Going out to eat with kids is a challenge. My husband and I have an ongoing debate when it comes to eating in public with our children. 1) Do we go where other families won’t stare at us (i.e. family restaurants with kid menus)? Or 2) Do we go in public with our children, and socialize them to being comfortable in public so they can learn how to not humiliate their parents (i.e. restaurants with cloth napkins)?

Ever since I had my first baby, I loved going to different restaurants. In my “new mom mind”, I truly believed the more exposure my infant son had to different eating establishments, the more diverse his palate, and the easier it would be to take a child to a restaurant as he grew!

I can’t believe how naive I was!

And that we would not receive unpleasant glares at by the non-parents.

I can’t believe how naive I was!

I took my first born everywhere! He ate everything that I ate (thank goodness for breastfeeding)! Mexican, Greek, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and yes, even the good ol’ New Mexico Green Chili Cheese Burger.

                Then reality hit. My infant became a toddler. And my toddler had an awesome right arm.

He could toss any plate of food 12 feet across the restaurant!

                And to top it off, we added another baby! Soon, we had two small people with the ability to clear a table and destroy a restaurant in 5 seconds flat! And that’s from the highchairs! When my two would-be foodies started toddling and demanding to go on tour of the restaurants, I knew we were out of our league!

                I just knew that with two wild children in a restaurant, I was asking for trouble.

First:  The Water Glass. Have you noticed that the wait staff always – ALWAYS sets the full water glass closest to the one with the least body control? Yeah, and you don’t know until your lap is drenched in ice cold liquid.

Second: The Flatware/Silverware/Utensils. Have you seen how quickly a toddler can turn a spoon into a weapon? No? That’s probably because you had your eyes closed when the fork your baby darling nabbed, was waved wildly close to your eyes! And let’s not talk about how the butter knife turns into a sword. A seemingly harmless tool used for the creamiest butter, from which you now duck and take cover, your beautiful child is waving “the sword” so confidently, like he’s known his whole life that it is not meant to butter a biscuit. 

Third: The Appetizer. Forget eating. Just forget it. You shovel those nachos into your mouth because the sharp corners of the stale tortilla chip could poke YOUR eye out. Seriously. Those kids have good aim.

Fourth:  The Entrée. Here is where the fun begins. You and your husband/date/main-squeeze literally take turns eating. Why? Because one of you has to keep the sharp objects away from this kid for your own protection. And one of the adults must have nourishment so they have the strength to fend off this kid so the other adult gets a taste of the $25 entrée. It is in this moment, you both silently question the reason you had kids, and now understand what it’s like to truly herd cats. Who knew they had ninja abilities, too?

Lastly: The Bill. You grab at whatever the waiter/waitress handed you, shove a credit card in their hand while one parent frantically picks up the table to hide evidence of any lack of manners and spilled drinks. One parent packs up the kid, who is now screaming because the food wasn’t right, the chair was too tight, or the sharp spoon was removed. Of course, one of you apologizes to all the patrons in the restaurant, and slyly hides an extra $10 under your plate, mostly out of guilt and probably to pay for something. It’s the thought that counts.

And this is what your life becomes as the parent of a toddler. From now on, when you go to a restaurant with a toddler, you will have the “Fight or Flight” response at the ready. You and your spouse search the restaurants for all exits, easy access bathrooms, and swiftly remove the utensils, salt and pepper shakers, and sugar packets.

You are now relegated to the restaurant with the kids menu, the coloring books, and the crayons.


Deb Burke

I grew up in the picturesque town of Madison, Wisconsin. That's the only normal thing about me. I also grew up in a family shoe repair business and soon learned that child labor laws don't apply to family businesses. I left Madison to finish college in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here I became a spelunker, a cyclist, a mountain trail runner, an avid hot air balloon watcher (much to the dismay of the drivers behind me) and quite the connoisseur of green chili cheese burgers. Eventually, I fell in love, had 2 children, bought a house, and then got married (in that order). Life is certainly crazy keeping up with my two boys!