The Day My Family Got Kicked Out of a Restaurant

Have you ever found a local spot where you and your family just fit? A place where you all feel comfortable and like, that has something for everyone to take part in and enjoy? Short of taking a trip to Disney, finding a place like that for a family of 5 is next to impossible. Well, this past summer, my family found our unicorn: a local health club.

Admittedly, our local club wasn’t the fanciest. When we joined, it was older and in need of some updates. Newer facilities had popped up all over the area boasting state of the art equipment, cutting edge fitness classes, and the latest amenities. Our club didn’t have that. But it had a comfortable feeling and a years-of-experience confidence about it. The regulars were loyal, and never had a reason to look elsewhere. The outdoor pool was amazing for hot summer days, and the indoor pool was the perfect spot for a rainy day activity. There were tennis lesson for kids, childcare six days a week, and a “family friendly” restaurant. Add in an only three-minute car ride from home, and we seemed to have found the perfect combination!

We spent every day there over the summer. Every. Day. I was able to workout while my kids enjoyed playing in the daycare with their friends. Tennis lessons were offered at a discounted rate for members, so my boys happily played {and I paid} all summer long. We encouraged friends to join and enjoyed many Friday night dinners in the restaurant. The kids, although “welcome” in the dining area, were happy to spend their time in the childcare facility. What a great added bonus: an adults-only dinner! It’s not something my husband and I are often able to enjoy, so it was an unexpected and pleasant treat that we happily took advantage of.

The health club intrinsically became our spot. A place that we all looked forward to going. Somewhere where we all felt comfortable. Even our three-year-old daughter looked forward to going, and as any parent of a “Threenager” knows, she’s the toughest customer around. But one Friday night, that all changed.

When the evening began, I walked up to “our” club with a full heart. My husband and I walked hand-in-hand while our kids happily skipped to the entrance, eager to play with their friends.  I joked that the club was like our own personal “Cheers”, where everybody knew our name. My hubby agreed, and we looked forward to catching up with longtime friends over dinner. We had a lovely time, until we were asked to leave. Yes, we were kicked out. Unbeknownst to anyone – including the staff – we were all apparently in violation of “Club Policy”. 

What had happened?! Well, the service had been slow, and the childcare was about to close. No big deal, right? It was still early – not even 8pm. So we told our waitress that our kids were going to join us for dessert and a quick dance. A local band was playing that night. My daughter slow danced with my husband. My middle son, who is usually so shy, tried out a few dance moves. Our friends and their son did the same. In fact, it was a regular occurrence for them. Their son was a dessert-and-dance-floor regular. The kids loved it. Moreover, our children were all respectful, polite, and admired. The band’s lead singer even made it a point to stop by our table and say hello when she took a break. And then the restaurant hostess promptly followed and asked us all to get out. When we questioned her, she abashedly said that our children were “not welcome”. 

Despite the fact that the club’s Facebook page and website boast a “family friendly” dining area, my family and I were kicked out. Despite the fact that we told our waitress that we were bringing our children into the restaurant for dessert, and she smiled, took our order and asked what else she could get our little ones, my family and I were kicked out. Despite the fact that my children were polite, cordial and respectful of other diners, my family and I were kicked out. Despite the fact that older diners were smiling at our children, and complimenting their excellent behavior, my family and I were kicked out. Unbeknownst to anyone – including the staff – children were not welcome in the restaurant or on the dance floor. So, we were asked to leave.

We were shocked! We were baffled! And then when the reality of the situation quickly sunk in, I was IRATE! On top of everything else, our kids were scared, confused and started to cry. It was like someone had burst their balloon or stolen their favorite toy. 

Needless to say, we haven’t been back. I made all of the necessary phone calls and lodged my complaints. But no one really cared. Instead, we received a phone call asking us to pick up the balance of our membership. And just like that, our family unicorn was gone.

Is this a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No. Are we fortunate to even be in this position? Yes. Membership to a local health club is an “extra”. It’s something that my husband and I place a value on, and we have worked hard to include this benefit in our lifestyle.

I don’t share this story to garner pity, or even to call out the business in question {the name doesn’t matter and who knows, maybe it’s the right fit for another family}. Instead, I share my family’s story because, after a ton of reflection, I truly believe that it is a microcosm for so many other life and parenting situations. Let’s be honest: being a parent is really, really hard. Sometimes you think you’ve found your place or your niche, and you start to open up and feel comfortable only to have the rug pulled out from under you. Sometimes you start to make connections or join a certain group, only to realize that maybe these aren’t really your people. Finding your own place is hard enough! Finding a place where your entire family fits and feels comfortable and belongs is even harder. It can take trial and error, and it’s not necessarily an overnight process.

Maybe that new mom group that you’ve joined just isn’t the right fit. Perhaps you’ve just moved to a new city and your entire family is undergoing the daunting task of making new friends. Maybe your child is being picked on at school or is having difficulty with his or her peer groups. The list could go on, but the story is the same:  It never feels good to be rejected or to be told that you aren’t welcome. 

I’d be lying if I said that being kicked out of the restaurant and ultimately our health club doesn’t still sting. It does. The fact that our children’s happiness was impacted, definitely added an extra gut punch. Someday {maybe} we’ll look back and understand. There’s a solid chance that we won’t ever get it. But perhaps this is what we’ve learned, and maybe it’s enough:

 You might just be too much for some people. That’s OK. Keep doing you! Keep on trucking until you’ve found your people or your spot. When you finally arrive and everything clicks, you’ll know. And someday you’ll appreciate the journey that it took to get to where you’re supposed to be, where you truly belong.

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