A recent visit by a friend with her daughter got us talking about how kids speak to people about certain topics. This one was about food, or more specifically, eating out at restaurants. Apparently her teen girl uses the expression “all the time” whenever she mentions restaurants she’s been to.
This mortifies her mom. 😶
“I don’t know what people think of us when she tells them we go to [any chain restaurant name] all the time. We really don’t go there that often!”
I know how she feels. Like her, we too tend to stick to home-cooked meals, or pick up from small local businesses more than visiting the chain eateries. I would also feel uncomfortable if a kid of mine would announce how we eat at Swiss Chalet or Kelsey’s all the time.
So we wondered, how did this expression come about then?
We turned to the girls and asked them.
“Some of our friends have never gone to Jack Astor’s,” one of them said. “Didn’t even know anything about it!”
I understood those kids. My family rarely ate out anywhere when I was a kid, and back in those days, some of the chain restaurants we are familiar with today didn’t even exist.
Well, neither my family nor my friend’s family are eating out at chains all the time. Why are they saying it like that?
“We don’t go there that often,” my friend exclaimed in shock to her daughter. “When you tell your friends we go there all the time you give the impression we eat out every week. And we don’t.”
We prodded our girls for more insights.
I asked my own kid which of her friends have not eaten out in places like that. She rattled off a list of names, and that’s when I understood.
“None of those girls are involved in team sports,” I said. “This is how you and your brother were introduced to chain restaurants. First through your brother’s hockey tournaments, later through your own. And in the summer, baseball tourneys.”
And not just tourneys, but away games too. How many times did we drive at least an hour to some obscure rink or diamond in some far away town and afterwards, it’s lunch or supper time and everyone is tired and sweaty and all hyped up so off we went to eat with part of the team to some chain because we knew what to expect, the prices were decent, and more often than not, someone had a gift card to cover part of the expense.
It’s true, that during tournaments, team activities typically included team meals at places like Boston Pizza, East Side Mario’s or at the IHOP (I hate that place. Ugh.).
Team bonding often happens outside of the sport. And eating is an enduring, constant occupation during tournaments…
My kids are also familiar with hotels, for similar reasons. Since an early age, they knew all about key cards for the doors, what floors the ice machine is located, what an ice bucket is and how you line it with a plastic baggie, what do do when you forget your toothbrush (ask at the concierge, they’ll give you one) and all sorts of other fun stuff like that.
So, yeah. The kids may interpret these special occasions occurring all the time, which isn’t exactly untrue. But to us parents, the expression makes us cringe. 🙃