Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dining Out with LO

Last Wednesday, after a fun filled 45 minutes entertaining LO at the accountant's office, J and I decided to take our life in our hands by taking the entire family out to dinner.

There was a good reason we decided to try this: sleep deprivation can make you insane.

Let me explain--dining at any place that does not feature, at minimum, a giant pit full of multi-colored plastic balls, several animatronic creatures that should, theoretically, give children nightmares, and a SWAT team of understanding nanny/grandmotherly types is not the relaxing night off from cooking that it once was. (And even dining in such an establishment is generally guaranteed to give you heartburn anyway, so relaxation is really moot when eating while parenting).

After our successful accounting, we decided to go to a local pub for tasty beer and victuals. I had come completely prepared for toddler entertainment, and assumed that this would be a breeze. We hadn't even had to break out all the toys and books at the accountant's office, since she had a magical basket of toys that LO was quite interested in. So everything still had the "I haven't played with that toy in at least a week or two" sheen on it, guaranteeing that it could be used to distract the child from whatever he was attempting.

Oh, the sweet naivete of youth.

We arrived at the restaurant to find it unaccountably busy for a random Wednesday evening. Then I realized that the gorgeous weather had probably coaxed many fellow Lafayette-ites (Lafayette-ens? Lafayeet?) out to the restaurants. And of course, the scheduling manager hadn't known that we would be having June in mid-March, so there weren't nearly enough servers.

No problem! There are two of us, a diaper bag full of toys, and only one LO. We could handle this.

First, LO made it clear that he would be having none of that high chair action, thank you very much. (I'm starting to think that high chairs in restaurants are really for show, because I don't believe I've seen my or any other child stay in one for longer than 0.00076 seconds. Really, they could just prop up a cardboard cutout of a high chair for the same effect). After the little Houdini wriggled out of the safety belt and was narrowly rescued from falling on his ever-escaping head, J and I started taking turns holding him on our laps and reading his books to him.

Of course, that wasn't exactly good enough. LO wanted to explore, to feel the freedom of the open...restaurant, to walk directly in the path of fast-moving waitstaff carrying heavy trays of food and beverages. J and I started taking turns following the child and rescuing him from various and assorted pratfalls.

Finally, we brought the child back to the table and I pulled out the big guns:
This toy has the trifecta: buttons LO can push, loud noises, and of course, Cookie Monster telling LO just how much he rocks.

I was a little smug as I provided LO with this distraction, because it simply proved what a fore-thinking and prepared Mama I was.

Until LO lost interest about 14 seconds later.

I'd like to point out that we had not yet ordered our meals at this point.

There comes a point when observing a parent out with his/her child, when you can see that the parent has simply given up. "Eff it," you can see clearly etched on Mom or Dad's face. "It's not like my trying is going to make this any better than not trying."

So, LO wriggled on my lap for while, before he found the sugar and sweetener packets and started pulling them out of the container, putting them back in the container, and throwing them on the floor. Under normal circumstances, I would try to discourage this behavior, but I had reached critical Eff it mass, and so I simply tried to keep more than half of the packets from hitting the floor. When LO started noshing on an Equal packet, I pulled it out of his mouth and said: "If you're going to do that, at least chew on the real sugar. This aspartame is terrible for you." (Because I couldn't possibly have come up with a worse thing to say.)

LO immediately grabbed a sugar packet and started chomping. Of course he broke through the paper and was rewarded with a rush of pure sugar.

"He's eating the sugar," J pointed out to me. (He clearly hadn't reached Eff it yet, and I suspect that was because the restaurant had plied him with beer, extending his patience by a good five or ten minutes).

"Do you want to be the one to take it away from him?" I asked. I'm sure this quote will be remembered when I receive my Mother of the Year medal.

Eventually, our meals arrived and LO's silence was bought with a couple of waffle fries. I tried to interest the child in some grilled chicken or avocado from my salad, but my attempts were pretty half-hearted. If french fries bought me 2 minutes to eat in peace, then french fries would be my baby's dinner!

After we finished eating, we paid, left a tip equal to the GDP of a 3rd world country, and beat a hasty retreat before any of the waitstaff could see the snow of french fry dust, rejected chicken and avocado pieces, and enough sweetener packets to give several rats cancer still littering the floor.

This may be the last time that J offers to take us out to dinner so I don't have to cook. We'll have to dine out the way nature intended for parents to do so: by driving around until the child falls asleep and then getting some Vitamin G at a drive through and scarfing it down before the child wakes up and wants to know where his french fries are. Ahh, the romance!


  1. This made me laugh and cringe inequal measure because it's so familiar! Em is now three and a half and if she is in a good mood, has had a sleep (long enough but not too long and at the right time of the day), if the restauarant/pub has a well-stocked toy box and if I cross my fingers and toes and sprinkle a little fairy dust, we can now take her out for dinner. Of course, she doesn't actually eat anything apart from two french fries and half a litre of ketchup, but it is nice to do occasionally!

  2. Oh my gosh is this familiar. We have a 3 year old and a two year old. While they're not really bad, per say, it's like you mentioned with no attention span. And they want to touch EVERYTHING. We've done well(ish) with buffet places because we can feed the kids right away before they burn off that 30-45 minutes of okay behavior they have.