“Mommy! Don’t say anything!”
My 9-year-old and I are enjoying a Sunday brunch out together. Or, rather, we’re trying to despite our grumbling stomachs. We ordered our food about 20 minutes ago and it’s nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, the people seated to the left of us came in at the same time as us and they are halfway through their meal.
Sabrina is not into confrontation. She is like her dad in that way — she’d rather let things go than stir the pot. I am the total opposite, the type to speak up for injustices large and small, especially when it comes to a service I am paying for. She does not appreciate this.
“Honey, one of the nice things about coming to a restaurant is that someone else takes care of giving you the food — and if they don’t do a good job of getting it to you, it’s OK to say something,” I say.
She stares at me, dubiously. I stand, head over to the manager at the register, and ask about our food. She apologizes and says she’ll check on it immediately.
Ten minutes later, the food arrives and my daughter’s order is wrong. She asked for pancakes, not French toast. She doesn’t even like French toast. It’s a First World problem, to be sure, but I’m not letting it slide. I send it back and ask them to rush her order.
I could have just waited patiently. That’s one kind of lesson to teach a child. But I’d also like her to learn about speaking up, politely and within reason, when you are not satisfied with something.
Ten minutes later, no food. The couple next to us are done.
Sabrina watches me glance at the kitchen door.
“Mommy! Don’t say anything else!” she says.
Right on cue, the man at the next table leans over and says, “If you read the write-ups on Yelp you’d know that the service here is really bad.”
“I can’t believe you still haven’t gotten your food and we’re finished!” his wife pipes up. “We would have walked out by now if we were you.”
I am doing a little victory dance inside my head.
“See?” I tell Sabrina. “If you go to a restaurant, it’s OK to expect good service.”
“Yes,” says the man. “It’s a good idea to speak up if you’re not happy.”
It’s like I paid him or something.
“Our kids were the same way,” he reassures me.
The food arrives a few minutes later and then, we’re contentedly munching away and back to talking about school, fall plans, and what kind of party she’d like for her birthday. The manager stops by to say brunch is on the house.
After she leaves, Sabrina asks what that means.
“It means they are giving us a free meal because they realize the service wasn’t good,” I explain. “But I’ll still leave a tip.”
“What’s a tip?” she asks.
“A tip is because you got good service,” I says. “Even though we didn’t, I’m not sure why and tips are how food servers earn most of their money, so we’ll leave a tip.”
We walk out into the sunlight.
“I hope you enjoyed brunch, sweetie,” I say. “I know you don’t like when I speak up, but I’m glad I did.”
“OK,” she says. And then: “I think you should start tipping me for cleaning my room!”
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