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Dining Out With Toddlers: Why, Oh Why?

CryingChild_400So you’ve decided to treat the family to dinner out. What a terrible idea. From The Honest Toddler.

Even if you’re bringing a bag of emergency clothes, snacks from home, an iPad, iPhone, iTouch, backup Android, markers, stickers, a 1,001-page activity book, and a stuffed bear, you will eventually regret your choice. The only thing toddlers detest more than dinner is dinner in public. There is an enormous amount of pressure to remain seated in restaurants, as well as to maintain lower than reasonable voice-decibel levels. This, combined with the common practice of refusing service to individuals wearing neither shoes nor shirts, is a recipe for disaster.

Everyone knows that toddlers are burrowing animals. Your child will feel most comfortable under the restaurant table. Leave it alone. Public booster seats and high chairs smell like sick and are constricting.

Through my research, I’ve discovered that the floor directly under the table is spacious, comfortable, and a used-gum factory. Let your child remain out of other diners’ sight in order to ensure his happiness.

There is only one course that your toddler is interested in: the bread. Order the fifteen-dollar macaroni and cheese or chicken strips if you must, but understand that you’ll be taking it home to feast on at midnight (as if we don’t know). Pass your child the breadbasket under the table along with a juice box from home.

Five minutes later, your toddler will be done eating. Your drinks may not have arrived, but now is the time to pack it up and go home. If you decide to stay, know that you are opening yourself up to a world of public embarrassment.

Restaurant behaviors that are perfectly normal but generally distasteful to adults include:

Staring: Like most toddlers, I take extreme delight in making adults feel uncomfortable through my laser beam-like gaze focused directly on a grown-up’s face. You’ll notice that your child is expressionless as he drills a hole into his target using an intense glare. The joy experienced by your toddler compares to the feeling parents get when five or more people like their Facebook status update.

Loud talking: In order to be heard over the sounds of chatter, clinking plates, and rattling cups, toddlers need to scream anything they’d normally say. There’s nothing you can do about this other than tell the entire restaurant to shut their mouths.

Table sweeping: The urge to draw one’s arm across the table and make as many items as possible fall to the ground is natural. You should have left already, so blame yourself at this point.

A fifty-cent box of crayons and a menu that doubles as a coloring book are no match for a toddler determined to end a family’s evening out. Next time go to the drive-through and eat in the car.

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