Is it that Dads don't have enough time alone with their kids? Is that why their visits to the restaurant are so alien? The scene below has been a consistent one for the five years I've been serving Dads with their kids. I wish I could show them a video and tell them to relaxxxxx and enjoy their kids for goodness sake. They can handle so much in life, why not this?
The hostess sat a dad and his three young kids in my section. I headed to the table. By the time I got there, maybe eleven seconds after they sat, the dad had gathered the menus and was looking around wide-eyed. Before I was able to introduce myself, Dad pointed to the oldest girl.
"Lemonade? Wait, what do you have, like Sprite, milk, juice, what do you have, lemonade?"
Me: "Yes, we sure-"
"Pink lemonade, do you want pink lemonade? She'll have a pink lemonade." Gesturing to the second oldest girl, "Do you like pink lemonade, too? Want some of that? What about your brother, what does he like? Connor, do you want pink lemonade?" The two year-old boy, sitting next to his dad, trying to reach his sisters green crayon, I wike choca milk! "Three pink lemonades, that'll make it easier. And we know what we want to order. Kids? OK, they'll have one mac and cheese, one pizza and one grilled chicken, what does that come with, can they get fries or something? She'll have fries. And I want the mediterranean chicken. What does that come with, rice and a salad? Yeah that's good. We're good."
Notice all I've said is, "Yes, we sure –"
Dads speed through everything like they're either on the run, as in 'involved in a kidnapping and trying to make the stops snappy', or they'll all turn in to pumpkins if they don't enter mom's presence by 6:30.
I used to think it was just some nice thing about dudes and wanting to stay organized. No, it's not. I was being too gracious. I'm organized. I like to stay organized at a restaurant. But I don't turn into a psycho robot on a programmed mission. The credit card hits the table a moment after the entrees. Seriously, he pulls out the credit card before I can finish placing the last meal on the table.
I don't know how these kids enjoy one moment of these excursions. I don't know if it's that they're too nervous to eat around Robot Dad, or if Dad thinks they're going to explode and won't know how to handle it, but no one at the table ever, EVER eats. I should have taken a photo of the FULL bowls of mac and cheese, the barely-touched mediterranean chicken. Some part of me actually feels bad taking the guy's money.
And Robot Dad always, always tips 25%. Every time. In his mind, his kids were running around the restaurant, throwing food on people's tables, screaming at the top of their lungs and taking all day. In reality, they were here and gone before my other table got their iced tea refill, I never heard the kids make a single sound, they were statues, didn't eat more than a bite of food and I made fifteen bucks for saying "Yes, we sure–".
Most of the time it makes me sad. I'd exchange the good tip for the kids and their Dad to have a nice time together. I want to tell him it's going to be fine if a fry hits the floor or a baby squeaks, that they're making memories, and it's just a fry, man.