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.
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 to 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.