There's no actual dining when you go out to supper.
Not with a toddler.
Especially not with a potty training toddler.
My friend Alyssa and I met at Panera last night with the intention of going to Target. She brought Brynn, who I could EAT UP, and of course Liam was along for the ride.
We got our meals and Liam ate the meat and cheese and yogurt and left the bread. Brynn was shoving her face with handfuls of sandwich bits. By the time we were all finished, the floor looked like...well, like two kids under the age of two had just dined there.
When I go out with Liam, I do not order hot food. There's really no purpose in heating anything up when it's just going to sit and get cold anyway.
There's this little dance that mom's do when they go out to eat. Because you know what your child will eat, and what he won't. And when you're going out, and you're actually spending cash money on food (and not just pulling from the freezer or pantry...) you're going to put a TON of thought into what is LEAST LIKELY to end up in the trash can on the way out. You scope out menus BEFORE you go in. Kids menu? Anything on it not fried? Anything on it come without fries? Anything on it going to make a minimal mess?
You get into the restaurant and the hostess eyes you up. You eye the hostess up. Those heels she's wearing are going to give her varicose veins. Just saying. She looks on her little white board eraser thingy for an opening in the noisy children zone. 20 minute wait. Sure, why not? Until you pack up your brood, get to another place with less of a wait, you should just wait the 20 minutes.
What do you do with a child under 2 for 20 minutes? Do you remember when they were just infants and you could use this little nugget of time to breast feed politely in a corner or feed them their bottle or get out the container of cheerios in an attempt to keep them occupied. No longer, my friend. Because now, your toddler is capable of something called "spoiling their supper." This happens when they find a handful of rogue goldfish snacks in their car seat on the way to the eatery. This happens when they ask for a drink before supper and "just a little sip" turns into them handing back the cup empty.
So you're sitting there waiting for your name to be called. "Do you have to go to the potty?" No. "Yes you do, let's go." NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. "Yes." (Because at this point, you don't want to be the push-over parent for all to see and silently mock) so you stuff your board of a child under one arm, and head for the bathroom. You come back. He didn't go. Your 2x2 foot space on the waiting bench is now occupied. You hold your child. You show him every number and letter you can find. "What's this?! An H! H is for HOUSE. You say it." "What is this? a 5? Party of Five! Let's count to FIVE!" You dig deep in the diaper bag for something to do. Oh, here's a bulletin from church on Sunday and a red crayon from the last place at which you attempted to eat! So you draw. Then he scribbles. Then he's done. Then you look and find a plastic bag that once contained snacks. You put it over your hand like a puppet. You put it over his hand like a puppet. The bag rips. You dig deeper. You find a teething toy from when he was actually- it wasn't THAT long ago, was it?? He puts it on as a bracelet. He can't get it off. He wails. "Fold your hand into a little...no listen, not a fist, no, listen make your hand like this...just put your fingers...Liam, stop. Liam." You get the teething ring off his hand. Your place on the bench is now free. Hey, weren't they their after you? Okay, whatever, it's been at LEAST 15 minutes, your turn is up soon. Liam lays on the floor. "Get off the floor!!! It's DIRTY!!!!" He cries. He's starving. You pick him up. You put him on the bench. He purposely slides off. You pick him up again. He jellies himself and drops to the floor. You hiss something in his ear about no ice cream. He stands up straight. He grabs you by the face and kisses you. Baby. Ice cream please. "We'll see."
You take out the dreaded cell phone. The thing you have always VOWED to take out only in times of emergency because it bothers you SO MUCH to see parents shove an electronic device into their kid's hands while acting out. Guess what, sister? You're that person tonight. Thankfully it fills up the exact amount of time it takes for you to get your table and get seated. They have a high chair waiting. Great, your child doesn't fit in a high chair any more...and they're all out of boosters. Of course they are! It's fine, you'll eat with him on your lap.
You get situated and put in your order. Salad for you, white pizza with broccoli for him. Baby drink. "Let me help-" nope. Words out of my mouth...water on my lap. On my plate. On my purse, on the dreaded phone. The bus boy runs over to help. There's a small waterfall streaming over the side of the table onto the floor. You now have the attention of the entire restaurant. Liam starts to cry, and then like magic, the cold water on his inevitably warm body had encouraged him to, you guessed it! Pee down the leg. Some people would take the high road at this point- offer to help clean up- until you catch your son splashing in the water/pee and you decided you just need to make a clean break from this place. "Can we please get our food to go."
You shove a $5 tip on a $10 meal in the hands of the bus boy and head for the car, child on the hip, scalding hot box of pizza in your hand.
Maybe you'll try it again.
When he's 10.