Her plan was for them to have a nice meal out but soon, everything changed. Her young daughter was throwing a tantrum in front of the entire restaurant and she was beyond embarrassed.
But that wasn’t even the worst part. What started as a simple request for a to-go box ended up as a viral Facebook post. She was confused and hurt. Why would they say “no” to a struggling, single mother?
Courtney Pedigo wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, she really felt like she and her family deserved a night out, but on the other hand, she dreaded how her young daughter might behave.
Rather than being pessimistic, she decided to go to Olive Garden for the evening, but never imagined the restaurant would treat her and her daughter like this.
Motherhood was always on the cards for Courtney. She was always in awe of her little nieces, nephews, and cousins.
But that best thing about babies was handing them back to their mothers when they began a tantrum. She loved them, but she wasn’t ready to give up her freedom just yet. Then, the unexpected happened.
Harlynn was born 8 pounds and 8 ounces. From the moment Courtney laid eyes on her little girl, she knew that she was destined to be a mother. She knew that no matter what life would throw at her, she would be just fine.
She didn’t need a prince. All she needed was her little girl. The first few months were harder than expected. Courtney was anxious when Harlynn was out of her sight. But as time went on, she began to realize that she needed to spend time with the other people in her life.
When Courtney pulled up to the restaurant in Greensboro, North Carolina with her father, stepmother, and some of her parents’ friends, 18-month-old Harlynn was already being fussy.
But didn’t Courtney deserve to lead a normal life without the fear of her daughter making a scene? Bravely, she walked into the restaurant and was greeted by a waitress, who she could tell was already busy serving other diners. She never expected their quiet night out to cause such a ruckus. And she definitely didn’t think she would have a run-in with an employee.
The second Harlynn was sat in her highchair, the screaming started. Other diners winced as they tried to get through their starters, while the toddler’s tantrum made Courtney’s face flush red.
She didn’t want to eat. She didn’t want to be in her chair. Courtney was ready to give up and go home. The struggling mom approached their waitress to ask for their food to go, but it was hard work with a full restaurant vying for her attention.
Eventually, Courtney was able to make eye contact with the busy waitress and asked for their food to go because she understood Harlynn was ruining everyone else’s evening.
But what seemed like a simple request so they could make a quick getaway was met with a response Courtney really didn’t expect. How could she say that to her?
“No,” the waitress said, flat-out denying the stressed-out mother the food that she’d paid for.
Courtney understood that the restaurant was busy and it might take her a little while to get to them, but being told “no” like that in a popular restaurant chain was a real shock. “You’re going to go sit down and enjoy your dinner,” the server added.
Courtney had thought that at the very least, the family could eat their meal together in the car and if Harlynn continued to behave the way she had been, at least the other restaurant-goers wouldn’t be bothered.
But without the food, they would go hungry. Surely it wouldn’t be too much trouble for the waitress to quickly package the food up for her?
Do I Just Leave?
Courtney sat back down at the table. She was aware that by bringing a screaming toddler into a restaurant full of people that she’d made life a little less pleasant for the other diners.
But surely she was entitled to a few boxes to take her food home in. Perhaps she should talk to the manager, but did she really want to hang around in the restaurant any longer?
Just then, Harlynn started to kick her heels against the table. Courtney knew something terrible was about to happen. Her face flushed with mortification as the other diners began to complain. She was all too aware that all eyes were firmly on the spectacle her daughter was making.
But now, she was also becoming angry. This wasn’t the first time she had endured terrible service because she had a disruptive child, but this was really just too much.
But before she could decide what to do next, their waitress finally made it over to the table. Courtney thought she might have changed her mind and had come to the table to collect their plates to pack their food up.
But the waitress once again refused them a to-go box so they could calm the baby down. And the frazzled mom was getting dangerously fed up with being treated so rudely.
Without batting an eye, 24-year-old Nianni Rudder restated: “You’re going to go sit down and enjoy your dinner.” Courtney’s eyes widened in disbelief. Was the waitress refusing to help her? This was completely unacceptable.
With Harlynn’s screeching scraping her nerves, she opened her mouth to give the waitress a piece of her mind. But the waitress just walked away.
Courtney was puzzled by this. What was going on? Had she done something wrong? Did that waitress have something against her? Did she even know her?
All these questions kept piling up in her mind. She didn’t even know what to do now. Should she leave the restaurant? Should she try to talk to another waitress? And suddenly, the waitress that had refused to help with Courtney’s request came back. She was carrying something with her, but it was not a bag.
What Was It?
It was the meal she had asked for plus some ice cream! But Courtney was still confused: why had she refused to give her the to-go bag?
The waitress would have time to make her reasons clear to the single mom. She served her the meal and sat at her table. It turned out that the two women had a lot more in common than one might think, and they had plenty to talk about.
“You’re going to go sit down and enjoy your dinner and I will be there to sit with her!” Nianni told the frazzled mother. Courtney was lost for words. Harlynn wouldn’t sit for her mother, she was hardly going to do it for a complete stranger.
Courtney wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. She was sick of people staring and whispering. But Harlynn was smitten. She sat giggling away with Nianni. Courtney couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
It Was Like They Knew Each Other
It almost seemed like little Harlynn and the waitress had been friends forever. Courtney was amazed at how easily she had been calmed down by the waitress’ presence.
Courtney was glad that she didn’t have to go to her car to eat. But she was still asking herself what could be the reason behind the waitress’ generous gesture.
The answer to this question was simpler than one would think: the 22-year-old waitress could tell that Harlynn wasn’t feeling too well and Courtney was quite stressed.
She felt sympathy for the single mom’s situation, as she was a single mom herself. The two women spent a while talking about the hardships of motherhood but also about its joys.
Courtney and Nianni spoke about the challenges single moms face when raising their children alone. Nianni told Courtney that she was raised by a single mom herself because her father had not been a part of her life. And, sadly, her mother had passed away just two years ago.
“I’m just a college student with no parents trying to make ends meet,” Nianni said. “It was great to get some time to sit down and talk to [Courtney].”
Nianni also told Courtney that she’d been working at Olive Garden for around two years – she had to get a steady job after her mom died from cancer.
Although she picks up as many shifts as she can, she’s was also studying at Durhan Technical Community College and pursuing an associate’s degree. One day, she hoped to become an anesthesiologist.
Courtney told Nianni that she had also worked as a waitress, so she understood how difficult it must have been for the waitress to take the time to help her out. After chatting and entertaining Harlynn until Courtney had finished her meal, Niannai finally left the table to go and get the check.
When she came back, the two women embraced each other wholeheartedly. But after Courtney left, Niannai noticed that she had something in her apron’s pocket.
What Could It Be?
She had taken her apron off to sit down with Courtney and Harlynn, and it had stayed there while she went for the check. And aside from the meal’s price on the table, Courtney had left a $50 note in Niannai’s pocket as a tip!
Niannai’s gesture meant a lot to Courtney, and she wanted to show her appreciation somehow, within her limited means. This story is a prime example of solidarity and how each of us can do something to make others’ lives better – that’s why Courtney had to share it.
“I actually got to eat my food while it was still hot!” exclaimed Courtney in a now-viral Facebook post. And that’s not all she had to say.
“[Nianni] is just an awesome person,” Courtney said. “I was just in complete shock because nothing has ever happened to me like that. I just wanted to shine some light on the person she is.” How could someone who is already under so much stress from rush hour take the time to sit with her baby girl?
Nianni is no stranger to the mood swings of young children. Her niece has just graduated from the terrible-twos and has now been accepted into the terrifying-threes.
She knows how irritable children can get when they’re hungry, tired, grumpy, sad, happy, afraid, or confused. Her shift was nearly over anyway. And there was plenty of other staff on to help bustle tables. But what would her manager think of her taking a break?
Apparently, Nianni’s managers are more than understanding. “My managers are great,” Nianni explained.
“Our motto at Olive Garden is, ‘When you’re here, you’re family.’ If that’s all I had to do was sit down and take a couple moments to help this young lady with her baby, I’d do it every day if I could.” And Nianni’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Courtney was so touched by Nianni’s gesture that she dedicated a Facebook post to the server and her kindness – accompanied by a sweet photo of Rudder feeding Harlynn ice-cream.
And after outlining the incident, Courtney went on to give Niannni considerable praise for her actions.
Courtney’s post on Facebook has gained thousands of likes and comments. The online community has raved about Nianni’s kind gesture.
Mothers, sisters, and aunts have shared their appreciation for understanding a mother’s plight. But was everyone in the restaurant that night as understanding?
“Girl, you will never truly know how appreciative I am for tonight,” gushed Courtney of her experience.
“I seriously admire you. Not only because you took the time to bribe my bratty little human with sweets so I could eat but because you are so so strong!” But as far as Nianni is concerned, she was just doing her job.
Nianni, who has a three-year-old niece, understood what Courtney was going through and felt like she deserved to stay where she was.
She knew raising a child isn’t easy – especially when there’s no father in the picture. She knew this because her own mom had raised her all alone. She understood exactly what the stranger was going through.
It Takes A Village
The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is one that still rings true – even if we’ve moved away from that concept in modern society.
Single moms, in particular, need all the help they can get. Next time you see a mom struggling with her child, instead of getting annoyed, see if you can help out. Nianni’s help meant the world to Courtney!