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Restaurant Nightmares

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

...no, this isn't a new Gordon Ramsay special. This is my life. lol

 

I am newish around here. I'm Rae, mommy to a "spirited" 19 month old little girl named Audrina.

 

Audrina is a great little girl. She's so happy and energetic. I love her more than anything. She is a handfull though (but really, what 19 month old isnt?)

 

The other night, we went out to supper. My child's babysitter was there with her husband, 4 year old and 2 year old. All sitting nicely, eating together.

At my table, we tried desperately to wrangle my daughter who refused to sit in a highchair and has the attention span of a chihuaha on speed. We ate our meals as fast as humanly possible and sped out of there.

 

Later I posted the following on Facebook....

 

"Tonight at supper...I had the realization that Dan, Audrina and I are *that* family. The family I used to be embarrassed for before I had kids...The family who's at the restaurant with the crazy child who won't sit down..who wants to play with, spill and mix together everything on the table, who won't eat anything more than one french fry, who's jumping around and laughing and then crying because she wants to run around like a banshee through the restaurant. Who refuses to sit in a high chair, and stares at all the other customers while they eat.
We're the family that people shake their heads at because we seem to have no control over our child (when actually, I'm letting her do whatever the heck she wants because if I didn't, then you'd REALLY regret being in the same restaurant as us..).
And I wouldn't have it any other way...or ..well, maybe sometimes I would like to have all 3 of us sit down to have a relaxing family meal, but really, I laugh and smile and giggle a lot more when we don't
"

 

So, can anyone relate? Share their solutions for better family "outings?" This is my first child, so I'm all new to handling these things. Are all kids this age like the tasmanian devil?

(And I'm not really complaining, she's a great child, and I don't get stressed about it, but if we could all enjoy family outings more, I think we'd all be more relaxed!)

post #2 of 11

We didn't go to sit-down restaurants as a family until my daughter was about 3.5.  At that point, she could make it through a meal without melting down or going to sleep.  Before that, it was just too much work.  I don't feel it's fair to other people to listen to my bored kid shriek for an hour and it wasn't really fair to expect her to sit still (and relatively quiet, inside voice at least) for that long.  It just didn't work.  We did a lot of takeout and movies at home.  Sometime around three and a half we realized she was sitting nicely through meals at home, fairly adventurous with food, and an all-around socially acceptable dining companion and it's been smooth ever since. 
 

post #3 of 11

I developed a great appreciation for pubs and food-courts when I had toddlers.  Everything in a pub is durable enough to withstand a drunk person, or a toddler, and they tend to have booths, which can be handy for toddler containment.  Food-court restaurants can dish out your food quickly, and tend to be so noisy that nobody notices the toddler.  Getting take-out and having a picnic can be good too.
 

post #4 of 11

Yep just this past weekend, when we went out as a family for Mother's Day, my husband who LOVES going out to eat, looked at me and said "I don't think we'll be going out to eat for awhile".  And my daughter was relatively well behaved that time! I would be game to try going for an early dinner to at a place where they'll bring the food out fast.  I was able to keep my daughter in her seat and quiet for about 20 minutes with a pen and paper to color, her absolute favorite book in the world (a little book about dogs "a dog! a dog!"), and some flash cards (she loves looking at flash cards). However that night they were moving soooo slow and hadn't even taken our order in that time so I did end up spending most of the night walking around outside with the little charmer.  So yeah, it's not fun. But you know, I've never gotten any "looks", most people just smile at her.  Good thing toddlers are cute! 

post #5 of 11

I always make time to let my son run around when he's getting to that point. Even if I have to follow him at his heels; a few minutes of investigating tables and chairs, and I can usually sit him back down in the provided high chair to eat some more food and be relatively well-behaved. You have to remember... they're just little. They have a burning need to investigate everything. It's not exactly something they can quell, just....think of them like a puppy.

post #6 of 11
At that age we had a couple of strategies that, if nothing else, made me feel better.
1) bring toys and a sturdy book. Sometimes that bought us a few minutes and I felt better prepared lol.
2) divide and conquer: parent A sat and ate for 5-10 minutes while parent B kept the toddler out of the kitchen/bar/opposite gender washroom, then we'd switch. She's 2 now and this is still how we grocery shop except we don't switch wink1.gif.
3) don't make her attempt to sit until the food arrives. After a few outings we noticed that we squandered our precious 5-8 minutes of sitting toddler on looking at menus and asking about the specials. The divide and conquer kicked in right away, and we didn't try to get her sitting until there was food on the table. This helped parent A have a bite or two before getting to work lol.

Part of me wants to say that she's gotten a lot better in the last few months but the other, more honest part of me is quick to point out that we haven't been to a nice restaurant in 4 or 5 months lol.
post #7 of 11

There is a wiggly period when enjoying a meal in a restaurant together is nearly impossible.  You're right in it at 19 mo.

(And the mess!  Those were the days of 30% tips.)

I read somewhere that a good developmental expectation is to take their age in years and multiply by 4 for the number of MINUTES they can be expected to sit still at the table.  So you're at 6 minutes, maybe 7.  That said, my DS has a crazy good attention span for restaurants, so here's what I remember doing.  Maybe some of it will help.

 

We brought our own booster seat (the Fisher Price Healthy Care Deluxe).  The 3-point harness and tray prevent escape.

There were many (I think at least 4, probably more) restaurant visits that consisted of taking turns taking DS outside, reminding him of the rules (basics: no screaming/singing/dumping salt shakers) in a cold vestibule, going back in to try again, repeat.  repeat.  repeat.

Ordering something as a starter (fruit cup, stat) or bringing your own food for them to eat while waiting can keep them occupied until the meal shows up.

A new (or long-forgotten) toy to distract them.  A book to read together.  Eventually you can do crayons, kids menus, etc.  Napkin-origami is a good skill to pick up.  

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by NiteNicole View Post

We didn't go to sit-down restaurants as a family until my daughter was about 3.5.  At that point, she could make it through a meal without melting down or going to sleep.  Before that, it was just too much work.  I don't feel it's fair to other people to listen to my bored kid shriek for an hour and it wasn't really fair to expect her to sit still (and relatively quiet, inside voice at least) for that long.  It just didn't work.  We did a lot of takeout and movies at home.  Sometime around three and a half we realized she was sitting nicely through meals at home, fairly adventurous with food, and an all-around socially acceptable dining companion and it's been smooth ever since. 
 

 

  Here too - for nearly 3-1/2 years we didn't go out to eat...there was just NO enjoyment to me trying to keep a restless kiddo occupied.  When I go out to eat it's so I don't have to do anything....and trying to keep my kids happy at that age was NOT nothing.  They could sit fine for a meal at home at that age, but restaurants were just sensory overload.  All the books, games, food, switching adults, passing the kid, walking them around, BLEH.  That's zero relaxation, compared to husband grabbing takeout and being at home where they sat fine and ate.   At 9 and nearly 7, they absolutely can go out to eat now.  We just didn't see any point when it actually was harder for us to do it than be at home. 

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank-you immensely for your comments and suggestions! I feel more normal now, and have learned a lot from what you've all posted so far :)

post #10 of 11
A wise MDC member once made a great suggestion......order child's dinner immediately upon sitting down while you take time to look over menu. Then be sure her dessert arrives along with your dinner. She will be wrapped up in dessert while you are still on dinner.
Edited by Asiago - 5/15/13 at 4:29pm
post #11 of 11

My daughter will be 4 next month and is finally to the point (although I'd hate to jinx myself) where it's not insanely stressful taking her out to eat. We usually try to stick to pretty kid friendly places (a lot of chain restaurants although they aren't my favorite) because they have a kids menu and are a little more forgiving when it comes to kids. It'll get better, good luck! :) 

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