boat as you. It was like a support group for adults who can’t stand to hide inside their own 4 walls. We all look around at each other and non in approval. “Good job, way to get out there, be strong.”
For parents in this section the focus is no longer the menu or dining experience, its watching their kids and making sure they aren’t making faces at other tables. Making sure they wash their hands after coming back from the bathroom for the 11th time. Making sure they eat all their vegetables before they get another fountain soda. Using desert as a bribe for 45 minutes of good behavior.
As time goes on I’m sure I’ll learn to enjoy dinning out this way. Until then I’ll try not to stare longingly at the long line of tap handles. I’ll look at all the other fathers and nod approvingly of their efforts. Solidarity!