10:55 – “You must eat all your food hey”.
These words you spoke when you kindly placed our meals on the table. I smiled politely, asked you for a hot chocolate with cream and thanked you for your service. While observing my son’s reaction as he uncomfortably smiled as he tried to push himself further into his seat, trying to evade your words and looks.
After you left our table I looked at my son and said to him. “You know she was only being polite when she said you must eat all your food, hey. Do you understand what I mean?”. His response, while looking at me with a smile on his face. “Yes, like she was just trying to be nice.”
More importantly, before our meals arrived, my son told me that he was full. This after only a few sips of the kiddies milkshake he excitedly ordered when you seated us at 10:39.
We ate our meal mostly in silence. Content with our worlds. He finished his one rasher of bacon, quite a feat for him seeing that he usually only eats the cheesy pizza. I enthusiastically applauded him for eating something he usually never eats, and told him that I will make a nice sandwich from his left over toast and scrambled egg. To this he quickly responded. “But mom, I’m not going to eat it” – his anxiety obvious at the mere thought of having to now still finish a sandwich at some point in the day.
I assured him that he didn’t need to eat the sandwich, but that we would take it home, just in case.
10:58 – My son, constantly checking the time. Eager for me to finish my meal so that we could leave. I patiently explained to him that I’m not going to be rushed, and that we will leave at 11:15.
11:07 – You arrived with my hot chocolate and looked at my son and said to him. “Oh my, you haven’t even touched your food. You must eat all your food, don’t waste mommy’s money”. You smiled, and I told you. “It’s okay if he doesn’t eat all his food, he has sensory challenges. Please bring me the bill”. But you still looked at him and told him that he should at least finish his milkshake. Then you walked away. Oblivious of the now, intrusive nature of your comments.
This time I looked at my son and I said to him. “Did that sound polite?”. He shook his head. No.
I wholeheartedly agreed with his silent answer and told him that your comments were intrusive and inappropriate. You made him feel uncomfortable about his lack of eating. Now what we initially perceived as politeness, soon became unprofessional and intrusive conduct. This, too, I had to explain to him – “Mom, what does intrusive mean”.
You see, this is the norm for us, the constant explaining of most things in life. I explained that intrusive, within this context, is when someone says something, and acts in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable. That uneasy feeling we get when someone invades our personal space and comments on our behaviour even though it is none of their business, and has no direct impact on their well being. My son shook his head with understanding.
11:11 – I invited my son to come sit next to me and asked. “Do you think I should educate the waitress about the intrusive nature of her comments?”
He looked at me with his kind eyes and said. “No, it’s okay. I’m sure someone else will.”
However, a few minutes later you came back to clear our table and gave us the bill. I paid and, despite my annoyance with your inappropriate comments, tipped you more than the usual 10%. Still you did not get the message. Standing, facing me, you cleared my son’s plate and quarter filled milkshake glass, and with no reservations, continued to say to my son. “You didn’t even finish your milkshake.” You made him feel uncomfortable! Again!
All I wanted to say to you was to PISS-OFF with the constant reference to my son with regard to how little he ate and drank. This after I told you that I, his mother, had no expectation for him to finish his meal or milkshake.
My sanity prevailed though, and I looked at you and said. “I told you that I do not expect him to finish his meal or his milkshake and your constant comments and questioning him about his eating and drinking, especially after I told you that he has sensory challenges is inappropriate.” You looked at me blankly – perhaps you never even heard of the term sensory challenges.
Nevertheless, you still went on to respond, “at least he drank more of his milkshake” – by now, I was nearing the edge of no reason, and politely told you that my son is on the Spectrum, he hardly eats, and this is okay with me and should be of no concern to you.
You smiled dismissively, and said we must enjoy our day. While all I could think of was how anxious and uncomfortable you made my son feel at the one place where we can usually just sit and enjoy our meals and each other’s company with no care in the world.
We walked out, not having enjoyed our meal at 11:17.
Next time, focus on exceptional service without judgement. DO NOT comment on the eating patterns of your customers, unless they ask you to, and even if they do, just refrain from commenting.
Today’s bill was far more expensive than I ever expected it to be. Today you really tested my damn patience and my restraint because all I really wanted to do was tip you with a slap across your face for causing my son anxiety in a space that should be child friendly!