Since we got home from dinner last night I've been umming and aahing as to whether I should write a post about our experience at Papachino's in Fourways.
One small part inside my head tells me to just let it go; another part, maybe the more passive aggressive bit, said do it! Name and shame. But that's not the purpose of this post. Nor was my post on the Spur restaurant at Peter Place a while back.
I'm certainly not the consumer watchdog on supposedly child friendly places but I am aware of my feelings and how I'm left with either a warm fuzzy or a cold prickly after leaving somewhere. And so I write this.
I go to Serendipity often. Not because of the overpriced food or for the lack of wi-fi. I go there because Emma loves it and as long as she's happy, I'm happy. Emma, along with the majority of the kiddies there, loves Thabani. Come Thursday she's already asking if we're going to see him on the weekend. He is engaged and engaging with the children in his care. His behaviour is always appropriate if a child hurts him or herself and he encourages the children to include each other.
No other child friendly restaurant offers the same care that Serendipity does, though they all advertise the services of child minders.
Last night we thought we'd quickly pop out to Papachino's. it's close by, the food's okay and a few weeks back Emma had 'made' friends there and she was hoping to see them again. The management staff are over the top friendly. The waiting staff are okay but what leaves a lot to be desired are the two child minders on duty. Regardless of how many kids there are, there are always only two and they look like they've ended up on the playground by default. It's as if they were the worst staff of the week and as punishment are now stuck with the kids.
There were a few instances that got me irritated. One enough for me to say something, the second one I wasn't aware of (fortunately for everyone involved) and the third instance I made the decision to not say anything.
Just after we got there a couple arrived with a little boy with Down's Syndrome. I assumed they were regulars because they got a table inside, took the little boy outside to the play area and handed him over to one of the child minders. I have no experience with children with special needs. Not enough to 'read' their expressions or understand their body language so I can't comment on what this little boy was feeling or thinking. But I can read an adult's expression and I'm able to recognize annoyance, irritation and impatience. And this child minder (I use the term loosely) was displaying every one of the signs.
She would yank him by his arm and roll her eyes. If he walked ahead of her, she would pull him back and put him up on the slides, which he didn't seem to like. There was no interaction with him, she just pulled and pushed him between the play equipment. There wasn't anything gentle about the way she was handling him and I got annoyed. At one point I said to her that she should just let him play. Her response was that he is playing. I then said that I didn't like the way she was treating him and with that she grabbed him and took behind the jungle gyms, away from where I was standing.
I wanted to go speak to the couple he had arrived with but felt it wasn't my place. I don't know the dynamics. Perhaps they're regulars and have discussed with the child minders how they need to 'manage' this little boy. The last thing I felt like doing was spoiling a couple's evening because I had misread a situation.
The bit where I would have 'stripped my moer' is when a group of kids were laughing at Emma. She had messed cold drink on her top and had taken it off. Anyone who knows my child knows she's a bit of a nudist and usually ends up running around in her panties, much to my horror. If you know Emma you also know she has a bit of a tummy. And these kids were laughing at that. That's one thing.
But when an adult laughs along I have a problem. A big one. And when it's the very same child minder then hell hath no fury like a mom. Fortunately I wasn't there at the time and Mark dealt with it. Wisely (or not) he only told me about it when we were in the car. He also mentioned that Emma was sad but was soon her happy self. But I worry what those moments mean to her and how they will affect her.
The last instance, though not as bad but as annoying, was when Ben was crawling around on the artificial grass. The play area had quietened down and we put him there to move around a bit. Mark and I were both close by and so was one of the child minders. Sweeping. She swept around Ben, in front of him, behind him. I swear if he wasn't moving she would have probably swept him into the dustpan. Like I say it wasn't a big issue but it was another sign of their complete lack of interest in the kids. The children, like the dirt, were an inconvenience and if they could be swept away, all the better.
Restaurant owners please do not advertise your establishment as 'child friendly' unless you have staff, child minders in particular, that actually like children and want to be there. A plastic jungle gym and rocking horses does not a kiddy friendly place make.
BTW this was 'written' on my iPhone so please forgive any typos