Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rookie Baby Wranglers at the Restaurant

Remember Mommy Shorts? Of course you do.  She wrote about fancy underpants one time?  And spiffed up our Pool Rules sign for us? She's our good buddy and she's awesome.  You can check out her blog right here.

My father moved out of our house when I was ten and my stepmother has never had children. Historically, it appeared like they did not have much interest in kids. However, since the addition of my baby girl to the family, they seem to have developed a vested interest in winning her over. This surprising show of affection combined with a lifetime of child-free living can make for an eventful evening.

As evidenced last week, when they invited myself, my husband (Mike), and our 15 month old daughter (Mazzy) all out to dinner.

When we arrived at the restaurant, my father and stepmother were sitting at a round table with the high chair pulled squarely between them. Obviously, they wanted to make sure they had the lion's share of the baby. Mike and I looked at each other with uncertainty— do they know how hard it is to entertain a toddler throughout dinner? Do they care? We decided to sit Mazzy in the highchair, retire to the other end of the table and find out. Who doesn't love a little dinner theater?

Pleasantries were exchanged. The requisite oohing and aaahing. To their credit, the first minute or so progressed rather smoothly.

And then the third minute arrived.

My father's first mistake was ordering a martini and putting it within arm's reach of the baby. Mazzy's hand reached for the stem of the glass faster than a greyhound when that fake little bunny starts running. Screams from the peanut gallery (Mike and me) prompted my father to grab the glass before it shattered on the floor. Although the larger tragedy was that valuable alcohol was wasted.

Next, my father asked us, in all seriousness, if he could give the baby one of olives. We said no. My stepmother proceeded to enlighten us with the various health benefits of olives until my husband cut her off by saying— "It's been soaking in vodka".

Then my stepmother told us that she had taken the liberty of ordering some appetizers before we got there. I thought, perfect— you can't sit a baby at a dinner table for long without feeding her some food, maybe they know more then I give them credit. But that was before I knew that my stepmother had ordered oysters on the half shell. As if the baby was just going to sit idly by as she watched the waiter deliver a seafood tower filled with ice, shells, assorted condiment bowls and miniature spoons. She may as well have placed a life-size Elmo doling out cheerios and juice in the center of the table and told Mazzy she wasn’t allowed to look at it.

So what does my father give the baby to distract her? A plate. Never mind that giving a baby a plate to distract from a seafood tower is the equivalent of giving a kid a piece of spinach in substitution for a brownie sundae. The bigger problem was that the plate was ceramic and the floor, like most restaurants, was not made of "bouncy castle". Thankfully, my stepmother took it away before it was dropped or thrown at an unsuspecting diner's head.

Throughout the rest of the evening, we were faced with a non-kid friendly seafood menu, assorted screams for dangerous cutlery, and a trip to a candlelit bathroom without a changing table. Lastly— there was the inevitable Baby Meltdown. Seems Mazzy wasn’t particularly happy with her fried talapia, she didn't understand why she couldn't play with the steak knife and all the lingering between courses had caused it to be way past her bedtime.

Ultimately, we left before we finished our meal, leaving my dad and stepmom sitting amongst the wreckage and debris that was once their seafood dinner.

At which point, I bet they turned to each other and said— “That went swimmingly!”

Sigh. A mother’s stress is never shared.

The evening got me thinking. What exactly are the telltale signs that someone doesn't have any kids? Besides leaving a full martini within arms-length of a 15 month old, of course.

10) They want to see the baby so they suggest coming over before they go out for the evening. At 10pm.

9) They look generally well-rested, use terms like "beauty sleep", and claim exhaustion after just one late night out.

8) They apply under-eye concealer with great success.

7) Their clothes look freshly laundered and there is no evidence of dried snot on their shoulders. Also, they wear clothes that don't look like they can be repurposed as pajamas.

6) They don't think there is a difference between the taste of a cheddar cracker and the taste of a cheddar cracker in the shape of a bunny.

5) They have nightmares that do not involve Mr. Noodle.

4) They call you to make plans without a lead-time of at least two months.

3) They think their cold/flu-like symptoms are solely their problem. And they are showing you how important you are to them if they keep plans regardless of their hacking infectious cough.

2) They equate having a baby with having a dog. Then they put food in a bowl on the floor and leave their dog to go out for the evening.

1) They think going out to dinner with a toddler is an enjoyable activity.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. The "It's been soaking in vodka" comment reminded me of my favorite moment from this weekend. My 3 year old asked if she could have the pineapple from my mai tai at a party. I said no, because it had been soaking in booze. She then loudly asked the hostess, "Do you have any pineapple that hasn't been soaking in booze?"

  2. Going out to dinner with a toddler is never enjoyable.

    That picture of Mazzy trying to get the martini is hilarious.

  3. Do you hear me screaming yes yes yes the entire time I was reading this???

    My husband and I have long given up taking our toddler out for dinner. It is a no-win.

    It's sort of comforting to know that my son is not the only toddler out there who's fascinated by steak knives.

    Love this post Ilana!

  4. My husband's dad and stepmom used to leave lit candles and bowls of potpourri out on the coffee table when my daughter and nephew were babies/toddlers. They'd act so surprised when we asked if we could move those, and yet they'd forget and do it the next time. We do family gatherings at the kids' houses now. Cut from the same childless mold!

  5. My stepmother and father each raised two children of their own and they STILL leave lit candles and fragile knick-knacks on the coffee table and then get upset when I move them up out of my 2-yr old's reach, and they STILL try to come over at 10 pm. Their solution to the knick-knack problem? "Just stick them in a playpen!" Uh no. The surest way to induce a meltdown in my free-ranging toddler is to confine her in a play pen when it's not time for a nap. I guess they've forgotten what it's like to have kids?

  6. I have come to realize that going to a restruant other than a McDonalds with a toddler is a BAD BAD BAD idea. There is always just too much going on around them that they cant just sit and focus for more than 10 minutes at a time, and you can hardly even enjoy the night out or dinner that you are overpaying for.

    These rants literally make me LOL. Because they are SO freaking true.
    Love you ladies!

  7. When my first set of twins were toddlers, my parents had the idea that I should just "teach them not to touch" knick knacks, burning candles, booze, etc. Riiiiight. Now they have 13 grandchildren, and everything in their home is placed about 12 feet off the floor. ;-)

  8. I loved this post! You guys asked me to post a link to my take on dining out with kids inside a comment and I'll try here. If it doesn't work, oh well! Thanks- Nancy

  9. so funny- when I went to post my comment, the little secret word to use was 'mencher'. Sounds like a word one of you would have made up so I had to repost and tell you about it! hahahaha.

  10. Love it when the husband thinks it would be nice to meet friends (childless of course) for dinner with the two toddlers. AKA...He drinks wine and has good conversation while I cut up food, get kids from under the table and break up hair pulling fights, eat with one hand and make 10 trips to the potty. Then he asks "wasn't that fun? We need to do it more often."

  11. OMGosh - I had managed to block Mr Noodle and now he is back in my head ... and is that thin high pitched tinny sound .. Elmo?
    I just walked into an old nightmare.
    My girls are 9 and 13, no longer interested in Elmo's World - color me THANKFUL!

  12. We visited my husband's very wealthy aunt and uncle when our son was just learning to walk. What is in their living room? A large glass coffee table strewn with every breakable knick-knack that ever had sentimental value to them. Because, of course, a stylish house MUST take precedence over a toddler's safety. And yeah, let's have lunch in the formal dining room on white carpet. Awesome idea!

  13. I can't even take my toddler to Friendly's

  14. Too true..BUT lets NOT forget the 18MO toddler (who acts like he is two) at daddy's farewell ceremony for deployment. Out of all the kids there, ours was the only one screaming and throwing a tantrum..my husband got asked repeatedly on the bus ride to their pre-mob site "what was wrong with your kid" Makes me wanna do a mommy fail moment..of course my husband neglects to tell them he was merely frustrated because he knew something was wrong but didn't know what..no he tells them "Oh well he'd been up early..and was cranky cause he was sleepy.." yea..plus you can't sit still for longer than five minutes cause the child is go go go and lets not even think of taking him OUT of the stroller because you sure as maude won't get him back in..AND if you sit him in the stroller and don't move for five consecutive minutes then it is clearly time for him to scream loudly..so does trying to get him to hold your hand because the place is packed and he doesn't understand why he can't run around like a chicken with his head cut off..yea..that was a fun day..Makes me glad to know my child isn't the only terror..maybe the only one of my husbands base/unit..but not in the world!

  15. What a funny post! I think it's hilarious that they wanted to give her the olive. Just imagine if you hadn't been there to referee the evening!

  16. My mom raised two kids, and I have not been to her house in about 12 years. Incidentally, my oldest is 13 (youngest is a month old). She's of the "if you see the baby pick something up off the floor and put it in his mouth, check it; I dropped a percocet last week" school. She can come to my house, which doesn't have random narcotic surprises.

  17. I looked down at my attire at number seven and laughed out loud. Damn.

  18. Perpetual Mommy, I did the same thing. No I don't feel so bad about having Wien the same tank top, t-shirt, long skirt combo for three days. Hey, at least there is not ONE poop stain ANYWHERE on it!!

  19. I love that the olive was offered. Like when my little brother was two and we took him to Red Lobster with a big family group and he really wanted a Lemon! "Well just give him one and he won't like it and he'll shut up" OR he'll eat 7 of them then start crying when it all hits him. Guess which one happened???
    My MIL has been begging us to bring my baby to her "gigs" otherwise known as "Old Person Band For Which She Plays Harmonica And Whores Out On FaceBook", since he was in the hospital. He's 3months old, and I still can't get it through her head that's too young to take to bars. Lets wait until the emotional scars of seeing Bubbe shake it will make a bigger impact. :)

  20. I took my husband and toddler to the Tilted Kilt last year for Father's Day. Apparently, boobies keep him distracted long enough to avoid tantrums. The toddler did pretty well, too...:c)

  21. HOW HAVE I NOT DISCOVERED YOU BEFORE????? seriously, how??? Oh I love you all already and I just found you! You walked right into my mind and then wrote it all down! Thanks for saying what we're all thinking!! (And come see me sometime, I write about Children's Books and we're a lot of fun! Or we try to be!) Aloha,Melissa http://www.juliasbookbag.com/

  22. You've got to love the servers who don't have kids, too. They look at the nice, convenient place the parents have cleared away in front of the child (salt & pepper and babies don't mix!) and place food directly in front of the toddler. You can always tell who understands kids--they place the food and drinks WELL away from the high chair.

  23. I know I wore the "perfume" of Eau de Enfamil for ages....

  24. Get.Out.

    Posting at Rants??

    This is big time, mama.

  25. Out to dinner with a toddler is enjoyable - if you go somewhere loud anyway! ;) p.s. I live in Eileen Fisher pants...I guess "repurpose as pj's" was in my dna.

  26. Oh my word...I LOVE this post. I almost sent it to my girlfriends who don't have kids (you know--the ones who always want to meet me and the kids out at a fancy restaurant) but I'm pretty sure I'd get slapped with a sandwich.

    In conclusion, Mr. Noodle terrifies me.

  27. This post explains exactly why I am so terrified to have anyone watch my baby boy, even his grandparents! I absolutely love reading your stuff!

  28. So SO SOOO true! We actually try to avoid resturants when are children are between the ages of 12 months and 24 months. I have left resturants crying because it went just that bad!

  29. ...leaving the house is as simple as picking up their purse/wallet and walking out the door...

  30. Let's see, my daughter is three....I haven't been to an actual sit down restaurant in...Three years!! What a coincidence!!

    I'm lying. When she was 3 mos old and still nursing, we went out to a family place for breakfast where I proceeded to nurse in public for the very first time. My daughter thanked me for the breakfast by emptying the contents of her stomach all over me mid-nurse. Baby, of course, had a change of clothes in the diaper bag. Mommy had to finish her meal covered in puked up breastmilk. Daddy kept his mouth shut because he knew what was good for him.

  31. Mommy Shorts here. Glad everyone can relate!

    Lisa- You should see my Dad and Stepmom's house. Not only are there knick knacks everywhere but they all have sharp edges or are heavy objects perched on top of thin shaky pedestals. We call it— Grandpa's Baby Deathtrap in the Hamptons.

    Anonymous- One time my husband and I went to a party at his friend's house with the baby. He had a great time watching football and hanging out. I spent the entire time rescuing my child from falling down the stairs and choking on peanut m&m's. Then he had the nerve to get all pissy when his team lost. I wanted to kill him.

    Mama Mal- My husband once put Mazzy in the carseat before the car was fully loaded. Let's just say— not her favorite moment. Once you put a toddler in any sort of locked down position— you must GO GO GO!!!!

    Carol- I am doing a post about that exact topic tomorrow. Advice for servers when a toddler is at the table. For our benefit and for theirs!

    Guru Louise- the only person who terrorizes me more than Mr. Noodle is Mr. Noodle's brother— Mr. Noodle. (no, that is not a typo)

    Lydia & Kate- thanks for having me here as always!

  32. Oh right, THAT is why I only eat at restaurants that have drive throughs with my children along! It's been a while and I'd almost forgotten....

  33. If they are female, they wear Jimmy Choos and read books.
    If they are male, they drive a sports car.

  34. Ok, Don't hate me because I'm totally not bragging because I can't see how I had anything to do with it at all and it is actually a drawback now because I don't really have any good stories to tell about my children, but my two boys must have been the most well-behaved and/or most boring infants/toddlers ever. We took them EVERYWHERE. They were so placid and easygoing they just sat and looked around. They never cried. They didn't fuss. They didn't run around and they didn't touch things once they were told "no no." They went to sleep on a regular schedule and if it was time for them to go to sleep, it didn't matter where they were or what was going on, they were going to sleep if they had to do it standing up, and there was no way to keep them from it.

    However, they more than made up for it by being hellish teenagers. Maybe they were saving up?

  35. you totally made my day!! i think the offering of the olive takes the cake!! i don't know how i have NOT been reading your posts!

  36. we now choose restaurants based on their kid-friendly activities, not on their food quality. and we order before we've sit down. and leave whilst still chewing.

  37. Handflapper— my mother always tells my sister and I that I was a nightmare of a child and a wonderful teenager and my sister was the perfect angel before she turned thirteen at which point it was everything she could do to keep her out of juvie.

    That's an exaggeration. But I do remember teenage tantrums where she kicked the walls on a regular basis.

    I guess I'll just book a spa vacation and create a reading list for the year 2023.

  38. Honestly, I disagree with the whole concept that you can tell the people who do not have children. I do not have any kids of my own, but am often told that I can handle my future step kids much better than their mother. Yes your father and step-mother were a moron, I get that. Yup there are people who don't grasp that 10 pm is too late or something taste better because it's fun to look at (Kool-aid fizzes went over extremely well at our house).

    Just remember, some of us, technically non-parents, know how to be a parent or interact with children where the kid will have fun and not be harmed.

  39. My FIL gave my son a coffee bean, and was shocked when he put it into his mouth!

  40. Bouncy castle floors! Genius.

  41. I can think of very few activities I'd enjoy less than going out to dinner with a toddler. It's why we, well... don't. I'm fine with cooking at home most of the time and saving my fine dining experiences for the rare-but-precious date night.

    And your top 10 list? Spot on. Especially #2. I have a friend who, every time I tell her something exasperating my 18-month-old does, responds with, "Oh, that reminds me of this annoying thing my cat did..." Yeah. Not the same thing.

  42. Oh my Maude!!!! I thought it was just my in-laws who were oblivious to kid-care-stuff. Case in point, MIL wants us to their house (an hour’s drive) at 11am on Christmas Eve. She would like us there “early” to have time to play and open presents before eating. I’m guesstimating she plans on serving food around 2pm? GREAT time for the 3-year-old and almost-2-year-old to eat, hmmmmmm? The hubs is on meltdown-avoidance (from the kids) patrol Christmas Eve – even if we (at my ahem......“suggestion”) have to interrupt the present-opening portion of the day in order to feed the beasts.




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