Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Restaurants and Toddlers Don't Mix

Last weekend, I decided that we should go out to eat as a family.  We have had mixed experiences eating out with Jr. lately, but because he did so fabulously during our previous outing on New Year's Eve, I completely mentally discarded all memories of public tantrums and restaurant misbehavior.  How foolish of me!

This naive reaction was probably because the New Year's Eve outing was such a test, and Jr. did SO well.  My husband had made reservations at a very nice restaurant several weeks in advance.  He had thoughtfully made the reservations at an hour that only the geriatric or toddler crowds enjoy a meal, thinking that we would avoid the groups of party-goers and romance-seeking couples looking for a night away from their own screaming children.  But, he chose a restaurant that probably had never enjoyed the pleasure of a toddler guest.  This was a cloth-napkin, dim-lighting, candle-centerpiece type of place.  I shared my worries and doubts with my husband and prayed for the best.  I made sure Jr. had a nice long nap, was adequately hungry, and had a few distracting toys.  Despite my preparation, my anxiety spiked when we checked in for our reservations and the hostess wasn't even sure if they owned a highchair for the joint.  "Oh great," I thought, "We're in for a wild ride."

Our beautiful, calm NYE dinner.  The pacifier really helped.

But, they found a high chair and  Jr. did awesome.  He immediately sat in his high chair and chowed down on an over sized "cracker" (the server had a much fancier name for it, but to us it was a cracker).  We ordered quickly - drinks, appetizers, main course all at once.  No time for dessert.  We're realized we were working within a small window of toddler attention-span that could zip away in an instant and be replaced by screams, running around the restaurant, and food throwing.  We made it through the appetizer before Jr. began to refuse his high chair. This usually occurs much earlier in the dinner service, but thanks to the giant cracker, we were spared a few extra minutes.  He happily moved to Daddy's lap in time for the main course and became totally enraptured by Daddy's crab-stuffed shrimp.  Before we knew it, we had finished our meal and were ready to leave.  No tantrums and no drama!  Wowza!

So, coming off this huge success, I was overconfident when we decided to eat out last weekend.  We hopped into the car headed for a local pizza joint - very kid-friendly - without a smidgen of anxiety.  I brought blank paper, Jr.'s new favorite truck book and markers (only a very brave, confident mother would dare to bring markers to a restaurant.)

We started off well.  We were seated in a room filled with other children, so we didn't need to worry a bit about Jr. using his "inside voice." (By the way, toddlers don't have "inside voices.").  I sat him in the high chair, which this establishment had in bulk, and handed over the markers and paper.   He smiled and yelled in his toddler inside-voice, "Trucks!" when I pulled out his book.  Ah, all was well.

Things started to decline when he quickly lost interest in the markers and truck book.  How could that be?  He LOVES those things!  Before the appetizer even arrived, he wanted on Daddy's lap.  He ate a couple of chips and then absolutely NEEDED to sit on Mommy's lap.  For two minutes.  Then, back to Daddy.  Back and forth. Back and forth.

Luckily, our pizza came out quickly.  And, he loves pizza.  He screamed (in his inside-voice) "Peee-paaaa!"  And, continued screaming as I quickly cut and blew on the pizza, begging him to please wait.  He became more and more agitated, and this darn pizza held it's heat well.  When it was finally cool enough to eat, Jr. calmed down a bit and happily shoved some in his mouth.

Not even one piece into the pizza, and Jr.'s kryptonite walked in the room - the one thing that could take his attention from his pizza and revert him into a screaming, one-track-minded, egocentric toddler.  A baby.  In came a family with a baby in a carseat, covered and sleeping.  Jr. loves babies.  We aren't sure why.  Maybe it is because he was the oldest in his infant class at daycare and was around so many infants.  Whatever the reason, he goes nuts for babies.  He's very gentle and appropriate with them, but a protective mother wouldn't know that from the way he screams "Baby!" and jumps up and down.  This poor mother was surely thinking that the crazed toddler running her way would not only wake her baby, but maybe even devour him.  We tried to distract, corale, or just slow Jr. down.  Nothing worked.  The more the mother looked fearful, the more we tried to keep Jr. away, and the more he was determined to get to that baby.  People were starting to stare. While I wrestled Jr., my hubby quickly packed up the uneaten pizza, packed up the worthless markers and book, and asked for the bill. 

Just as we started out the door, the baby woke up.  Jr. quietly walked over and said, "Hi baby!"  He touched the little baby's hand ever so softly, and turned around and walked out the door with us. 

As we drove away, hubby asked, "Do you think we should NEVER eat out again?"

"Oh, no, silly," Dr. Momsie replied.  "Jr. must be exposed to eating at restaurants in order to learn how to behave himself in a restaurant.  Typical toddler stuff.  No worries."

But, really, I think it might be awhile before we venture out again. Maybe restaurants and toddlers just don't mix.

1 comment:

  1. lol, I about died while reading that because it reminds me so much of my own daughter. I dread going out to eat. Like you said we have to expose toddlers to that type of social environment, but it's nothing short of pure torture for me...



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