A few weeks ago was one of our worst dining moments as parents. Not even ten minutes into our meal, a man approached our table to inform us that he was on a “nice date” and although he “didn’t know how to say this” he thought “perhaps our kids would be better off eating at McDonald’s” instead of this fine establishment (a casual burger joint, with a large kid’s menu, on a Tuesday, at 6pm). I was both humiliated and irate. Clearly this man did not have kids; and while my son’s behavior was less than ideal (he had let out a couple of high-pitched squeals at that point), I felt like as the mother, I am pretty aware of when I need to take action to remove my kids from the restaurant. I was probably most annoyed that he stole my disciplinary thunder. In fact, we ended up taking our meal to-go, as Little A’s behavior crescendoed with a couple of wild gestures and a spilled glass of water that soaked the entire table and left me craving a Xanax (I have yet to ever take one). Our experience got me thinking – what are the top ten moments (all based on a true story) when you should cut your losses and run from the restaurant:
1) When you start to think your neighbor has a nervous tic by the number of times he’s twisted his head in your direction in the first 15 minutes of the meal.
2) When your server repetitively asks if you need anything else, just 20 minutes into the meal, when he’s already brought the check .
3) When your toddler announces, at the very top of his considerably powerful lungs, that he has a stinky poop.
4) When that stinky poopy starts leaking out of his pants and you forgot (like any mother with more than one child) to bring an extra diaper.
5) When the third full glass of ice water has been knocked over (by either you or the kids).
6) When your 2 ½ year old turns to you and says “I’ll be right back… you stay” and quickly heads for the exit.
7) When your dining companions’ kids suddenly start rotating to the bathroom mid-meal to vomit.
8) When your son exclaims that “you can’t get me!” and makes a bee-line straight into the kitchen before you can catch him.
9) When you succeed in convincing your children to taste test spicy Szechuan, and no amount of water or milk could possibly quell their cries.
10) Your son’s “inside voice” would be right at home in Cameron Indoor Stadium, when UNC is in town, and it’s just gone into double OT.
11) When you can no longer see the floor through the rice, torn up chicken pieces, chip crumbs, crayon hunks, shredded napkins, used crumpled wipes, and several unidentifiable objects…. okay, so maybe for this one you stay, but don’t forget to leave a very generous tip!
And yes, I know what you, like many of my friends, are thinking and have said: “don’t even bother taking him out to restaurants.” But my dilemma is that he loves diverse foods, and I want to continue to expose him to various cultures in a restaurant setting. Others suggest I just give my Little Foodie an iPhone to shut him up and keep him still. While this might be the panacea for all unruly behavior in a restaurant, I am still holding out. Technology is a slippery slope, and I still consider the dinner table sacred ground for communication and connection. And with my usual bag of tricks losing some of its luster, we will just have to continue to make frequent trips outside, or to the car. The quality and quantity of dinner time has definitely dwindled, but we’re not giving up, and we’re hoping that like most others things, it is just a phase.