Amidst the countless challenges I’ve faced over the last 3 years of being a mom…sleep deprivation, breastfeeding deprivation, discipline deprivation and so on and so forth, I’ve always counted myself lucky that my husband and I could take baby girl to fairly nice restaurants. I’m not talking “family friendly” rotisserie chicken or burger joints but actual restaurants where the wine lists aren’t confined to house red or white. As long as she had a mouthful of approved grub and a back-up toy we were safe for about an hour and a half, ample time to make us feel like we weren’t living in parenthood isolation. Past performance and the fact that she comes from a diverse cultural background so shouldn’t be averse to ethnic foods gave us the confidence to try something new. A leap of faith that didn’t go exactly as planned or hoped.
A while back after a doctor’s appointment downtown we decided to try Satay Brothers, a restaurant specializing in Singaporean street food located in the gentrified neighborhood of St. Henri. The food looked awesome and the place was super cool so we were excited to have finally made it there. Unfortunately, the moment our lips touched our beers and the LO bit into her dish all hell broke loose. Her distaste for the cuisine was elegantly showcased through an emotional outburst complete with loud shrieks and body thrusts. The two of us tried to soothe her but our efforts seemed futile. When my husband attempted to pick her up the highchair began dangling from her feet as she refused to relax her flailing arms and legs. THIS WAS MY NIGHTMARE. Dealing with a toddler in full blown tantrum while onlookers shared expressions of disapproval. “We should have just gone to St. Hubert for chicken and fries” I thought to myself when my husband finally managed to take her outside for a calming walk.
My sad state of affairs quickly turned around when the young waiter who I’d asked to pack up our food compassionately stated that we were welcome to stay. “We’ve seen worst” he said “you really don’t have to go.” Even on the way out, one of the owners held the door open for me and reinforced the fact that the restaurant welcomed families and he hoped to see us again. Little did these young, hip, restaurateurs know but those words meant the world to me.
I’m not sure if it’s just in my mind, but it feels like once you have a child the finer things such as nice restaurants, travel etc. become off limits. The cultural shift towards kid-free zones alienates parents making them feel like they don’t have a place outside of the “family friendly” world and I just don’t think that’s right. Let’s also not forget that it is, in fact, a form of discrimination. Families should be welcome anywhere and confidence should be placed in parents that if a child acts out of line then the appropriate measures will be implemented. And you know what? If they aren’t, then too freaking bad. Although many of our interactions nowadays happen in the virtual world, we don’t live in complete physical isolation and people need to learn tolerance. Don’t shun a mother or a father because they’re dealing with the natural stages of child development. If anything, offer them a helping hand or kind words like the guys from Satay Brothers, it goes a long way.
Why is this important to me? Well because, simply put, I love food. It isn’t just sustenance but an introduction to different cultures and traditions as well as a way of opening one’s mind. I have a moral obligation to my daughter to ensure her taste buds aren’t limited to pizza and pasta and frankly, I too have a right to eat good food! Thankfully, since “the incident” we’ve continued to explore different dining experiences that’s she thoroughly enjoyed so if you’re like me, keep on truckin or shall I say munchin ;).