Saturday, June 4, 2011

Out to Lunch

We took a day trip to an actual, sandy beach this holiday (many of the local Norman beaches are stony), and the kids had a ball building small, crumbly sand castles, digging holes, and in O's case, shoving sand into every nook and cranny possible, including his diaper, pockets, ears and my iPhone case.

In the evening back at home, our faces still glowing from the wind and bright sunshine, Husband and I were reminiscing about the fabulous time we'd had.

Me: Wasn't today fantastic? It really felt like a vacation!
H: It did! We should do that more often.
Me: I know. It was idyllic. Just PERFECT.
H: Yes, perfect.
Me: Idyllic.
H: Yes.
H:...Wait a sec, I think we're forgetting about lunch.
H: Remember lunch? When O had that screaming fit and you had to leave the restaurant? You know. Lunch.
Me: Oh right. That.

And the thing was, in the light of the beautiful afternoon I really had forgotten about the less-than-idyllic restaurant lunch. This is obviously the same kind of biological, survival-of-the-human-race amnesia that results in couples having more than one kid.

But don't worry. I remember now. As, I'm sure, do the rest of the diners sitting on the terrace and also possibly the people driving by with their car windows open.

There really isn't much of a story: Mostly our lunch involved us sitting down to eat at a cafe in Deauville, and O screaming his head off. SCRA-AH-EEAMING. About everything. Because he was tired. Because he's two. Because he couldn't run around in the street where the cars were. Because we sat him next to M. Because we didn't sit him next to M. Because he wanted his mommy. Because he hated his mommy. I don't know. Because.

We tried everything. Letting him sit on our laps, giving him an extra straw, drinking from the special grown-up glasses, you name it.

We were only able to finish our lunch because I finally caved into his demands for a pacifier (even though we are trying to cut it out) and because I left the restaurant with him in a stroller and ended up threatening him with NO BEACH TODAY AND ALSO POSSIBLY NO ICE CREAM EVER FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. This is probably not my finest parenting moment. It's probably not OK to threaten two-year-olds. I mean, I don't even know if two-year-olds understand threats. But I was desperate for a way to get him to calm down enough to rejoin the table so that we (and everyone else) could eat the food that was already sitting on the table.

Seriously, why do we even bother?

It comes down to the fact that taking young children out to a restaurant is always a gamble, and yet, we go out to eat at least once a week. Most of the time it's not a problem, but sometimes it can be a disaster: One of those meals where you spend your entire time trying to reign in your children, keeping them from making too much noise, trying to get them to eat the sauce, worrying about how much they are bothering the other diners (a lot) and why the hell is the wait staff taking SO FREAKIN' LONG TO BRING THE BILL OH MY GOD WE ORDERED IT 30 SECONDS AGO CANT YOU SEE WE ARE TRYING TO GET OUT OF HERE.

And we are paying for this pleasure! Sometimes, for fun, I also like to stick pins in my eyes.

But really, we do it because we aspire to those great times when everyone is well-behaved and eats everything, and we hope desperately that just because we have kids doesn't mean that we can't carry on doing the things we used to enjoy. I don't want to be permanently relegated to those places with jungle gyms where it's OK to run around yelling or to the snack bar/picnic table. I love eating out and good food and want my children to learn to behave appropriately in restaurants so that we can enjoy it together. How can you do that without taking them out?

(Let me clarify that I'm not talking about 5-star dining establishments, but about your every day, casual restaurant. One that serves lots of wine. Obviously.) 

This strategy worked for M, who is now five and for the most part really well-behaved in restaurants. (I've blocked out that previous post where she threw a fit outside the school. Biological amnesia hard at work!) Though she's a picky eater (no sauce, no meat), she can sit through a couple courses to get to the ice cream. So, let's see, O is two now so that's...only three more years of dragging him out screaming to get to that stage! Excellent.

What are your thoughts on kids in restaurants? Is it worth the effort?

PS - We live in Twickenham and often visit Normandy, so if you are thinking about a nice leisurely lunch, can I recommend Asia? At least for the next couple years. 


  1. Hi Caroline,

    Speaking from our experience, anyway, it's definitely worth the effort. I hardly remember the really bad times, but I cherish the memory of the time Ron's mom took the six of us to a fancy restaurant, and an elderly (senile?) woman came by the table specifically to compliment us on the kids' good behavior. Wish I could remember what worked that time.

    You or H might have to leave the restaurant a few more times (maybe best to do at the first sign of trouble?). Bribery's always good. Sooner than you think, this will all be behind you.

    Then, out of the blue, when the kids are, say, 16 and 14, they'll get the giggles--really loud, rib-tickling, stomach-poking giggles...for about an hour. And you'll feel totally helpless all over again, and wonder if it's worth it.

  2. Caroline, your post made me laugh out loud! I've sent your blog to a few friends who are mums, just about to become mums (so they know what they're getting into!) and I voted for you! looking forward to more... m x

  3. I live about 15 minutes from Deauville and was wondering what that unidentified shrill screeching sound was around lunch time on Saturday! ;)

    Our little family of five ventured out to a restaurant as well on Saturday; 2 adults and a 12, 7 and 5 month old! I was the mommy under the table at the Sushi restaurant in Trouville Sur Mer hiding from the waitress that just got hit with the plastic straw shot across the room by my 'bon vivant' 7 year old....

    Oh well.....we try. We call in 'restaurant-training' when we go out to unsuspecting establishments with our children in attempts to teach them table manners and social skills---and I keep telling myself that someday, in about 30 years--they will thanks us for it!