There comes a time in every parent's life when they find themselves in that awful hellscape that is taking their toddler to a restaurant. It is mostly a humiliating affair for everyone involved (except your toddler, of course) as you become the pariahs of the moment. For some reason, your trip to a restaurant will inevitably coincide with your toddler's nap time, which means you will be likely facing a disaster of seismic proportions. In fact, expect your toddler to engage in deeply subversive behaviors when you're at a restaurant and you will not leave disappointed.
Years ago, when I had my first baby, a mom friend and I decided to make it our mission to bring our babies to as many restaurants in New York City as we possibly could. You know, to see how "baby friendly" they were. We created a website based on this idea where we reviewed the most kid-friendly spots in the city (and in Brooklyn) and rated them based on a variety of baby and kid-friendly factors. So I can say with a lot of confidence that I have a ton of experience taking a toddler to restaurants. However, that repeated exposure to restaurants does not necessarily breed a refined mini-foodie. Oh no. Each outing was nothing short of a near epic-disaster, complete with Cheerio explosions, spoons thrown in every damn direction, baby food launched across the table, tantrums, and quite a few nursing bloopers (milk spurting across the white table cloths, anyone?).
However, some toddler restaurant behaviors don't feel like they come from an authentic place of "toddler rage" against having to sit still in a public space and act all proper. Some of their restaurant behaviors are just plain creepy, and, let's face it, subversive. Let's take a closer look at some of them, shall we?
They'll Run Out The Door When You're Not Looking
Toddlers are known to pull full-on escape acts in the middle of restaurant meals. If you so much as look inside your purse for your emergency chocolate stash to squash a tantrum, or gaze at your iPhone to find your toddler's favorite YouTube video, you might look up to find your toddler has vanished. It takes two seconds for toddlers to pull this Houdini-like move, which is baffling because it took five minutes to figure out how to strap them into that damn booster seat.
They'll Decide To Go Live With Another Family For The Duration Of The Meal
You ordered your toddler exactly what they asked for (the plainest of the plain spaghetti with no sauce, or else) but today, your darling dearest has decided they would like to eat with this other family over there. They seem nice enough, but what's with your toddler's newfound love of tuna salad all of a sudden? Has your kid ever had tuna salad before? Why now?
You do admit, this whole scenario is kind of cute, but why, dear lord, must it be off of the plate of your toddler's brand new best friend, who has a fountain of mucus dripping from their nose?
They'll Steal Things Off The Table
It is not until much later, when you are emptying your diaper bag, that you realize you are now the proud owner of a Heinz Ketchup bottle and an industrial napkin holder. You were wondering why your diaper bag was feeling awfully heavy, but you figured it was just the weight of all your sorrow from having to put up with that diaper change in the restroom earlier, when your toddler insisted on standing up and then hugged you while there was still poop on his butt (true story, it happened to me.)
They'll Play An Unwelcome Game Of Peek-A-Boo With The Table Behind Yours
My son loves a good restaurant booth, because then he can do that whole Wilson from Home Improvement thing and peek his eyes just above the top edge and stare at the booth behind us. Or, once he gets eye contact, he will disappear and pop back up again and shout, "peek-a-boo!"
Once in a while he will get a welcoming table that is down with the game, but most of the time, people just want to be left alone to their meal without a creepy toddler watching their every move or interrupting their meal.
They'll Shout Orders At Every Server That Walks By
Toddlers are used to being waited on hand and foot, so why would they assume that the person taking your table's order is not there to take every kind of order?
My toddler barks all kinds of demands that often have nothing to do with menu items or food. His requests range (embarrassingly) from "want more ice cubes!" to "want to go potty!' to "make my iPad louder!" If he were wearing a fur stole and big cat-eye sunglasses, and occasionally purred, "daaahling" he would look just the part.
They'll Lick The Saltshakers
Toddlers like to lick things. Salt is fun to lick. Of course they will lick the salt shaker that has been who-knows-where. That is, before they steal it away to your diaper bag.
They'll Loudly Demanding That You Share Your Wine
The other night we were out to dinner and my son loudly announced, "I think I would like some of your wine." He wouldn't stop talking about "Mommy's delicious delicious wine" for the rest of the meal, you guys. In his loudest voice. Yeah, I'm sure no one around me was judging my parenting, right? (Don't answer that question, please.)