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tipping at restaurants with kids

Why Do I Tip Waiters Up to 50%? Because I Have Kids

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How much do you tip when you take your children out to eat? The etiquette of tipping, at the best of times, is fraught with confusion.

How much do you tip your manicurist? How much do you tip for a Brazilian wax? And how much do you tip when you go to a restaurant, let’s say, and your kid spends half his time under the table, and the other half spilling water glasses, flinging cutlery, dropping napkins every 22 seconds and basically whining during the entire meal? I’m asking for a friend. I kid.

I’m talking about taking my newly minted five-year old out for dinner. Call me crazy, but sometimes Mommy likes to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken fingers on the menu. This means I have become the best tipper I know.

When I take my five year-old out for dinner, I tip sometimes up to 50 percent, depending on how much of a maniac my son has acted during dinner, how much food has ended up on the floor, how many times we’ve had to ask for a clean fork after he drops them and how often he screams out, ‘You’re a poo-poo-fart-face!’ How could I NOT tip up to 50 per cent?

I’m not complaining about tipping. I’m more than happy to throw some extra bucks down on the table because I know the disaster my kid has caused in your seating area. Also, I’m more than happy to tip large because our server probably needs to see some sort of chiropractor after picking up so many dropped knives, forks, salt shakers and napkins, thanks to my misbehaving son.

When it comes to taking my children out to restaurants, I never seem to learn. It’s like touching a hot stove top and burning yourself and then doing it again, even though you know that the stove top is fucking hot. But this is not about whether parents should or should not take their kids out for dinner and how we annoy other customers. Of course we annoy other customers! Trust me, our kid is annoying everyone, including his parents! But we are going to take our kids out for dinner at some point, no matter what.

So the question is not whether to take your young ones out to a nice restaurant but the question becomes, ‘How much should we tip when we take out our messy children to a restaurant?’

Listen, it’s never a good experience for anyone when I take my son to dinner. It certainly isn’t for me. I can’t remember one time when I’ve taken him out to dinner and walked out saying, ‘Well, that was a really nice, relaxing dinner. Let’s do it again soon!’ I do, however, always seem to walk out saying, ‘Well that was a nightmare. I’m never taking him out in public again!’

And yet – I do. Like I said, sometimes Mommies needs to eat at a place that doesn’t serve chicken fingers. And this means Mommy must – and will – tip well. Not just because my kid has obviously left our table a disaster, but because I don’t want waiters to hate me. I actually care what waiters think of me.

Last week, we went to dinner at a place in Toronto called House Of Chan. The steakhouse/Chinese restaurant has been around forever. The food is great, and they have linen table cloths and napkins (oh so adult-like!) but more importantly the service is quick. (This is a must!) The owners and waiters seem to love children, and cater to them, not seeming to care that half of the fried rice dish we ordered ended up under the table, along with my five year-old.

I am not a bad parent. I try to teach him manners, but I’ll admit, I give up after the fifth time he’s under the table because guess what? Kids like being under tables. I debated taking him home, or getting take-out, but like most parents, I kept hoping my son was going to magically change and start acting like a human and not some sort of rabid dog gone wild. That didn’t happen. It never happens.

A middle-aged couple was seated next to us, and of course we got dirty looks and, yes, I saw them flinching when they looked over at our table as they were being seated. Trust me, I was even flinching. I felt slightly bad for them. But, then again, if you don’t want to eat around kids at a restaurant, may I suggest you don’t go out to eat at 4:45 p.m? Plus, it wasn’t like I was enjoying myself either while I was picking up half an egg roll off of the floor, and wiping down a Diet Coke after my son knocked it over on the table and on me. Of course, I was wearing white.

In any case, I learned that if you’re a parent who wants to eat out with your young kids, you should tip the server… a lot. There should be be some sort of chart that shows the percentage of tip you should shell out that’s in direct relation to how badly your kid has acted in the restaurant.

When my daughter Rowan was younger, her father and I always took her out to eat, because we too were idiots who never learned that it’s not fun taking a toddler out for dinner. Our bills ended up being ridiculous because we would give the servers so much extra.

On one oh-so memorable occasion, when I took my daughter out to a sushi restaurant, she spilled so much rice on the floor that I could have made at least a half dozen orders of spicy tuna maki rolls out of the floor rice (if I knew how to do that). And then for her grand finale, my daughter whipped a ceramic spoon literally across the restaurant, as if she were a professional baseball pitcher. I nearly screamed “DUCK!!” to all the diners nearby.

Yeah, that waiter most definitely got his 50 per cent, because the spoon broke in half and, well, have you ever tried to clean up sticky rice? Let’s just say there’s a reason it’s called sticky rice.

I don’t have any tips to get your kid to behave in a restaurant, obviously. But, boy, do I know how to tip well.

Have you started to tip more since becoming a parent? And does anyone know how much is finishing school is? Asking for a friend.

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