I used to love going out to dinner. There is just something so invigorating about treating yourself to a meal that you do not cook, filled with ingredients that you do not have in the fridge, and topped off with a dessert that you did not have to prepare. Not to mention the satisfying, albeit over-priced cocktails and the ability to skip out on the cleanup portion of dinner. Heaven.
And then I had kids. To be fair, the terrible public dining age does go away, and before my second child was born, we had many a pleasant meal at a restaurant with our preschooler. And then we started all over again with Sophie. There is a brief honeymoon stage when it is advisable to go out to dinner as frequently as possible- I often sat in a restaurant booth, draped in a conspicuous nursing cover, carefully shoveling in forkfuls of pasta over my baby who was asleep on my boob. But that doesn’t last forever. In fact, once the public dining honeymoon stage has passed, it becomes decidedly un-fun to take your mobile child almost anywhere. Except to their grandparents’ house- after you peel out of the driveway alone.
My husband and I, foolish saps that we are, repeatedly succumb to the delusion that it is fun to take our two daughters on weekend getaways to the mountains. It was nary two months ago that I Live-Tweeted our plunge into Sound Puzzle-Kidz Bop Hell, and yet just weeks later, off we went on a two-day, one-night excursion through Rocky Mountain National Park.
To be fair, we actually had a lot of fun in the car, and there was minimal whining and virtually no hysterical sobbing. When we arrived at our destination, things took a turn for the worst. As in, a U-Turn into the Tenth Level of Hell. Our problems all started with one poor choice: We decided we’d take the girls to our favorite BBQ restaurant.
The problem with taking your kids to eat in public boils down to two words. Expectations and Disappointment. As in, you expect to enjoy your digestive experience with a modicum of dignity, and you are tremendously disappointed when your kids turn your baby-back-rib consumption into a bitter battle with indigestion, thanks to your humiliation-fueled food shoveling.
I have written about this before: it seems I did not learn my lesson from 5 Reasons I Never Want To Eat at a Restaurant With My Children Again. Apparently I am a glutton for punishment. I’ll tell you what I’m not- a glutton for actual food. Because when you eat at a restaurant with your children, expecting to enjoy your food is a rookie, jackass mistake. Unless, as mentioned, you are eating with one hand while cradling a baby who is asleep while latched onto your boob, your meal is not going to be savored slowly. (Who would have though I would one day long for the day when I dropped Chicken Marsala down my Hooter Hider and onto my infant’s head? Those were simpler times.)
The night of our ill-fated mountain dinner, it took approximately 14 prompts from my husband and me to coax our six year old away from her Junie B Jones book and out the door of our hotel room to go to said BBQ joint. She of course ignored our repeated suggestions to use the bathroom. Once we arrived, I was inspired to write this tweet, thanks to the pace of my toddler who was clearly in no hurry to eat ribs and baked beans:
I think toddlers should be called dawdlers instead. If you have somewhere you need to be and have an unrestrained toddler- my condolences.
— Mommy, for real. (@MommyisForReal) July 15, 2013
We sat down, ordered (after thrusting the kids’ menu on top of our sullen daughter’s Junie B book- I suppose there are worse things than dining with a bookworm, no?) and made the mistake of ordering beers for ourselves. When exactly did we think we would be graced with the time to savor alcoholic beverages? I promptly realized I’d forgotten Sophie’s bib in the car, and thought I would generously allow my husband five minutes of uninterrupted beer drinking and take her along with me to retrieve it.
As soon as we set foot outside, my wandering tyrant barreled away from me, began scooping up gravel, and went all “limp baby” on me when I tried to lift her.My husband saw me struggling and brought her back inside while I went to the car. Much. Faster. We did tag-team beer drinking after that; I took my turn with my two kids on the sidewalk first, and when he came outside and asked if I wanted to switch, I nodded gratefully and returned to my beer. No sooner than I had opened up Twitter on my iPhone and took two measly swigs of beer did I spot the three of them returning to the booth. I may have actually muttered, “WTF?” aloud, so thoroughly disgruntled was I.
“Poop!” Sophie announced proudly. Of course. I had just sat down alone, and she needed to poop. I sighed, rummaged around in my purse, and found that there were no pull-ups to be found. My husband gamely volunteered to return to the minivan yet again, fetch a pull-up, and take her to the family restroom in the park. As soon as they left, our food arrived, and I said a silent prayer of thanks to the food gods. I would have at least seven minutes alone to enjoy my ribs and corn bread. And beer! Hallelujah!
“I need to go potty,” my six year old whined. I slammed down my fork. “No!” I snapped. “Daddy and I asked you to go four times before we left, and we are not leaving the table now with all our food here. You’re just going to have to wait!” She sulked miserably and then announced that she hated her pizza. Meanwhile, I was forcing myself to enjoy giant mouthfuls of mashed potatoes, akin to Clark Griswold informing his disheartened family members that they were going to have the “Hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Fuckin’ Kaye!”
The proud pooper and papa returned, and my heroic husband offered to take our oldest to the restroom, perhaps noticing my sticky hands and the fact that I had not yet used the provided moist towelette. Really, it made more sense for him to go. (And yes, he is awesome.) After 45 seconds, Sophie announced that she was “Ah done!” with her mac and cheese. Of course. Of course she was all done. During our final nine minutes at the table, Izzy pouted, fretted, and refused to eat any of the food we offered from our own plates, and I held up the iPhone with one hand for my wee narcissist to watch videos of herself while I gulped beer with my other. I would have loved to have seen a photo of myself in that moment, captioned of course with “Mother of the Year.”
As my husband desperately heaped mounds of our uneaten food into to-go boxes, I began to get the giggles in an unconscious effort to counteract his understandably surly mood. As we stepped outside and Sophie attempted to once again careen towards freedom, I tried to lighten the mood by noting, “I am starting to understand why people put leashes on their todd- OHMYGOD, NO!” Sophie had picked up a cigarette butt and was moving it towards her mouth in slow motion. With the other hand, she threw a rock at her big sister. “Can we go to the park now, Mommy?” Izzy chirped happily. Though I managed to bite my tongue, there were only two words that sprang to mind: Hell. No.
Welcome Back to Finish the Sentence Friday!
Janine from Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic Kate from Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine? Kristi from Finding Ninee Me from Mommy, for Real
Ok you already know how much I relate to this one. But I have new stories to add to this one. One happened two weekends ago, when we went out for a late lunch, early dinner. My girls scoffed down tortillas chips and there meals. As soon as my meal arrived, Emma decided she needed to throw up. No joke we barely made it to the restroom before she did this (thankfully int he toilet). But still right when my meal was served. It couldn’t make this up if I tried. And then we attempted dinner out after a long day out. As soon as my food arrived, this time she needed to poop right at that exact moment. I swear to god I don’t know what a hot meal looks like and so felt your pain on this post!!
Janine, that is both hilarious and horrible!!! And no, you can’t make that stuff up!
We’re at the point where it’s about 50-50 if the restaurant will be a pleasant experience or not… and I have had to adjust my expectation of “dining out” to mean “meal at the mall food court.” And my 4yo who refuses to potty train suddenly shows amazing interest in the potty as soon as we set foot into a restaurant. LOVE the Griswold reference…. NO! We will ENJOY our meal! …. I think we will soon have a small window when we can go out to dinner and it will be pleasant, and then we’ll get to the stage where they cannot be seen in public with us, or they will sit at the table with their headphones in….
You are so right- the window is narrow- seize it! And I’m so glad somebody appreciated the Griswold bit. I laughed while writing it. 🙂
Holy crap. And to think that I was oh-so-jealous of your travels to my old favorite stomping grounds (and I still am because I also know that you had moments of wonder and awe), eating out with these freaking tiny humans can so just plain-old suck it. We’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. The “not hungry and I’m eating nothing and let’s go even though you don’t even have your food yet because it would be so much more fun for me if we were instead buying a toy right now” to the “it’s 8pm and you cannot possibly not be done while listening to the fact that kiddo is NOT done, has no intentions of being done and every time he takes a break and we think he’s done, he starts eating the one food on the plate that we want him to eat.”
Awesome post, as always friend.
Yeah…this one was actually from a month ago- when we were in Steamboat, we had the luxury of my parents there, but we still tried to eat in the condo most of the time. I think we ventured out to a restaurant twice, and my benevolent Dad wandered around after Sophie. Someday it will be fun to eat in public again…
God, I am exhausted. Sad to say.
True. So very true. Every single word of it. (I’m sorry). But it does get better. 🙂
Cute photos! Your pics make people want to have kids, but your story tells a different tale. I have four, so I can relate. My four are so cool now that I’m a proud mamma hen when I’m seen with them in public. Keep on keeping on!
Funny how that works, huh? The photos often tell a different story… Thanks Christina!
I used to look at those families who let their kids use electronics or read books at the table and think, “It’s so sad they dont’ communicate.” Now I am one of those families and you know what I think…? Communicaiton is over rated! Most of what my boys have to say is not really appropriate for table conversation (welcome to 7 and 9.5 year old boys!) and tends to make me want to barf in my mouth a bit. I’ve learned over the years that a few minutes of coloring, a few more minutes of “tell me what’s new” and we’re good to go with books and electronics. And let’s be completely honest here, I’m a mom. There is little they have to talk about that I haven’t already heard in the elventybillion hours I am with them before and after school every single day, right?
Loved this post!!
That makes me feel better, Vicky! The electronics are the only way we manage sometimes. They may be a crutch, but they work!
You make a compelling argument for eating at home every night! I’ve not yet tried taking Niece and Neff out for an evening meal, but I forsure don’t feel ready yet, and not after this! I shall wait until they’re considerably older before I try it!
Yep. Hold off as long as you can!
OMG…yes Stephanie. I love girls night out for just this reason…it’s crazy taking a kid out…LOL. I rather have Dino bring a big bag of toys and go at it…then try to make him sit quietly. Sometimes we get looks, but they don’t realize what he would do without all the toys.
Oh yeah, we have totally sat in the corner and dumped out a huge bag of toys onto the floor to amuse our toddler! You are so right- people may look at you funny but the alternative is way worse! And thank God for the occasional girls night!
I have been blessed with food loving children.. all who love a place to eat anywhere. I had very few times when we had issues while out to eat with the boys at any time.. again because they are food lovers lol. The thought of NOT getting to eat was greater than their need to act up..
You are one lucky lady! 😀
I totally remember those days. Mine are 9 and 11 now, but here’s a classic “rookie jackass mistake” for you: we took our children (then 2 and 3) to a Vietnamese restaurant with both sets of parents. I had bananas and granola bars in my diaper bags to keep them busy with markers and paper. I don’t know what I was thinking with Vietnamese. It wasn’t long being my impatience had one toddler under my arm, paper, markers half falling out of my other hand, and diaper bag over my shoulder STORMING out saying “This was a stupid idea! NEVER AGAIN!”
That sounds miserable! So you can tell us that it gets better, right? 🙂
Oh, I used to LOVE going out to dinner. Now…um..not so much. Here’s the thing. Now that my kids are 13 and 9 I don’t have to go to the bathroom with them and they are past the all and out meltdown phase…but they fight all the time so it’s just as aggravating to take them out. It’s like if one of them is calm and happy, the other has a sensor that goes off and they can’t help but try to irritate one another. BAH!! –Lisa
Argh!!! It’s always going to be something, isn’t it?
This made me laugh, Stephanie – probably because I could relate but I don’t anymore. Dining out with my kids now is pretty pleasant, although paying for four adult meals is not cheap!
That is a good point, Dana! I guess there’s always a trade-off, isn’t there?
Okay, Steph, I probably shouldn’t have read this less than 24 hours from a trip with my two year old. We’re driving seven hours to stay in a group of cabins on a lake with my family. Inevitably, my whole family will want to go out to a restaurant. Because either though my brother and sister have toddler-age kids, they seem to be the easiest, most laid-back toddlers in human history. Infuriatingly. When we lived in Boston, we ate out all the time. I loved finding new restaurants, meeting friends. Now, doing those things in a public space seems incomprehensible. Great post, Steph, and now I understand your vacation a little better…
Oh no! Terrible timing! Disregard everything I wrote, OK? And good luck to you! People with perfectly behaved, mellow-dispositioned children are infuriating! xo
OMG!!! I laughed so hard, but only because I can feel your pain! Our girls are older now – 11, 8, & 6, but our problem is that they never agree on a restaurant. No matter where we go, at least one of them declares “I hate this restaurant!” and then proceeds to whine, pout, and pretty much ruin the meal for everyone! And, there’s still the whole cutting up their food, someone has to got to the bathroom, etc.
Tag-team bear drinking, though, we’ve got to give that one a try! 🙂
Yes, three cheers for tag-team drinking! And your comment made me laugh, too!
“limp baby” ha! I’ve written several posts about this topic, so, once again, Stephanie, you and I are on the same page. I think that the big problem for me is that I STILL have the same expectation about going to a restaurant that I had before becoming a mom: that it will be a relaxing way to spend time. So, each time, my expectations are horribly dashed, especially when it turns out to be MORE work than just staying at home and cooking! Sigh! I also NEVER feel like my husband participates enough, so I end up mad at him. Sigh. Great post!
Limp baby is the worst! It’s just so darn effective… which of course they know… And seriously, when am I going to learn to ditch those expectations?
Thank you. It’s posts like this that make me feel not quite so bad about never having gotten around to having kids. I get to enjoy almost all of my meals in peace. Had to laugh at the limp baby comment – I used to watch a friend’s SIX kids, and one of the little ones would do the opposite – go stiff as a board. That scared the crap out of me the first few times. I thought he was having a seizure or something! Just didn’t like putting clothes on mostly LOL.
I remember babysitting a toddler that did the stiff-as-a-board thing and I worried the same thing! Kids are diabolical, I’ll tell you that much… 😉
Girrrrrrl, I feel you. I haven’t had a leisurely meal at a restaurant with the family since…well, ever. Even when things are going well, I’m shoveling food into my mouth at lightening speed because- Who knows when the ball will drop and somebody will start screaming/breaking things/running around/all of the above? (Oh my- run on sentence.)
Well, the entire meal is pretty much one long, unpleasant run-on sentence is it not? So, you pretty much nailed it. 😀
Hilarious!! Yeah we truly skipped a whole season (age walking to 3ish) of going out to eat. All of our birthday’s are in December so I think it might have been a December that Christopher turned three that dinner kinda went okay. Just kinda.
Trains going around the ceiling
Balloons are the WORST. Yes, we skipped the same amount of time with our oldest, but for some reason we’ve gone insane and continue to go out with our youngest. Why???
We were NEVER good at taking out even one child. Then it was two, then three, then four. Now we’re TERRIBLE at it. As my husband likes to say, “Why would we leave the mother ship? Everything is here.” We get sitters and go out alone. 😉
You are smart, Nina! I love the Mother Ship analogy…
I am so with you on the no dining with kids thing. And the HELL. NO. to the post-restaurant playground visit. We have to be TOTALLY desperate to venture out to eating establishments with our brood these days. There is an upside to staying home more: if you add up the money you save from not taking EVERYONE out, you can afford a babysitter once and a while so that you and the hubs can enjoy prepared food and cocktails!!!!
That is the best strategy yet- save your money and go out to a dinner than you will actually enjoy- sans kids!
Ohhhh, man, this is SO how it is, especially when you venture out to your favorite restaurant!! Hope you grabbed some alcohol on the way back to the hotel ’cause yall deserved it! 🙂
Yup… we totally earned it! 🙂
OMG. That sounds hellish. We haven’t eaten with our 2 y/o in a restaurant in 9 months. Holy hell, that sounds so sad when I write it out. I just never see the point, you know? She puts even the pickiest of eaters to shame, so I have to pre-pack her ENTIRE meal, and then clean all of the containers when we get home. So really, what’s the point? Other than the 2nd meal I didn’t have to prepare, the wine poured by someone else, and the dessert.
I totally want to go out to dinner tomorrow night!
There is totally no point. It is so not worth it. Stay home. Sneak out after bedtime for someone else to pour your wine and hand you your dessert. 🙂
Ahh, yes. We are hitting this phase with DD2 (she’s 15mo). I, too, wrote a post about dining out with a toddler when DD1 was 20 months old. http://payettestork.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/dinner-out-with-kids/ Thanks for the reminder that pretty soon this will be a BAAAAAD idea!
I will check it out- I bet I will be able to relate! Yes- you’ve officially hit the end of your window for at least a year. :/
I have had to take my grand girl to the restaurant once. She is sweet and finally able to sit still at almost four. We have a two year old grandson that frequently stays at home because he hates sitting in a highchair and “want down.”
4 is definitely a good age for dining- just leave the 2 year old at home!
We have an almost 4 yr old and a 1 yr old. We’re at the stage where dining out goes well for about 45 minutes and then devolves quickly. So it’s mostly a matter of dining relatively quickly and realizing we don’t have time for a second glass of wine at the restaurant if we don’t want to be doing the walk of shame out. It’s also about having a few favourite places that the eldest is excited to go to. Right now it’s a sushi buffet place (edamame is a big winner) and Boston Pizza (because they have the “Purple Drink” and the “worms in mud” dessert).
45 minutes isn’t too bad, but yes, a second drink is definitely pushing your luck! And the Walk of Shame is so right- on. It’s awful! I think you have a good strategy with the Purple Drink and Worms in Mud dessert! 🙂
Amen. The only thing more painful is taking your two small kids to dinner with another grown adult without your spouse. The other adult attempts to maintain the charade that the conversation is not being interrupted by the toddler stream of activity and the never ending trips to the restroom. On the brightside, no cooking or dishes to wash. On the downside, the restaurant is not baby proofed.
Oh you are SO right! That is way worse. I always feel so embarrassed when I am dumb enough to go out with a childless adult with my kids along…
I loved this post. Last week was my first week working out of the home after 2.25 years. We thought we’d celebrate with a family dinner to Famous Daves. My celebration involved taking turns taking the boys outside to “run their sillies out”. I have a picture of the empty table…me sitting alone as my husband was on his turn with the boys. I secretly kind of enjoyed the silence. Somehow in the two minutes that they were at the table the boys managed to destroy our surroundings. I gave the waitress an extra good tip when I apologized as I picked up broccoli off the floor and she said, “some times parents deserve a break from picking up the mess” as she got down and helped me.
Isn’t is awful? We always tip big when we are out with our kids- I feel so sorry for whomever is cleaning up after us. Yes- why do we continue to think celebrations warrant a restaurant? That logic is seriously flawed.
That’s what I end up doing too – showing my toddler his videos on my phone while I gulp down food I won’t even be able to recall the next day! I can only imagine what it would be like with two.
Ha! Food you won’t even be able to recall the next day- that is totally it!
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last few weeks, since I started doing FTSF. I’m so glad I found you!
You are so right about the honeymoon period in regards to taking little ones out to eat. And we don’t go anywhere now without a few episodes of Ni Hao Kai-Lan downloaded onto the iPad. 🙂
P.s. Thanks for stopping by The Pink Roller Coaster and leaving such a lovely comment. I look forward to reading more of your posts!
Thank you so much for that, Brigid! I really appreciate it! Glad we found each other, too!
I have no problem eating out with my kids, they’re in their forties, and know how to behave perfectly.
Loved your story.
Ha! You make me smile, lady!