Remember back before you had kids? (Take your time; I’ll wait while you try to summon up the memory.) You’d get home from work and think, “I don’t want to go through the effort of making dinner. Let’s just go out to eat.” Because back then, a restaurant was the easy eating option. Oh, what simple times those were for your taste buds. And your heart rate.
Then you had kids.
And all of a sudden a restaurant is no longer your happy place where the nice people bring you food and drinks that taste so much better than anything you could ever prepare (even their soda tastes better, with its bouncy bubbles of joy fresh from the fountain). Post-children, a restaurant is no longer Utopia; it’s been transformed into a grueling challenge that must be survived.
All enter with the same hopes and dreams. (“Full bellies, clean clothes, no tears!”) But very few exit unscathed. This undertaking is not for the weak or ill-prepared.
You have to come armed with the right equipment: snacks, toys, backup snacks, backup toys. You cannot ever let your guard down. Don’t even think of glancing at that TV on the wall – that’s when servers get hit with flying spoons.
Speaking of flying spoons (and flying toys and flying food): your reflexes are going to get a workout. You have to be quick and agile, ready for whatever comes your way. Because there will literally be things (namely food and utensils) coming your way (namely at your face), and lots of them. Items will be projected in all directions; the floor will be a wasteland of failed peace offerings you’ve made to the children in hopes of buying 10 seconds of peace.
And speaking of servers: you need to know going in how they will work against you. They will leisurely allow you ample time to peruse the menu (“We’ve been here 35 seconds, we need to order now! There isn’t much time!”). They will put food down right in front of the children (please see “flying food” section above). And they will not understand that once the Exit Plan has been engaged you are done and need to leave IMMEDIATELY. There is no time for idle chatter or talk of dessert. Hustle, people!
Once you leave the restaurant, the staff will have no idea that they’ve just witnessed an extraordinary test of physical and mental strength. But they will know that the table looks like someone left shortly after losing a wrestling match on it. And when looking at that table they’ll be stumped as to how such a mess could remain in addition to the huge pile of dripping, sticky used napkins. We all wonder that. (In fact, I think I’ll title my next parenting book You’re Gonna Need More Napkins.)
Given its incredibly low success rate, you might be wondering why I even bother attempting the restaurant feat. But then you might be underestimating how much I dislike cooking. So I push on. With dreams of a peaceful dining experience somewhere in my future, I push on.
Excerpted from The Sh!t No One Tells You About Toddlers: A Guide to Surviving the Toddler Years (September 2015) by Dawn Dais, with permission from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. © 2015.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November/ December 2015.