Eating out with children is so fun. The French believe we are doing parenting wrong expecting our children to tag along and have meals out- they are big into babysitters. But I disagree. As long as you know what is coming and how to handle it. It’s fine, right? Sometimes.
Here’s some rules I’ve come to follow.
1) Choose wisely. Location, location, location. The restaurant has to be huge. Like a warehouse. Spacious. No cosy little pubs. Unless you fancy trying to ram a pram in and put your toddler in a straight jacket. Don’t go somewhere too posh either- you are only asking for trouble. It’s inevitable your children will be the worst behaved they have ever been during the entrees and you won’t make dessert.
2) Ask for extra chairs. Restaurant managers love this. Yes, it’s just my husband and I, toddler and baby but can we have that table for 8? My bag needs a chair- milk, toys, snacks, iPads need to be easily accessible. The pram takes up 3 chairs. A high chair will not be needed as the baby is too small and the toddler too grown up apparently. But sitting on Mummy’s lap is also fine when they remember they are still only 2.
3) Order food you can eat with one hand. Risotto anyone?
4) Even if your baby has fed, clean nappy, been given the whole world they will immediately start crying as your food leaves the kitchen. Cold Risotto anyone?
5) Take back-up if you can. Friends and Grandparents are great. They love entertaining your kids. And you just might be able to eat a nice meal in relative peace. Don’t worry about them. They love it.
6) iPad iPad iPad. Unless your toddler is fond of a few half chewed crayons and a piece of paper, the in-house entertainment will not suffice. That table next to you will just have to put up with Peppa joining them for lunch too.
7) Order your toddlers food first. Patience is not something they are generally blessed with. Phone in advance and have it ready on the table if you have to. And they eat so bloody slow it won’t matter. You will have seven courses in the time they have one. And be prepared for it to come out HOT and your toddler have a miniature tantrum while they wait for it to cool down. My husband actually asks if they can leave it sitting on the side for a bit before they bring it out. Our son wants to eat it straight away and is generally put off if that first mouthful melts his face.
8) Despite rule 7- whatever you order the toddler they will want what you have. “Some of Mummy’s peeese”. Did not know they were into sea bass.
9) Be prepared for someone to not actually be at the table much. A tour of the restaurant, gardens, loos with your restless 2 year old instead. Oooh stairs- great we can play on them for a bit. My brother-in-law Andrew is great at this. Anyone would think he doesn’t want lunch with the in laws? I’m sure he’s just taking one for the team by entertaining the boys.
10) Do not worry about anyone else around you. Disapproving looks when your kids are hammering ketchup in their mouth using only their fist is fine by me. It is pretty gross. But he’s a kid. Let him be one. Mrs Disapproval was one once so take that broom out your arse. I’m sure if you had kids they were perfect little angels. But mine aren’t and I love them more for it.
So take your kids out, have fun with them. Show them the world. And leave a massive tip to make up for the carnage you leave behind.