Last week, a diner owner in Maine yelled at a toddler after the kid cried for 45 minutes while waiting for three pancakes. Regardless of where you fall in the who's-to-blame debate, the incident reminded me of why I never take my kids to restaurants.
First, let's get it out of the way. I'm cheap. Let's be honest. If we're going to spend my husband's hard-earned money on a sit-down meal, I'm going to want to let it fully digest. That's not possible with toddlers. Let's go through the play-by-play:
1. You arrive at the restaurant and child 1 needs to go potty. The rest of the family waits in the lobby, hoping child 2 doesn't dart out the front door and into evening traffic. While you're there, seven different people almost trip on child 2 and you pray you are seated soon.
2. You check in with the hostess. You're a party of five, but only two adults. And you need one high chair and one booster seat. The baby just needs a place for his car seat to sit on the ground. The 19-year-old hostess looks at you with a blank stare and you have to repeat your confusing request 17 times.
3. You're shown to your table, but you stand and wait for another four minutes while the bus boys scramble to find said high chair and booster seat.
4. You sit down at the table and immediately clear all silverware and glassware out of reach of toddlers' hands. The center of the table is now a wrangled mess of forks, knives, jelly packets and full glasses of ice water.
5. The menus are the only non-breakable thing on the table, so you let the toddlers play with them. Somehow, they manage to make them swords in their imaginary game of who-is-the-best-ninja-fighter. The menus are dropped on the floor approximately 283 times, and each time, you pick it up and hand it back to them because, let's be honest, you just want them to shut up.
6. The waitress arrives and you immediately order food for the entire family. You don't have time to wait through drinks and appetizers. "Chicken fingers and milk for both boys."
7. You have no idea what to eat so you order from the picture on the menu. A cheeseburger. Hubby orders the same and a beer.
8. This is about the time where you regret going out to eat in the first place. "We should have just gone somewhere where we could order and leave," you tell your husband. A drive-thru. Yes, that would have been a much better choice.
9. By now, the kids have gone ballistic. The ninja game got boring, and they've each devoured three packages of saltine crackers. Ice water lemon wedges are next.
10. Your food arrives and the kids are no longer hungry. They get up from the table and start running around it. The only reason you don't stop them is because you're too busy scarfing your food. Since, obviously, you will be leaving soon.
11. You get about three bites in before asking the waitress for the check and two to-go containers for the untouched chicken fingers. The kids are now talking to the older couple across the aisle. The couple is very patient with them, but things get awkward when child 1 asks the gentlemen why he has hairs in his nose.
12. The waitress arrives with the check. $81. Your husband still has a full beer, so you try to wrangle the kids away from nose hair man and start the countdown to prepare them mentally for the walk to the car. "We're leaving in five minutes, boys."
13. The kids start losing it and now decide they're hungry. You tell them they have to wait to eat their cold chicken fingers until they get home, by which time it will be 30 minutes past their bedtime, and they start crying. Child 2 collapses into a heap on the floor. Exhaustion and typical toddler antics.
14. Somehow, all five of you make it to the car, where the crying continues. You get all the kids in their carseats and then sink into the passenger seat where you hope to be invisible for the entire ride home.
Bedtime is soon.
And, let's be honest. You'll be raiding styrafoam boxes for chicken fingers soon.