9 stages of dining out with your tot

Junior’s behaviour will make you think twice about dining out with her. Here’s how it can all go down(hill)…

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Going out for dinner as a family always seems like a good idea in theory. After all, eating together strengthens your family’s bond. Besides, good company turns a pleasant meal into an unforgettable one.

That said, eating as a family with a strong-willed 3-year-old is probably easier said than done. From choosing an affordable family-friendly restaurant to getting your family out of the door, then back home in one piece, many things can go wrong along the way ― and it probably will, too. Here’s how…

Stage 1: Wardrobe issues

You’ve planned the perfect outfit in your head for yourself, your hubby and your mini-me. But your tot has other ideas. She insists on wearing her Frozen costume. You try to bribe her with cake later if she puts on the cotton dress you had painstakingly ironed the night before. A heated exchange over the attire ensues but neither party wants to give in. In the end, you stick to your guns and stuff your screaming tot into the dress ― who cares if she likes it or not?

“If you didn’t force her to wear what you wanted, we won’t have to worry about being late.”

Stage 2: The silent treatment

You all manage to leave the house, even though it’s almost a half hour past your expected time of departure. Worrying that you may lose your reservation, you urge your husband to hurry. Huffily, he tells you he knows how long it’ll take to get to the eatery, then adds, “If you didn’t force her to wear what you wanted, we won’t have to worry about being late.” You tell yourself to keep calm, refusing to ruin the prospect of a good meal. Your whimpering child, who’s finally recovered from her tantrum, is still giving you the cold shoulder.

Stage 3: Excitement builds

Your tot is a totally different person when she’s in the presence of others. She smiles angelically at the staff. You ask the waiter for colouring sheets and pencils to entertain your little one who’s really excited to be in the restaurant then you order for the family.

Stage 4: Curiosity takes over

Your mini-explorer is looking everywhere else instead of completing the colouring sheets. Her eyes dart from the stain on the floor to the three women sharing a slice of chocolate cake at the next table.

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Stage 5: Why are we waiting?

If the 3-year-olds of this world had it their way, they’d expect their food to be served the minute the order is placed. Though it’s a mere two minutes since you ordered, your kewpie is starting to grow impatient. Knowing if you don’t deal with her impatience now, the boredom will morph into full-blown mischief and you’d much rather have a conversation with your hubby than handle a meltdown in public. So, you whip out your trusty phone/tablet and select her favourite cartoon before handing it to her.

Stage 6: False hope

The drinks are served and you child is all too happy to focus her orange juice. But when she keeps sucking thirstily on it, you reach over to tell her to slow down. She stops and returns to watching the cartoon. Four minutes of relative bliss later, you’re actually beginning to relax. You think: “See, it’s not that bad.”

If the 3-year-olds of this world had it their way, they’d expect their food to be served the minute the order is placed.

Stage 7: Why are we waiting? (Part II)

Your mini-me’s cartoon ends but the food still isn’t here. Though it’s only been 15 minutes since you were seated, for your threenager, it’s been an eternity since you ordered. You ask the waiter to check on your order. The waiter disappears into the kitchen, never to return. In the meantime, you try to placate your toddler by asking her to resume her colouring. She’s not having it and launches into a full-blown tantrum, flinging any cutlery she can get her mitts on at you, while you yell at her to stop. It won’t take long for every single customer in the restaurant to steal glances at your table.

Stage 8: FINALLY, the food arrives!

The kitchen staff finally understand that the only way to silence the tears is to put food in the rascal’s mouth and it’s as if your child’s screeching cries were their cue, the food arrives. It isn’t long before junior happily chows down on spaghetti. Apart from for the occasional act of mischief, like using her hands to pick up food instead of the utensils provided, the meal proceeds seamlessly.

Stage 9: The family has left the building

After she’s done eating dessert, your little girl’s attention is planted firmly on your phone as a waiter clears the plates. Another five minutes pass and when the waiter presents the bill, you sign the receipt and tell your tot it’s time to go. She refuses because she’s almost mid-way through the cartoon she’s only watched a gazillion times.

You’ve had it with her stubborn behaviour, especially after the tantrum she threw earlier. Picking up the phone, you manhandle your kewpie out of the chair and drag your kicking and screaming 3-year-old out of the restaurant, back to the solace of the family car. You turn to your hubby and you both agree never to do this again.

At least until the next weekend comes around.

Photos: iStock

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