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5 Reasons I Never Want to Eat at a Restaurant with My Children Again

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It was a Friday night. Being the inspiring ‘Parents of the Year’ that we are, we had resorted to bribery to ensure our daughter’s cooperation at her hip-hop dance class. (Don’t ask- another post for another day.) In a moment of desperation, I informed her that if she chose to continue complaining and whining, she would owe us a household job that evening, in order to replenish the energy she drained from us with her bad attitude. (Thank you, Love & Logic.) However, if she chose to have a positive attitude, we would go out to dinner after class- to Hops, one of her favorite restaurants. Sounds great, right?

Well, the bribe-strategic-parenting-tactic worked brilliantly, but we had forgotten about one small thing.

It completely sucks ass to eat at a restaurant with our kids young children. Here’s why.

1. I had to visit the restroom three times. Once, because I had to pee. Again because my six-year-old had to poop and finally because I was certain that my toddler had pooped in her diaper. I was wrong. Total wasted trip. Seriously, we were there for 45 minutes. That’s one bathroom trip every 15 minutes. (I should have been a math major.)

2. Even though we put back the sugar packets our toddler was playing with three separate times, we still left the restaurant with every single packet under the table. By the end of our dinner, we had embarrassed ourselves so fully that there was simply no time to waste picking up those f*ckers. We left as though our village was on fire and there was not a second to spare. (I left an extra dollar because at the beginning of our meal, I assured the waiter we would put them back when she was done playing with them. I am both lazy and untruthful.)

3. My mascara had run all over my cheeks by the time we left the establishment. This was of course due to the fact that I was laughing so hard I was crying when our sh*tshow dinner reached its peak. It was likely funny to me because at that moment, our 15-month-old was across the table from me sitting with my husband. Well, not exactly sitting, more like sprawling, flailing, grabbing, and toppling over. The 15 seconds of high chair was a distant memory, and she was standing up in the booth next to him, loudly demanding “Dih Dih Dih!” (translation: she wanted to dip her chicken strip in the ketchup.) We foolishly allowed this, and given that my husband was also trying to scarf down his dinner, his interventions were ineffective as she dunked her whole hand in the ketchup ,smeared it all over the back of the booth during an unwieldy effort to wave to the people behind us, while proudly brandishing her chicken strip. I was incoherent. But I probably wouldn’t have laughed if she had been next to me.

4. When it was my turn to clumsily retrieve the toddler from under the table, my six-year-old began screaming and sobbing that she couldn’t move her leg. As I was bent over, trying to get ahold of Sophie, who had conveniently employed the classic “Limp Baby” maneuver, Izzy began to wail hysterically. I sat up in alarm, worried that I had inadvertently elbowed her in the face, when she began shrieking that she couldn’t feel her leg. After momentarily dismissing my first reaction that she had leukemia or the childhood equivalent of MS, I suggested that perhaps her foot had fallen asleep. “No! My thigh! My thigh hurts so much!” she bawled, her face contorted into a mask of anguish. (I am pretty sure her leg fell asleep, as the incident was over within a mere 90 seconds. Perhaps she’d never experienced that phenomenon, and I expect it would be strangely disconcerting to a six-year-old.) At any rate, the public humiliation ante had just been upped.

5. I carried half of my sandwich and a handful of fries in a dirty napkin as I frantically exited the restaurant. Those who have been there know how fast you have to eat when you are dining with a toddler. At the risk of appearing rude, (but what is more rude than staying at a restaurant even five minutes longer than necessary with your kids?) we always hand over our credit card to the waiter or waitress as soon as we have placed our order. Toddlers are ticking time-bombs in public places and you’ve got to be prepared to get the hell out of there with minimal transition time. There should be some sort of military-training boot camp for this skill: how to pack up the diaper bag, stuff your food into a box, (or napkin, if there is literally not a moment to spare) grab the coats, and round up the kids in fifteen seconds or less due to the fact that your ketchup-smeared, Oreo-crusted, whining, snot-streaked, screaming offspring have overstayed their chain-restaurant welcome.

And F*#@ the sugar packets. Until next time, of course. Bon Apetite.

Stephanie Sprenger is a writer, music therapist, and mother of two young girls. She blogs at Mommy, for Real about the imperfect reality of surviving the daily grind with kids, and The HerStories Project about women’s friendship. She can also be found squandering her precious free time on Facebook and Twitter.

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