IncreiMom and I like to treat Boy Wonder to the fine dining experiences of Red Robin, IHOP, and occasionally Arby’s. It’s really a great deal. He shares off of my plate, which cuts calories for me. Then I burn off whatever I am able to shovel in my mouth (inside ten seconds) by chasing him around the restaurant after he declares “All done!”. I don’t even feel guilty because it’s dinner and a workout. They should print that in the Michelin Guide.
Every once in a while, I must suffer from short-term memory loss because I don’t know how or why I could ever forget what a mistake it is taking a one year old into a nice restaurant, but I always do. Let’s define a “nice restaurant” here as a place with cloth napkins that no one in their right mind would ever bring a toddler to. . .like my mother-in-law’s retirement dinner.
The party was being held in the back room of a restaurant inside a Casino. Picture Boy Wonder holding my hand, distracted by the ringing slot machines, neon lights, and unfair house advantage of the Casino floor as we made our way to the restaurant. When we walk up, the entire restaurant staff has the same look on their face, like, “Are you sure you want to do this?” As we are walking to our table in the back, it’s clear that everyone eating in the restaurant knows that it’s a gigantic mistake. Especially the waiter, the waiter always knows.
I always start with high expectations of Boy Wonder. Sometimes he will sit in the high chair and quietly suck on the top of the salt shaker, but an IncrediDad knows that toddlers are just ticking time bombs. Soon he will get fidgety. Then he’ll tell you he’s all done. If you don’t act fast, the next thing he’s trying to do is cliff dive out of the high chair and make a run for it! It is for this reason that IncrediParents of young children know they must employ every tool in their utility belt in order to survive this situation.
Sometimes we get lucky with the server. If Boy Wonder thinks she’s cute, he will turn on his charm and flirt just long enough for her to take our order. If our server is male, forgetaboutit. You better hope there is bread on the table or Hot Wheels in the diaper bag. (A word of caution: While they are a reliable distraction, Hotwheels can AND WILL be used as projectiles)
Half the battle is to keep Boy Wonder seated at the table but nicer restaurants don’t have crayons to occupy the children. Often we have to improvise. As previously stated, anything that fits in his hands can be weaponized so choose wisely. A book, for instance, doesn’t get as much velocity and distance as a toy car and it gets bonus points for distracting him with colorful pictures. But even that only lasts a minute at most. When all else fails, “Cars 3” and “Chuggington” are both on Netflix. But “Here, play with my phone.” Is almost always reserved for when the food arrives. Until then it’s “Here’s a book.”, “What color is that?”, “Enjoy this steak knife.” I never understood why my Gramma knew so many creative (and dirty) ways to fold a cocktail napkin but now I understand. Being a mom of seven kids, for her it was that, or never eat outside her kitchen again.
At the aforementioned retirement dinner, I was able to keep Boy Wonder’s attention with the help of a cup of ice water and a straw. It certainly entertained him long enough for me to eat but let me assure you that you haven’t experienced parenting until your son pours an entire glass of ice water on your crotch in public.
I heard a couple people around me gasp but I couldn’t help laughing. What they didn’t know was that things could be very worse.
“Uh oh.” He said to me, grinning.
“It’s not uh oh if you do it on purpose buddy.” I replied and fed him another bite of my entree.
At least he was distracted.