In principle, I’m a big advocate of taking young children out to eat.

 

I think it’s really important that Miss O is regularly exposed to the experience whilst she’s little, and I love that she gets the opportunity to try different flavours and dishes (I imagine that’s also a big plus for her; the food at Chez Mama is hardly 5 star). In practice though, it’s a bit of a mission.

 

Pre- and post-baby dining adventures are VERY different beasts:

 

  • Those days of simply wandering into that lovely bistro you’ve happened upon are officially dead. We have to pack a bloody suitcase full of changing gear, eating equipment and tantrum-prevention tricks before we can even leave the house; it looks like we’re moving in, not stopping for a quick bite.

 

  • There is no such thing as an evening meal anymore – you’re heading back out the door with your ketchup-covered toddler long before the pensioners start rocking up for their early-bird specials.

 

  • Our restaurant selection criteria has changed somewhat:

    Pre-baby:
    “What’s the food/service/ambience like?”

    Post-baby:
    “What percentage of the food is nugget/finger-shaped?”
    “Is it child-friendly?” (painfully bright/aggressively colourful/cloaked in despair)
    “Are there children noisier than mine inside?”
    “They DEFINITELY sell wine here, right??”

 

  • An empty restaurant used to be a bit of a let-down. These days it’s a real happy dance moment – I’m all for having a smaller audience/victim pool when the sh*t inevitably hits the fan…

 

  • Wooden spoons now indicate two things – your table number, and the number of times your child will repeatedly smack it against the table before you completely lose your cool (“don’t do that sweetie; no…that’s enough now…look at me, don’t hit the…oh for f*ck sake!! It’s like eating with the cast of bloody Stomp!”).

 

  • There are certain situations you just learn to avoid. Those American diner-esque booths have been a big no-no since Miss O spent an entire meal lounging over the back of one trying to pat the head of the poor sod sitting behind us.

 

  • Hot food is a ticking time bomb. Toddlers flippin’ love it when you place a tempting plate of food in front of them, then tell them they can’t touch it. Cue frantic blowing, fanning and goujon-dismantling in a bid to stem the waterworks.

 

  • I used to think those balloons they have near the counter were a lovely touch for families. Now I know that I’m in for an hour of latex b*tch slaps to the face, followed by an earful from Miss O when I finally snap and confiscate the damn thing. Thanks, guys, thanks a chuffing bunch.

 

  • For adults, it’s all about finger food – one hand to eat, the other to prevent your little darling from impaling herself with the cutlery/eating the complimentary crayons / lobbing breadsticks at the couple on the next table.

 

  • Laminated menus win; they’re much harder to chew. Plastic glasses rule; they’re much harder to smash. Dungarees are essential; they’re much easier to remove when your child’s arse explodes all over the high chair…

 

  • I end up spending way more time under the table searching for Duplo/peas/my dignity, than actually eating at it.

 

  • There’s none of that romantic feeding each other dessert nonsense – we’re mainly fending off Miss O’s attempts to force regurgitated sweet potato fries into our mouths.

 

  • When they bring us the bill, we never get offered coffee anymore; it’s almost like they don’t want us to linger?

 

I think we’ve got a little while to go before she’s mastered the whole dining etiquette thing.

 

I'm a Northamptonshire-based mum of a gorgeous (if a bit of an arse sometimes) 2 year old girl. Marketing Manager by day, mum blogger/wine drinker/Lego picker-upper by night. You can also follow my parenting antics on Twitter or Facebook if that’s more your bag!

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