Robert St. John column

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 5, 2008

Family dining takes on whole new dimension for young father

I was having lunch with my family in a very nice restaurant on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain the other day. The dining room was packed and everyone was dressed in their Easter finest.

Halfway through the appetizer course, my six-year old son came walking out of the bathroom fastening his belt and zipping up his pants.

Typically, walking through a formal restaurant’s dining room with one’s pants unzipped would be written off as a slight breach of etiquette and chalked up to a first grader’s eagerness to leave the restroom and return to the table, but for one minor detail— he hates to wear underwear.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The not-wearing-underwear dilemma has caused a few problems in his six short years— a trip to the principal’s office in kindergarten after bragging to the third graders that he was “going commando,” and a few notes from his teacher— but to date, no breach of decorum has been quite as severe as walking through the La Provence dining room letting it all hang out.

And when I say “all,” I mean ALL. He flashed a good portion of the dining room. He returned to the table and continued to eat as if nothing unusual or out of the ordinary had occurred.

Welcome to my world.

In my short, yet eventful, parenting career, The Easter Flashing Incident is second only to The Mexican Restaurant Fiasco in terms of noteworthiness and impact.

During my son’s terrible twos (which seemed to last all the way into his frightful fours), we were dining in a local Mexican restaurant. On this particular evening he was feeling fearless and independent and asked if he could go to the bathroom on his own. The restaurant was safe and the bathroom was not located near an exit, so the proud father in me replied, “Why that’s a big step, son. Of course you can go to the bathroom on your own.” His mother frowned but, on this occasion, dad’s rule won the day.

After several minutes my son hadn’t returned. My wife began to worry but I assured her that everything was fine. After several more minutes she told me to go check on him, but I told her to hold firm, this was a big step for him. After several more minutes I gave in and excused myself to go find out what had happened.

The restroom was located on the far side of the restaurant adjacent to the main dining room. While walking I noticed people seated in booths and tables staring at me and chuckling. As I got closer to the restroom people were looking at me and laughing out loud. I wondered what could have happened in the five short minutes my son had been in the restroom to incite this reaction. As I drew even closer to the bathroom I could hear his voice. I let out a sigh of relief. He was O.K.

As I turned the corner, I saw my son, his reddened face peeking out of the bathroom door, his pants to his knees, screaming loudly into the dining room, “Will somebody wipe me?”

My brief relief turned to shock.

Understandably, the answer to his request— which had been shouted over and over and over and over, for the last three minutes— had been “NO.” Each petition for assistance had elicited more laughter and anxiousness from the restaurant’s customers. I did the dirty work and the two of us snuck out of the side door.

Today’s lesson: If you have a son, escort him to the bathroom until he graduates from high school.

Keep me in your prayers. I need all of the help I can get.

For this week’s recipe, Crab Claws Geautreaux, go to the blog on <> .

(Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of seven books including the upcoming New South Grilling. He can be reached at <>).