My eldest has just turned seven. For the past couple of years eating out with him has been an enjoyable experience. He is pleasant company, he has good table manners and there are no dramas. I am excluding the time he had his first experience of popping candy (in his ice cream) and he started shouting for help in the restaurant because things were exploding in his mouth. He created quite a bit of drama then!
The little one is two, and eating out with him is not a pleasant experience. It’s an experience that requires a lot of managing, fraught nerves and “what the hell were we thinking”. But in order to get him to the same stage as his brother we need to endure the next few years of following the steps below when eating out…
Please note “enjoyable” very much depends on your definition of the word “enjoyable”.
Prepare for the fact that restaurant schedules and kids schedules are not normally aligned. Give the kids a snack before you leave to tide them over.
Pack like you are off for a mini-break. You need a whole ton of crap to keep small people entertained.
Despite the snack to tide them over, the kids are starving as soon as they enter the restaurant. There is no time to peruse the menu. Close your eyes, stab your finger, choice made.
Order drinks and spend the next 30 minutes telling your child not to drink it all or they’ll be too full up for dinner.
Do everything known to man to entertain your children and keep them sat at the table whilst you wait for the food. This includes colouring in, singing songs, playing eye spy and writing Christmas lists in July.
Give into their demands and give them snacks. As soon as they finish your dinner will be served.
Try to stop them howling as you swiftly remove their dinner as it is hotter than the sun, whilst your other half does some hasty fanning to try and cool things down.
Wonder why a family friendly restaurant thinks giving toddlers china plates and metal cutlery is a good idea. Apologise to the neighboring tables for the tenth time as your toddler decides that clinking sound he can make is the most fun since the time he ate the contents of your wallet.
Wolf your own dinner down at break neck speed whilst issuing reminders about using knives and forks and not throwing food. Pick your battles and realise that this is neither the time or the place for the “eat your peas” fight.
Encourage, Beg and Bribe your children to eat more than two mouthfuls as they declare they are not hungry / it tastes yucky / they wanted the chicken nuggets.
Give up, admit defeat and order ice cream.
Try not to weep as you pay the bill and think of the shoes you could have purchased with that money instead.
Return home vowing to never do that again. Silently scream when the kids declare they are starving as soon as they get in the door.
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