Short Story

Mom, Dad and 6-year-old Tommy went to a restaurant for dinner.

After reading their menus, each member of the family placed an order.

Dad:  “I’ll have the garlic veal with fried rice.”
Mom:  “I’ll have grilled chicken with the chef’s salad.”
Tommy:  “I’ll have a corned beef sandwich with extra pickles.”

Mom hastened to interrupt, as she handed the menus back to the waitress, “Oh, don’t mind him, Tommy here will have a hamburger with fries, that’s what he always has.”

Several minutes later the waitress returned with a large tray of food.  She handed Dad the veal, and Mom got the chicken.  Then, she placed a corned beef sandwich in front of Tommy.

“MOM!  DAD!”  Tommy shouted in excitement.  “She thinks I’m REAL!”


Note: I read this story years ago, although I can’t recall where – do enlighten me if you know the source!

What can we as parents learn from this anecdote?  Does this story trigger any painful memories from your childhood?

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  1. Thank you for this story. Unfortunately, my mother was just like Tommy’s mother. My voice was unheard throughout my childhood. Even now, as an adult in my mid-30’s, my parents still think I am just a kid and they always know better. I really appreciate this story and site, as my parenting goal is to raise children who feel listened to, loved, and acknowledged all the time.

    • Wilma Seville says:

      Hello, at one time it was very much felt that children should be seen and not heard. I am sure that you will remember how you felt (and still feel) and will make it a point to treat your little ones with the respect they deserve. Good luck.

  2. Wilma Seville says:

    This story has a very valid point. Without any bad intentions at all, the parent countermanded the child’s order and made him feel like he was of no importance and what he wanted was of no value. Take that one step further, then the child was of no value.

    The waitress was far more atuned to the little fellow, and brought him what he wanted.

    She could have been in trouble for doing that with the mother, but she saw far better what the child needed – recognition of his own worth…….

  3. On a similar note, a while back I was talking to a friend of my grandson’s who is taller than me and graduating from Grade 8 tonight. He was complaining because his parents still get themselves full meals at fast food restaurant drive-throughs and order him “a small fries” to nibble on in the back seat. Quote: “That was great when I was 4, but I’m 5’8″ and I need way more than that now!”

    It’s amazing what parents can do when they’re operating on Autopilot.

  4. Jeremy Garfunkel says:

    You asked for the soucre of the story. “In their book Stories of the Spirit, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman tell this story: A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parent gave their orders. Immediately, the five-year-old daughter piped up with her own: ‘I’ll have a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke.’ ‘Oh no you won’t, interjected the dad and turning to the waitress he said, ‘She’ll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes, milk.’ Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, ‘So, hon, what do want on that hot dog?’ When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, ‘She thinks I’m real.

  5. Jeannie Rydeski says:

    This is a fantastic story of feeling important in someone’s eyes. That’s what children want from Mom & Dad, most especially. They want the same respect that we expect from them, the love, attention and also to feel that their opinion and decision does matter to their parents and grandparents. When I take my grandchildren out to eat, they always order for themselves. They have since they first learned to speak. It is my belief that children who get to make their own decisions are far more self-confident. It is vitally important that this process start at a young age so they will learn how to make their own decisions. After all Mom & Dad will not always be around later when they go out to eat with their friends and other family members. Praising them for the good choices they make is a no-brainer. Guidance is what we give them, but ultimately they need to learn how to make wise choices. The first time my eldest daughter made a decision about her own desert, she looked at the waitress and excitedly said, “I would like to have ‘Apple Pie Ala Comode’.” The restaurant customers were encouraging her by ordering the same thing in the same manner. How cool is that? Aren’t grown-ups simply wonderful when they are supportive of our most precious gift from God, our children? We either make or break our children’s spirit by the way we choose to guide them. Give them a chance and they will amaze you, with their own wisdom!
    My gratitude to the waitress who saw the need of a small child and followed her own heart and used better judgment than the parents did. I’ll bet this ‘beautiful waitress’ has some pretty remarkable children of her own!!!

  6. archana says:

    This is a really enlighting story! We, parents knowlingly or unknowingly don’t allow kids to take their own decisions, be it restaurant choices or whatever. This story is a eye opener for
    parents to correct themselves and value childrens thoughts…

  7. My mother still does this sort of thing to this very day. Over the years I’ve had to make a conscious effort not to get angry when it happens and to deal with it in more proactive ways. I’ve come to realize that she actually does it because she cares but she doesn’t realize the negative effects it can have, especially on a child.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story.
    I used to be like that mom….
    My oldest child made me realize that was not
    the way she wanted to be treated.
    Our children do have a voice and we need to listen.