I’m not going to lie. Before I became a mum, I was often one of those self-righteous people who would have tut-tutted under their breath about unruly or loud toddlers and children in restaurants or cafes. I'd never have said anything to the parents mind you and I would have understood that kids get bored easily, but that said, when I look back, I was guilty of having 'judgy' thoughts.
Would they not stop them running around?
Listen to that child screaming!
Look at that brat throwing cutlery off the table.
Karma has a very sharp sense of humour it seems, because I am now the parent who faces a shit storm of tantrums every time I dine out with my 15 month old. I look around and I’m only too aware that other diners are secretly judging me and my son’s socially unacceptable behaviour.
Oh if only I could go back and give myself a large slap in the face! I think I’d really, really enjoy that!
Yes, clearly pre-kids I knew absolutely nothing about children full stop, and even less about the mechanics of bringing tiny humans out to eat and all the potential hell that goes with it. Especially since my parents always told me I was so good when we’d go out. I’d sit there quietly and behave… so of course I just assumed my son would do the same!
What was I thinking? Did I somehow expect him to sit in a seat, stay quiet and eat like a grown up person would do?
Now that I am a parent I can see how expecting that from a toddler or small child is ludicrous. The bottom line is, they have zero levels of patience, they have no concept of reason, they have the attention level of a goldfish and God help anyone who takes a knife away from their chubby paw or doesn’t let them tear the menu into a million pieces.
What’s worse is, I often look around the dining room or café apologising with my eyes to all in sundry and I invariably tend to happen upon a perfectly polite baby of a similar age sitting happily in their chair eating their food and generally being a total angel… where have I gone wrong? Is it just my son who seems to be a complete rebel?
When we’re out he just has no concept of keeping his voice down. If something displeases him, he’s going to let the entire room know about it. His emotions are real, raw and out there for the world to see and hear. For him, the end of the world comes on a regular basis and it’s often over not being able to shove a crayon up his nose or play with a boiling pot of tea. He doesn’t want to still in a boring seat for the length an entire the meal. He eventually gets ancy and wants to get out and explore. He sees salt shakers, side plates, napkins, menus and cutlery in front of him as obviously being placed there for him to hurl with wild abandon.
And yes that really is him above in the picture with his feet on the table looking like he owns the joint!
Now don’t get me wrong. I do tell him no and try and explain why he can't do all of these things. But I may as well be speaking to the wall in Chinese for all the sense it makes to him.
Most of the meal or even coffee and a bun is spent picking up things he’s thrown off the table, stopping him grabbing sharp objects, trying to get him to eat something healthy-ish, telling him no, apologising to the other diners and cursing myself for coming out to a resultant with a toddler in the first place.
I know it’s a learning curve and we both have to go through it and I hope things will get easier as he grows, but right now it’s a nightmare I really dread.
Motherhood has taught me so much, but patience, empathy and understanding are now my specialist subjects.