Once your little angel is a constantly-in-motion toddler, navigating the outside world has different challenges than when your cherub was unable to sit up solo, let alone squirm, grab, climb, and run. Today’s hint consists of a few tips that may be of help when you bring your octopus child out to eat.
1. Timing is everything. Sometimes you’re eating on the run, and have no control over time, place, etc. Do your best. However, if this is a planned outing, don’t schedule meals when your kid’s normally sleeping. Plus, going to lunch at 11 a.m. or dinner at 5 p.m. has big benefits. Everything will be easier if you breakfast, lunch, or dine during off-peak hours. Less wait, less crowding, less harried servers, quicker in and out, you name it.
2. Let ‘em run. If you expect your kid to sit in one place for up to an hour, get him or her outside first to run around in the fresh air and burn off some steam.
3. Dress for success. Dress your little one in comfy layers you can manage easily for diaper changes, and make sure your kid’s not too hot or cold. Bring your best bib, but don’t stress over messes and spills. As always, make sure your diaper bag is well stocked.
4. Pick a roomy restaurant. That adorable neighborhood dive you frequented when you had more time, money, and sleep? It probably doesn’t have room for your stroller, diaper bag, and other gear, and its tables are eight inches apart. Don’t push it. Go back when you have a babysitter or your kid is 10.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for things. Sanity savers can include:
-Ask for a better table (A table outside where your noisy kid isn’t as noticeable? A quieter table in the corner with more space for baby gear?).
-Ask the server to bring some water, juice, or crackers right away to stave off boredom and hunger.
-Ask for something that’s not specifically on the menu. For example, the kitchen staff might make your child a cheese sandwich, or give you a plate of olives and pickles (which you’ll carefully slice, of course), or a bowl of cooked carrots. In other words, if you ask, you often can get the simple, basic foods that are the ingredients in more sophisticated dishes. Or follow this tip from Hint Mama.
6. Don’t be “those parents.” Help us all out. Don’t be those parents who drive everyone crazy in restaurants, including (especially) the staff. Who do I mean? The parents who think everyone should be subjected to their kid screaming. The parents who change their kid’s diaper in view of people eating (or on tabletops where people eat). The parents who are rude to their server, let their kids act out and run around the restaurant, the parents who leave a terrible mess behind along with a mediocre tip. The parents who think it’s cute when their kid stares at/throws things at/generally bothers other people.
Nobody’s perfect, but don’t expect a pass on basic courtesy just because you have a cute baby or toddler in tow. Take your kid outside if he or she is freaking out. Use the changing table or improvise to diaper your baby. And most importantly: Always over tip if the server is accommodating and helpful.
What’s your best tip for successfully dining out with a tot in tow?
Karen Witham is a mother of two children who she can’t believe are already ages six and seven. She spends her time on both sides of the Bay, working full-time as an editor and writer in San Francisco and living in Oakland. A transplant from the East Coast, she spent ten years living in Boston and also loves New York and most of all, Paris. Karen has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from Emerson College. Connect with her on Twitter at @kewitham or on LinkedIn.