Babies in Restaurants and Other Mistakes We Made

Baby Josh and me in his rare moment of slumber

I was going to post about putting down sleeping babies in public places, but then it got me thinking about a related topic — the lethal mix of babies and restaurants — so here I go.

Before David and I became parents, we used to go out to eat all the time. He used to joke that the best thing I made for dinner was…a reservation. So when we had our first baby, we thought we could continue our tradition without skipping a beat. Boy, were we in for a surprise!

Many parents wheel their newborns in their strollers into a restaurant and enjoy a night out while their little angel quietly sleeps. Naturally, I thought we’d try it too. But no — God in His infinite wisdom chose to give us a baby who would begin fussing late in the afternoon and continue crying until midnight. In hindsight, he was probably colicky, but at the time I was under the romantic notion that we had a normal baby. Somehow, I thought that he would magically stop crying when we stepped into the presence of a maitre de.

We figured out quickly how wrong we were, and within minutes after sitting down, one of us would have to step outside to calm down a fussy baby. We didn’t want to become like one of “those” parents we used to balk at. Thus, our date nights became very lonely occasions where one of us would sit at the table and gulp down the food while the other would walk around outside rocking a crying baby. The food would inevitably get cold for the one who works the first shift. More than once during the hand-off outside, the staff assumed that we had left and cleared off our table, throwing away our precious dinner.

When the baby turned into a walking toddler, that’s when the battle really began. I don’t know about other toddlers, but my son was constantly in motion. The high chair, even with a seat belt, was only good for about 90 seconds. Soon, he’d find a way to wiggle out and hit the ground running. We gravitated towards restaurants with round table cloths that reached the floor, because then it doubled as a playpen. We would use our legs to corral him under the table so we could just spend a few minutes dining together.

“How was your day, honey?”

“Oh, pretty good. Whoa–what is he putting in his mouth now? Gross!”

Then one of us would dive down to grab him out of the restaurant while the other would continue a lonely meal.

Occasionally we did hire a babysitter, but you know how it goes — you need to pay for a sitter AND pay for dinner at a restaurant, doubling the cost of going out. It just wasn’t worth it, and we threw in our towels. Let’s just not bother going out for a while.

Thus began our domestic family life, which lasted about 18 to 24 months after each child was born. We only went out for very special occasions or when we got a private banquet room at Chinese restaurants. Look at all the places you can hide — now go, kids!

So, that was how we handled the “Kids at Restaurants” dilemma — by letting go for a season. What are your experiences at diners? Were you one of the fortunate ones who could schlep a baby around everywhere because they were so good? What do you think of parents who bring misbehaving children to fine restaurants?