My husband and I have always loved eating out and figured that wouldn’t change after we became parents, but I still remember when relatives came over to visit when Jack was a newborn and suggested we go to dinner. I was hesitant–dinnertime was his fussiest time of the day–but my mother in law reassured me that we would take turns holding him and it would be fine. We went out to Chimes and yes, he did cry a little bit in public but it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, we had a great time! It was nice to feel a little bit like our old selves again even if things were now totally different. With that first experience under our proverbial belts we started going out again and before long we were total pros at dining out with a tiny human in tow. Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Choose your timing wisely. We don’t enter a restaurant later than 11:30 (for lunch) or 5:30 (for dinner) unless it’s an extremely special occasion that somebody else scheduled. Pushing the meal too close to baby’s nap or bedtime is like asking for trouble.
- Come prepared. We keep a tote bag loaded with small toys, snacks, a bib, and a travel placemat to take with us when we eat out. Before Jack ate solid food it was heavier on the toys but these days snacks are of the utmost importance, as are wipes to clean him up!
- Don’t stress. Nervous to nurse in public? People are much less likely to notice a baby who’s quietly nursing than one who’s screaming in hunger! Think your toddler will make too big of a mess? Just do a quick clean-up under the table before you depart or leave what one friend of mine calls a “guilt tip.” From hot dog stands to fine dining, we’ve never had anyone give our kid a dirty look.
So if you love to eat out but have been hesitant to bring baby along have no fear! There’s no better way to teach kids how to behave in public than through practice and I’m of the opinion that starting them early is key. But even if your two year old has never seen the inside of a restaurant, what’s the worst that could happen? Start slow with a family friendly place where squeals and restlessness will hardly be noticed and go forth with an attitude of confidence.
Another thing that we did when my daughter was younger was to ask for the check when the server brought the food to our table. That way we could leave quickly if she became too fussy during the meal.
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