Years ago, I was at a sushi restaurant with a friend, lingering over California rolls and talking. The only other customers in the place came over to us as soon as they were seated. They introduced themselves and then blew my mind. “We’re sorry in advance – our son is 18 months old and this is the first time we’ve ever taken him to a restaurant, so we’re not sure how he’s going to do. We’ll try our best but we hope he doesn’t ruin your evening.” We just demurred and waved them off, and frankly, weren’t bothered by the kid at all. I have no memory of how he behaved, so I’m sure it must have been okay.
A couple of years ago, I was out for dinner with my aunt, uncle, cousin, her fiance and my mother, at a Chinese restaurant. We were having a great meal (these people are a riot), when the meal almost descended in to a riot. (Well, a riot of a dozen middle class white people.) At the next large round table was a gathering that included a baby, maybe 9 months old. And this kid started screaming. Now, we were all understanding about it and shrugged it off, because it was a baby. 15 MINUTES OF UNCEASING SCREAMS LATER, my cousin went over and politely asked them to try and quiet down the baby, because he was ruining out dining expedience. In the 15 minutes of wailing, the child was fully ignored – just left sitting in his high chair screaming his face off. As soon as Kim talked to them, someone picked him up and he stopped crying instantly. (Which, DUH. Even before I had a kid I was aware that babies often cry for attention.) However, it then descended in to chaos because they were mad that we had questioned their parenting style or whatever, and it ended up with the father of the baby threatening to go fight my 65 year old uncle in the parking lot. (The staff was horrified and had no idea what to do.) It was fucking insane, but funny as hell in hindsight.
These two moments really stand out in my head, in the file of Things Not To Do. David and I talked a lot before the baby was born about how no way in hell were we going to be Those People. The ones who never leave the house, or the ones who won’t control their child.
And we started right away. David’s mother was in town a couple of weeks after Jess was born, and she took me (us) out for lunch at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. Now, fine, she was a tiny baby and slept the whole time, but still. A few weeks later we were there again, with friends, and she was awake and being passed around for cuddles for most of the meal. As soon as she became old enough to sit up in a high chair it became even easier.
We don’t go out all the time, but at least once a week, I’d say. Maybe a quick Saturday lunch at 5 Guys with David, or lunch at an Indian buffet with a girlfriend, or dinner with David’s parents when they’re in town at somewhere super fancy like the Boston Pizza’s. (HA! But they seem to love it there.) And mostly, she’s very well behaved, especially for a 9 month old baby.
I’m not saying that she’s never got fussy at a restaurant. But if she does, we offer cheerios, and if those don’t work, she gets picked up and we play pass the baby as we take turns eating. If she fully freaked out (hasn’t happened yet but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen tomorrow), the plan is for one of us to bolt with the child while the other gets the food wrapped up and the check paid. Ideal, it is not, but we refuse to be the assholes in the restaurant with the screaming, ignored child. We also do things to make our lives easier – we bring food for Jess, and cheerios, and toys. We try to plan the time for just after she’s woken up from a nap, not just before she needs the next one. We try, when possible, to go before or after the main rush. We praise her good behaviour lavishly, and try our best to redirect her the rest of the time. We tip well, and try not to make a mess. (Actually, the only time she was ever really messy was at the Indian buffet and she’d tossed some rice on the floor. My friend did her best to pick up most of it, and the staff seemed fine. It may have helped that Jess was quiet and spent the meal flirting with the waiter…)
At any rate, so far, so good. Hopefully by training the kid since litterarly birth to behave well in restaurants, she’ll continue to do so. Another “you’ll see” myth about what happens when you have kids, busted!