Eating out with toddlers sounds like such a good idea.
It’s a night off being an unpaid chef to meet the demands of you fussy little diners.
It’s a night when you can all sit back, relax and enjoy a lovely meal out as a family. Isn’t it?
Turns out that the expectation never quite lives up to the reality. Fate takes its course and your family meal out might look something like this.
The long wait for food
There is an inevitable wait between ordering your food and it arriving at your table. And toddlers and young children are notoriously rubbish at waiting.
They wriggle and whine. They escape from the table and start roaming round the room, finding dog bowls to drink from and pot plants to knock over.
They run around, knocking into waiters carrying hot food. They will crawl under tables of other diners and play with their shoes.
You hiss at them, not wanting to raise your voice in public. And constantly apologise to everyone else in the room.
The kids ‘activities’ work for about 2 seconds
The lovely waiting staff bring crayons and a colouring in sheet for your child to do while they wait. And you want to kiss them for rescuing you.
But they plonk a cup with two stubby brown crayons, one white and one grey. Your child whines loudly about there being no green or blue crayons.
They get cross and throw the tub of uninspiring crayons on the floor, rip up the activity sheet and start banging their fists on the table saying ‘I’m boooooooored’.
Peppa Pig to the rescue
Eventually you give up one the wholesome activities and hand over your phones so they can watch an episode of Peppa Pig.
But then you’re immediately aware of the eye rolls from other diners that you’re a bad parent for doing so.
They will hoover up the bread basket
You booked the meal at a ridiculously early time because you know that your children get moody if dinner is more than two minutes late.
To avoid hangry meltdowns you order a basket of bread to arrive before the main meals. And your children attack it like locusts.
They hoover it down like starving children who have not been fed for days. You know that it will mean they barely touch their meals but you do it anyway.
Noise levels will hit new frontiers
Teatimes at home are a relatively quiet affair, with a low hubbub of conversation. But when you move venues your children suddenly dial up their volume levels.
They shriek, shout and holler so much that fellow diners stare and tut.
They’ll change their mind about what they want
Being a wise parent you chose a restaurant with a kids menu.
Despite so many healthy and appetising choices on offer you give into the fact that your child will always, always pick chicken nuggets and chips.
And then when their meal arrives they kick up an almighty fuss because their sibling got the pizza and they actually wanted pizza.
Then they’ll shout because their meal isn’t an exact replica of the food they eat at home. The chips are too fat/thin/long/short. The nuggets are the wrong shape.
And – gasp – the beans touch some other food on their plate. And to make things worse it’s not served on their favourite plate.
They will make more mess than you ever thought possible
Your child might eat fairly tidily at home but when you dine out they will forget every table manner you have ever taught them. They splatter food everywhere.
They eat with their fingers and then wipe them on their chairs. No matter how many precautions you take they WILL spill their drinks all over the table into huge swamps of sticky juice that will drip off the table onto your jeans.
You will attempt to mop up the worst of the mess by dabbing at it ineffectively with your one napkin. But you know that your waiter will be muttering under their breath because they will have so much clearing up to do once you leave.
By the time ice cream arrives you’re exhausted
The stress of trying to get your kids to sit at the table for so long has frazzled your nerves. You just need to get through pudding and the ordeal will be over.
They end up ordering the most far-fetched flavours of ice cream they can find that you know they won’t like.
They cry because it turns up with a wafer in it and they don’t like wafers. Even though you swiftly remove it they act like the rest of the dish is contaminated.
‘Mummy, can I have a snack?’
You pay the eye watering bill. It seems extortionate considering your children barely nibbled anything apart from the bread.
You head home and immediately put on Paw Paw Patrol so you can lie down for 2 seconds before bath time begins.
Then a little voice cries: ‘Muuuuuummmmy. I’m starving. Can I have a snack?’