Taking our toddler to a restaurant is hazardous for all parties. It’s always rushed, food ends up on the floor/our laps/the ceiling, and we always end the meal saying to each other, “Let’s never do that again.” And yet, every weekend, without fail, we take our crazy child to a restaurant. In case you’re wondering why, here are the main reasons we persist in torturing ourselves—and fellow diners—by taking our child to dine in public:
1. We love good food
This is the absolute number one reason. My husband and I love to eat out, and the thought of giving this up for a few years is one sacrifice we’re not willing to make. It’s our way of keeping part of our old lives alive while we give up the rest of ourselves to being parents.
2. It’s a social thing
How many social gatherings revolve around food in restaurants? Exactly. Pretty much all of them—unless your entire party is full of tiny children. If you want to socialize with other adults, especially in a city, you do it in a restaurant. Rather than not seeing any of our pre-child friends, we keep going to restaurants, with the child, and hope that the venue they’ve chosen is kid-friendly.
3. Table manners
We hope that by exposing our child to restaurants from a young age that she will eventually pick up social cues on how to eat in public. Things like, how to sit, be patient, order politely and eat around other civilized people (read: eat with cutlery rather than shoving fistfuls of cheerios into her mouth).
4. Exposure to food
I’m an average cook. I actually hate cooking and only do it because we need to eat to survive. Our diets as a result are healthy, but pretty plain and unadventurous. When we eat out, however, my daughter is exposed to cuisines from cultures I’d never attempt to cook, like Japanese or Indian.
In case you’re wondering how we make it as stress-free as possible, I’ve added some tips that help us navigate the New York City and Sydney restaurant scene with a less-than-desirable dining companion.
1. Choose your location wisely
I’d never take my child anywhere that isn’t suitable for a little kid. For me, this includes spots that have space between tables so she’s not dining on our neighbors’ laps, somewhere to park the travel stroller and a park nearby for a quick getaway. A restaurant with long wait times is also a big no-no.
2. Order quickly
We order something for the kid as soon as our bottoms hit the chairs, and then food for ourselves shortly after. With a kid who hates to sit for long, you want to make the conditions as favorable as possible for a happy outing.
3. Have an exit strategy
If she’s particularly resistant to sitting that day, one of us will take her outside for a walk until the food arrives, and we ask for the check as soon as the food lands on our table. This way, we’re actually seated for a pretty short amount of time!
4. Be prepared
I bring her current favorite toys (Anna and Elsa with clip on dresses), small snacks and load up the iPhone with games or YouTube playlists. Even though we have a zero Youtube policy these days after seeing our child turn into a zombie watching Playdoh videos, we relax this when a pleasant dining experience is at stake.
5. Tip big!
Even if the meal is a disaster and we leave shame-faced, we always tip big so when the staff sees us again, they hopefully remember the tip and not the tantrum.
This article was first published on Mommynearest.com.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!