It is my personal belief that everyone should have to work in the restaurant business at least once in their life. Mainly because I think it’s an excellent window into both the best and the worst of humankind, but also because having to deal with the demands of ornery customers is fantastic preparation for parenthood.
I’ve worked many a food service job, and the rudest, most horrible customers of my past have nothing on my toddler.
He sends back the dish. Unlike a restaurant patron, however, instead of politely asking for something that he finds more agreeable, my son throws his plate across the table and screams, “I don’t want that!”
He’s rude to the staff. I had plenty of boorish customers during my time as a waitress, but to my knowledge no one ever threw their food at me. I have now lost count of the times my toddler has unrepentantly pelted me with produce.
The temperature is never right. For some reason, it seems to be impossible to serve a toddler food at an appropriate temperature. Things are either too hot or too cold, and God forbid a human under the age of three should have to wait 30 seconds while you fan a piece of fish, because in that minuscule amount of time he will have completely lost his willingness to try the offending foodstuff and will refuse to eat it once it has cooled down. Hand a kid a glass of cold milk and he will, for sure, demand a “warm milky” instead. Beware the wrath of a child not given food at his preferred temperature, or “dinner time” will turn instead to “tantrum time.”
Ketchup on everything. In the restaurant business there are always those customers who put salt on dishes before tasting them, much to the chagrin of the poor waiter who is forced to ask for a salt cellar from a mercurial Chef who believes that his dishes need no additional flavoring. Toddlers are like this with ketchup. If it’s being served to them, they want ketchup. There is no thought put into whether the food item is complemented by ketchup; if it is something they plan to eat it must have a side of ketchup. My son assures me that oatmeal with ketchup is delicious. I’ll take his word for it.
If Mommy made it, I don’t want it. This may be a phenomenon that is exclusive only a mi casa, but if I make something for dinner, my son wants nothing to do with it. Restaurant goers might also balk at a favorite dish they prefer from a different restaurant, but they usually give it a try before hating on it. Not so my toddler! Forget eating it, he won’t even try it. If we go out to eat at a restaurant, however, he will ask for seconds of the exact same thing that he refused to eat at our house just the night before. He won’t touch the meatballs I make at home—he screams when he even sees them being prepared—but serve the kid the identical thing, from the identical recipe, at our local Italian restaurant, and he’ll eat four of them in one sitting. I know that I’m not exactly a domestic Goddess, but I don’t think my cooking is so bad that it deserves rejection before even being sampled.
He refuses to pay the bill and stiffs me on a tip. For all the trouble I go to, I should at least get some small token of appreciation. A few coins from his (full) piggy bank, or a “thank you for fixing me dinner even though I found it disgusting,” or a kiss on the cheek to show that he loves me, but no. No thanks are given around these parts. I’m seriously considering adding an 18% gratuity on every bill to avoid this blatant abuse of my serving staff.
Wait staff, take heart. Someday your food service trials will serve you well in parenthood.