No More Eating Out

As one glance at my wastline attests, I love food and I love to eat.

Therefore it goes without saying that dining at restaurants has long been one of my favorite pasttimes. The simple fact of the matter is I’m not a cook. MJ is actually pretty adept at the culinary arts, but she gets home long after the metaphorical dinner bell sounds every evening. And I’m sure at least some of you parents out there will agree, there’s nothing like deciding to go out to eat and skip the dinner preparation process that involves a 2-year-old latching onto you and being under foot every time you move in the kitchen.

But as Will nears his second birthday, I’m finding the tables have turned and now going out to eat is the cumbersome task where dinner is involved.

A week ago Will was just getting over his cold and the three of us had been stuck in the house. It was before the spring weather graced the northeast, so we were all dealing with gray skies, sickness and the walls started closing in big time. We decided a trip to Chili’s was just what we needed, so we packed up Will and made the 20 minute drive to tasty burgers and MJ’s favorite chile.

Bad move.

Unlike when Will was a newborn and we could sit him in his carrier and enjoy a quiet meal, he’s now a precocious and annoying toddler. And even though he’s my son and I love him┬áto pieces, when we go out to eat he morphs into a wee little asshole of epic proportions.

At first we tried to stick him in the highchair but he immediately pitched a shitfit. I was OK with that because that one was our bad. He’s too big for a highchair. So I asked the waitress for a booster seat, thinking he’d appreciate the independence and settle down. But all a seat at the table meant to him was that he could exit his booster seat and walk all around the booth. He started grabbing salt and pepper shakers. He went after everyone’s silverware. Then he started pulling pictures off the walls of the booth. And he wanted everyone’s drinks except for his own.

Just for good measure he began shrieking “SODA!!!” as loud as possible.

Our food hadn’t even arrived yet, and we had the exorcist baby on our hands. I think we’ve all, at one point or another, sat near the couple with the screaming baby. And if you’re anything like me, you watch the parents intently and judge them on how they handle the situation. In that moment I could feel all eyes on us. Watching. Judging.

At first we were stern with Will and forced him to sit down. We tried to distract him with toys, his own food (which was brought out first), little games we could play, etc. But nothing worked. Then we told him if he didn’t calm down and stop yelling, he’d get a timeout. Then we gave him the timeout by bringing him to the car and reentering the restaurant.

Still didn’t work. In fact, I think it just agitated him.

There is nothing on this Earth that bothers me more than being perceived as the irresponsible parent who has no control over his kid. I was mortified sitting in that restaurant, and even worse was the fact that I was getting seriously pissed off. So I made the executive decision to cut our meal short. I told the waitress to box up our stuff and I grabbed Will and took him out to the car, muttering how awful he was acting the entire way.

If you’re looking for some kind of insight as to how to deal with unruly toddlers in restaurants, keep looking. I have no pearls of wisdom here. I’m just really pissed off that it’s going to be a few years before my wife and I can actually eat at a restaurant in relative peace.

There are a lot of great things about having kids, but this is not one of them.

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14 thoughts on “No More Eating Out

  1. I think the “Pearl of wisdom” was leaving the restaurant. Years ago my daughter tried a similar stunt in the mall. On the way out with her on drapped over my shoulder yelling “I dont like you daddy”. I reiterated, “Too bad, so long as you love and respect me were ok, now be quiet were going home” :)

  2. I have TWO of these…. I usually order a glass of wine IMMEDIATELY when I sit down just to attempt to cope. But I agree, there are only so many years one can sit in the house (I did 4… 4 years is too long).

    Have a drink, try to laugh and hope for some time to pass! ;-)

  3. One time when I was a kid and they still had those metal trays on high chairs, I made so much noise banging my spoon on the tray that my parents had to leave midway through the meal. The entire restaurant started clapping when they did.

    Kids have a bell curve for hanging out at restaurants. First easy, then, impossible, then OK again. Hope you get to OK soon…

  4. My kiddo has learned the swipe – which is when he’s no longer hungry (for the moment) to swipe everything away thats infront of him (usually the entire meal)… that lands on the floor. Usually we get a few dirty looks from that alone (and that was a few months ago)…

    now he’s learned that when he start crying and screaming we get into calm him down ASAP mode… because he’s pretty loud and no one should have to wear their neighbors kid’s food out after eating someplace.

    it’ll get better but it’ll get worst before it gets better – wait till you give him real cups to dump on the floor (thats wonderful!)

  5. I managed to miss that particular problem with all 3 of my kids. They never once threw a fit in a public place. But they’ve also set my house on fire, covered my kitchen in 10 pounds of expensive Canadian flour, put holes in the walls, come close to killing each other and took that shit for America on the carpet that I still haven’t sent you a photo of, lol.

    The best wisdom of parenting….it could be worse. Because it could be, it really could be.

  6. I’ve so been there and I’m sure it’s not over yet. I hate us being perceived as “those” parents too. Hopefully, most others have had kids and can relate. And those that can’t yet will someday.

  7. I’ve so been there and I’m sure it’s not over yet. I hate us being perceived as “those” parents too. Hopefully, most others have had kids and can relate. And those that can’t yet will someday.

  8. Yes, you and MJ can eat out, but you’ll have to get a babysitter and do it by yourselves. You have to love toddlers. They sure know how to put a little entertainment into the evening meal.

  9. That is why God created Fuddruckers and food delivery. In all seriousness though, I am not one who judges the parents. I feel for them! Now obviously you shouldnt be taking the kid to a high end restaurant, but you shouldnt feel chained to home just because you have a toddler.

  10. Oh and PS – Chili’s is ALWAYS loud. Nobody should be bothered by a 2 year old. I cant remember a Chili’s experience where you dont have to speak loudly just to be heard by people at the same table! (and they have a kids menu, so they shouldnt be all judgy)

  11. You’ve seen Silence of the Lambs, right? Can you possibly wheel him into the restaurant already strapped to a vertical gurney? You know, just prop him up in a far off corner. It works wonders. Patrons tend to ignore child neglect when it means they’ll be able to eat their dinner in peace.

    If that isn’t your cup of tea then try a bazillion coloring books and little toys. We pick things that our little one hasn’t seen in a while so that it’s like a retro party of nostalgia. By the time she’s bored and wants to do exactly what you outlined above (being Ms. Grabby Hands, demanding stuff she really doesn’t care about, or making her rounds in the booth) the food arrives and she eats.

    Kids have no concept of etiquette when dining out but you can do your best to keep them entertained. If all else fails, try the Hannibal Lecter treatment. If anyone complains, just unstrap him and seat him at their table. You’ll enjoy a nice meal until the cops arrive.

  12. People who judge parents and how their children act in public are one of the following:
    a) insecure jackballs who’s kids are way worse than yours and are trying to mentally tear you down so their feel better about their pathetic parenting skillz
    b) non-parents who therefore have no f*!king right to judge you on anything, ever, because they’re completely clueless about everything
    c) older parents who’ve been out of the biz so long that they can actually go out to restaurants and have therefore forgotten what having a toddler is like
    d) people who were somehow blessed with beautiful, perfect children who never did anything wrong but don’t have the good grace to be thankful for it every day of their lives.

    There are only two proper reactions to a child acting up in public:
    1) complete and total sympathy
    2) help. If you’re upset by the toddler and don’t think the parents are doing everything they possibly can to calm him/her down, then put down your Margarita-Grilled-Chicken-eating ass and make a face at, sing to, or otherwise entertain the kid and give the parents a chance to take a bite or two.

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