For lunch today, I took the boys out for a sandwich at a cafe that’s two blocks from our house. It’s a cafe set within a garden centre. The cafe itself is really lovely – it has indoor/outdoor seating, including a pavilion with a few toys for the kids.
Though after today, we won’t be going there again.
The reason for this is two-fold. First and foremost, the reaction I received from the staff there. Secondly, because of the reaction from other patrons, which the cafe now seems to attract.
Up until about a year ago, this cafe was very family-friendly. Then the whole centre underwent a costly renovation, and things went ‘upmarket’. The menu changed, along with increase to prices, of course. It’s now strictly table service, rather than being able to quickly pay at the counter before sitting down (I find paying first is much easier when you have kids in tow).
I’d gotten a bad feeling about the place the last few times we’d been there. But today was the last straw…
I asked the waitress if they could make a cheese and vegemite sandwich for Mr.4. She ummed and ahhh’d (it’s just a cheese & vegemite sandwich!) and said, ”they are really busy in the kitchen…I could get them to bring out some bread with some butter & vegemite on the side, and you could make it up yourself.” (Thanks. I could have done that at home.)
When we were waiting for our sandwiches (well, our sandwich ingredients), Mr.4 ran off to spot the fish in the big fishpond they have. As you do, when you’re 4! He was half skipping/half running, not making a sound, just excitedly hurrying to look at the fish.
“Oh, no no, don’t run around here!” came a voice straightaway. Another waitress. “You might bump into someone carrying food…that’s a good boy.”
Mr.4 was a little crestfallen and I said, “it’s ok, just stand here closer to our table and watch the fish”. So he watched them until our sandwich ingredients arrived.
Then after he ate, Mr.4 went to look at a small cherry blossom tree that was near our table.
Mr.4 loves flowers. LOVES them. Where ever we go, if there’s a flower on the ground, or one sticking out of someone’s fence, he usually has to collect it. We then bring them home and he puts them in a vase in his room. We’ve worked hard to explain to Mr.4 he can’t pick them off trees, or from people’s gardens – and he’s really ok with that now.
Today however, he desperately wanted one cherry blossom flower off the tree. He was super-excited as, being winter, he hasn’t seen a cherry blossom for months. So I made an exception today and said, ”look ok, just one flower, that’s all.” So he went to very carefully pick one tiny blossom off the tree…
Instantly I hear: “UH-UH! No, don’t do THAT!!” – coming from a lady sitting on the other side of the tree. I looked across – she was exaggeratedly wagging her finger at Mr.4 with a stern look on her face.
I. WAS. RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. HER.
Poor Mr.4 froze and looked straight at me, unsure what to do. I said to him, “it’s alright, just take one and bring it over to me.” He’d already picked it anyway, so he brought it over and then instantly buried his head in my lap. The poor thing had been told off twice in the space of 10 minutes by people he didn’t know.
I glared at her and said to Mr.4, loud enough for her to hear, “it’s OK, strangers shouldn’t tell you what to do. Mummy said it was OK.” She looked at me and mouthed something like ”I’m sorry” and tried to smile, but I just ignored her.
Occasionally if we are on a playdate with friends, if our kids aren’t playing nicely, one of us Mums will step in and sort things out. Say if Mr.4 had grabbed a toy, I don’t have a problem with my friend asking him to give another child a turn.
Complete strangers telling my kids off however, really makes my blood boil.
But wait, there’s more to today’s delightful cafe outing!
As we were leaving we walked through their shop, which sells homewares, soaps, candles, bags etc. Quite upmarket, hideously expensive, and not the kind of store they’d want small kids wandering through.
Which is silly really, considering it’s a garden centre and they have a cafe with a kids menu. (And a fishpond.)
So as we were leaving, Mr.4 wanted to smell a few soaps and I let him – we smelt some together, and I didn’t see the harm in that. I sensed the retailer watching us, but ignored it – I am with my child and I know I’m not going to let him run amok or destroy anything in the shop.
Mr.4 suddenly spies a door in the corner that’s ajar and wanders over to look. I am right behind him (Mr.1 is in his stroller).
“What’s through this door?” says Mr.4 (never-ending curiosity).
“That’s just their office, where they keep things…only the people who work here can go in there. C’mon, let’s –”
“Yes, you can’t go in there!” I’m interrupted by the sales lady calling out to Mr.4.. “that’s our office in there..”
Ok. I really, really get it now, I do. It’s time for us to leave. And not come back.
As we move away from the door as instructed, she adds:
“Would you mind closing the door for me? Just that kids can run in and we’ve got all sorts of things in there.”
The icing on the cake.
Obediently, I shut the door. If I didn’t have my kids with me, I would have told her in no uncertain terms to shut her door herself.
And at the end of what was supposed to be an enjoyable outing, I’m left with a sad little 4 year old, whose enthusiasm was thoroughly dampened by strangers whom we will never see again.
Word of advice to all: let us parent our own kids.
‘Cause I’m their mother, not you.