I have learned that being a mom never gets easier and the experiences never get less fascinating. No matter where you go or what you do, new and interesting moments occur because that’s simply how motherhood works. I have also learned that motherhood brings forward both moments of frustration and fun – often combined together.
I recently experienced both of these emotions at a restaurant – yes, a restaurant.
After attempting to bring the girls to the mall during the most chaotic shopping time of the year, we escaped to a nearby restaurant. Though it was crowded, and it was beyond the girls’ dinner time, we decided to give it a try. We put them in high chairs, put the bibs on them we had brought, and gave them their sippy cups and some Cheerios to hold them over.
Truthfully, they behaved very well. They were relatively quiet (for one-year-olds), waving to people at nearby tables, and only threw their sippy cups on the ground a handful of times. However, even though they behaved well, it didn’t mean the experience wasn’t filled with little moments of frustration. Looking back, the moments were laughable ones. The laughable moments brought forward very interesting learning experiences for both my boyfriend and I that we definitely won’t forget when we bring them out for a “big girl” outing next time.
A “big girl” outing includes using high chairs and ordering from the restaurant menu (rather than bringing food from home) and let me tell you, this transition sure is frustratingly fun.
Changing Tables Don’t Exist Everywhere
There have been articles in newspapers and supposed “laws” being created that say changing tables must be in all public spaces. Well, that isn’t always the case. More times than not, we have had to make a changing table out of coats and paper towels in the booth of a restaurant or on the dingy floor of a public space (yes, it is gross).
When we went out to eat as a family during this eye-opening outing, we had experienced this frustration before. We had been out as a family numerous times, but often with other friends or family members accompanying us to help. We also had brought food from home for the twins in the past, but this time we were ordering off the menu for them (which is a whole different scenario in itself). When we thought one of the girls had gone “number two” (which happened to miraculously be a false alarm), I scooped her up and confidently hiked into the bathroom.
There was not a changing table.
As I said, it was a false alarm - and thank goodness it was. I always feel like a horrible parent when it comes to changing my child on a dirty floor or restaurant booth. I am sure many, many parents share this kind of anxiety. It is important to come prepared in case there is not a changing table – whether that preparation involves pads and blankets to change them on or earplugs for when they have a meltdown getting changed on the floor.
When you bring a couple jars of baby food with you or something pre-cooked, you know what to expect when it comes to feeding your little one. When you must order off of the menu, it’s a completely different ballgame.
I really didn’t expect ordering from the menu to be that difficult – and in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t. However, I thought it just meant choosing a simple meal or a meal from the kid’s menu, breaking it up into pieces, and putting it in front of your child.
Portion sizes need to be thought about as well as how hot the meal will be when it comes out. We had ordered two kids’ meals for the girls expecting them to be small meals when, in fact, they could have fed an adult. They also came out incredibly hot, so the girls had to stare at their meal for ten minutes before diving in. Sometimes the restaurant will put the meal in the fridge for you, but some won’t. Also, making sure to ask if the vegetables are steamed or cooked rather than raw is important for chewing and safety purposes.
There Will Be a Mess
We try to keep our girls as clean as possible when they’re eating and, usually, they aren’t that bad. Since we were out at a public place, we wanted to make sure to keep the area as clean as we could. We brought their “catch bibs” to the restaurant as well as the plates they use at home. For the first half of the meal, they contently picked at some Cheerios and only a few fell onto the floor once and a while.
Then the spaghetti came out.
We cut the spaghetti into pieces as well as the meatball that was drenched in sauce. Even though we dabbed some of the sauce off, it was inevitably going to be a messy meal. Within minutes, sauce was painting the girls’ faces and hands and pieces of spaghetti scattered the floor. The waitress could tell we were anxious about the mess, but she laughed it off – even though I am sure she wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it up after we left.
We did the best we could to pick up pieces of food from the ground and scrub sauce off the high chairs and table so it was easier for the waitress.
Be Thankful (and Leave a Good Tip)
Even though our girls weren’t screaming and throwing a fit the whole time we were at the restaurant, we know it couldn’t have been an easy experience for the staff. Yes, they enjoyed smiling and laughing with the girls, but in the end – they had a ton of pieces of spaghetti to clean up off the floor and crusty sauce on the table and high chairs (we did our best, but sometimes you just can’t get it all). We also know the sound of sippy cups and toys hitting the ground constantly couldn’t have been very enjoyable by both the staff and surrounding customers.
Always make sure to constantly thank those around you for being patient and leave a terrific tip for your waiter or waitress. Even if your babies behaved relatively well, it still shows you appreciated their patience and understanding during the experience. It takes a lot of effort on the parent’s part to get together everything needed for a public outing – especially when there are multiples in the picture. However, it also takes a lot of effort for the staff at the restaurant when it comes to making sure the family left without feeling as if the experience was a disaster.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, mama of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.
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