Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Is This Fun Again? (Or: What The Hell Were We Thinking Taking These Kids Out In Public?)

My husband and I love eating in restaurants. They don’t have to be fancy or have gourmet food (although that doesn’t hurt!), we just like the whole restaurant experience: sitting at a nicely set table, ordering food that we don’t have to cook, looking over the wine list, enjoying the ambiance, and then leaving when it’s over without having to do any dishes or cleanup. LOVE. IT.

Before we had kids, we used to go out to eat all of the time- at least twice a week. When we lived in New York, the bulk of our (meager) spending money went to eating in restaurants. When we moved to Malaysia, where eating out was a bit cheaper, that increased. We even had a tradition on Wednesday nights with some friends of going out and trying a new restaurant every week. Dinners and lunches were spent leisurely talking, enjoying the food, and we always, ALWAYS ordered dessert.

Then we had kids. And most of our friends had kids.

Nowadays, eating in restaurants is a whole different experience, and I mean different in the way that driving a new BMW and driving an old beater car are different. One is loud, takes a lot of attention and can often times be embarrassing. I’ll let you guess which one.

We just went out to lunch yesterday at a sushi place in the mall, and met some friends in the restaurant. We decided to all sit together and had kids ranging from ages 1.5-5 at the table. I won’t dwell too much on the gory details, but in the course of one hour we had:

• One toddler who could not sit still or more than two minutes and instead walked around all over the restaurant, causing near-collisions with several waiters carrying full trays.
• Two parents who took turns getting up and taking said toddler out into the mall to walk back and forth until the food came.
• One 4-year-old who refused to even TRY her vegetarian sushi roll and thus ate less than a model during Fashion Week.
• One toddler who ate like a model the week AFTER Fashion Week (or so I imagine!), but once finished screamed until she was released from the high chair. Loudly.
• Too many balloon fights between 4-year-old and her friend to count (why the *@#^ do restaurants give out balloons??? It never ends well).
• Two parents who were once again so desperate to get the check that the thought of dessert never even entered their minds.

**Note: I'm sorry to say that the toddler, 4-year-old and parents in the above recount all belong to our family. Sigh.**

And that was a usual lunch, I’m afraid to say.

In addition to the quality of meals that we enjoy, the caliber of restaurants has also changed. I remember a few years before we had kids, we were visiting some friends and their kids and decided to go out to dinner. We ended up going to a chain restaurant that is known more for its casual dining atmosphere than for its food. On the way home, we swore that when we had kids, we would take them to CLASSY restaurants, not to places like that. Because, you know, OUR kids would totally appreciate good food and would know how to act in nice places.

I’ll give you a few minutes here to finish laughing.

Suffice it to say, we have eaten at this chain restaurant more times that I care to admit, all over the world! When we go out to dinner now, we look for “family-friendly” places (translation: places that might have other kids worse behaved than ours), rather than delicious cuisine. When friends tell us about great new restaurants that they’ve discovered, our first question is always a trepidatious, “Can we take the kids there?” Once in a while, we find a place that has both, and when we do, we become that restaurant’s most loyal customers! When we lived in Malaysia, we had a restaurant near our house that had healthy food, as well as a play area for kids with TABLES INSIDE IT! I swear, we ate there as often as we could until we moved, and I still long for it (we moved away four years ago).

However, we don’t give up! We keep going to restaurants with our kids, because: 1.) Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of the house, 2.) Sometimes even the horror of taking small children to restaurants is worth it to have someone else cook the food, and 3.) We keep clinging to the hope that if we keep taking our kids out to eat, someday- SOMEDAY- they will finally be used to it and learn to act properly-ish (we’ll be happy with the “ish”).


Come on and make me feel better by sharing some of your worst family restaurant stories with me!


  1. Firstly, let me start off by saying how much I love that you now have a label for your blog which is entitled "Public Embarrassment", which implies (perhaps justifiably) that there are likely to be more stories to file under this category in the future... Love it.

    Yes, I have a story that will make you feel better, and it happened just over a week ago.

    Sunday night - the one day of the week where we don't have a helper to cook (go on, judge us, we deserve it) - we almost always end up going to a restaurant for dinner.

    This particular Sunday, Miles had heard of a great little BBQ restaurant in our neighbourhood that had very good reviews, and was a casual, out-doorsy sort of place.

    We rock up (a little past normal dinner time) with the kids, and Miles secures a table while I bustle them off to the loo. I figured going to the toilet beforehand would avoid any embarrassing accidents, and was a totally pro-parent moment (if I do say so myself).

    While in the loo, Griff complains of being hot, and tries to take off his shirt. It wasn't that hot, so I told him he'd be fine, picked him up and walked him out to the awaiting high chair.

    As I was maneuvering him into the high chair (no easy task, as he is a wiggly 3-year-old boy), out of nowhere, he power-chucked all over:
    (a) Me
    (b) Himself
    (c) (most mortifyingly) the restaurant table
    (d) the restaurant floor

    Bear in mind we hadn't even ordered yet!

    I desperately tried to wrestle him out of the high chair, but his shoe got stuck (as they do!), meaning the vomiting continued.

    Eventually I wrenched him out (foot and shoe still intact), and managed to haul him over to the gutter to keep vomiting, while all the poor diners looked on in abject horror.

    Actually, I am guessing this last part, as I made sure I didn't make ANY eye-contact with ANYONE!

    I made Miles grab our things, and we scurried out the back door, making embarrassed apologies to the poor wait-staff as we exited.

    It was a freaking nightmare.

    And the worst part is, I can't show my face at the restaurant ever again!

    So, does that make you feel better??

  2. I too love restaurants and dining out! Dining out in The Netherlands isn't as common as it is in America, so my trips out have waned quite a bit. Good thing, though, since food prices in restaurants here are insane.

    I don't have kids, but I've certainly seen parents trying to wrangle them in restaurants I frequented back in America. And I'm sure my parents have some horror stories about my brother and I. I particularly remember my brother freaking out to such a degree about getting a Happy Meal that my parents hit the drive-thru before going to a restaurant and then my brother eating said Happy Meal at the restaurant. I'm sure I've repressed my own acting out.

    I commend you guys for taking your kids out to eat and encouraging them to try new things! Free-range kids are awesome. Here in The Netherlands it's almost alarming how free kids are to roam, do what they want in restaurants, grocery stores, on bike lanes, etc. But what's great is seeing how none of the childless folks seem to care. They just go about their meals, eating, chatting, and ignoring the toddler meltdowns around them. This to me is so much more refreshing than some places in America - I'm thinking of the restaurant that banned children with a sign out front. Not a place where I want to dine.

  3. Actually, Keri-Lee, I'm pretty much figuring that the bulk of future blog posts will have the label "Public Embarrassment"! That's just the way we roll over here in the Raisdana family...

    And thanks, because your story totally, totally makes me feel better! Vomiting trumps crankiness and hyperactivity every time! It almost makes me want to take my kids out in public again. Almost.

  4. Mary, people here in Asia are pretty tolerant about children running wild, as well. However, the American in me cannot help but be certain that everyone in the restaurant is judging me and making snide remarks to each other!