Sunday, November 1, 2015

Day 1 NaBloPoMo: How to dine at a restaurant with a baby in 25 easy steps

While on vacation in the Berkshires we were all eating at an Italian restaurant one night. Max was in a flirty mood, batting his eyelashes at our waitress and watching her walk by.

After she delivered our entrées, she squatted down next to Max's high chair.

"He is an awesome restaurant baby!" she explained, smiling at Max.

I beamed.

Best. Compliment. Ever.

And it's true. Right now in his life, Max is a fantastic restaurant baby. Maybe it's because his first restaurant outing was at 3 weeks old. Or that he enjoys crowds. Or that we perfectly time every trip to a dining establishment down to the minute.

Whatever it is, it's allowed us to still do what we love best: eating out.

Even if we're enjoying dinner with the blue hairs at 5:30pm.

How to Dine at a Restaurant with a Baby in 25 Easy Steps

  1. Forgo any notion of eating dinner when it's dark outside.
  2. Think of your most favorite restaurant, where you have delicious cocktails, sumptuous appetizers, and delectable entrees over a 3-hour period. Then pick a different place.
  3. Planning for the night starts when your baby gets up in the morning: Nap and bottle times, amount of stimulation, finding an outfit that is comfortable and non-restricting, yet presentable in public. Don't wait until the last minute.
  4. Remind yourself that eating at the restaurant just might not happen, and that eating at home is just as good.
  5. Pack the diaper bag. This should be done early, off of a list, and double-checked no fewer than 3 times. The proper restaurant diaper bag should contain the following: 
    • bottle
    • dinner
    • back-up dinner in case he doesn't like the first dinner
    • bib
    • enough snacks to last a week
    • soft toys that make no noise
    • plastic toys that make minimal noise
    • lovie
    • back-up lovie
    • diapers
    • wipes
    • iPad with favorite shows ready to go at the click of a button
  6. Agonize over the nap schedule. Stick to it. Go to extreme measures to make sure the nap happens, and that it happens for as long as it's supposed to.
  7. Call ahead to the restaurant to either make a reservation, or if one isn't needed, to let them know you're coming, and that you're coming with a pint-sized dinner companion. Secure a high chair.
  8. Make peace with the fact that you're going to eat about 3 hours earlier than you used to before you had kids. In fact, this will be your 'new normal' time for dining out.
  9. Choose your restaurant wisely. You are dining with a small child. 5-star French is out of the question.
  10. Even though you're not eating at the best of the best, you can still eat at good restaurants, as long as you go early enough not to disrupt the Saturday night dinner rush.
  11. Obsessive over the online menu all day long. Scrutinize the ingredients of each dish. Fantasize over the frisée. Obsess over the octopus. Pine over the polenta.
  12. Choose a time to dine that works best with YOUR babies schedule. For us, it's 6pm. This allows us to feed Max dinner at the restaurant, a few little snacks, then his bottle right before we're leaving.
  13. Arrive ON TIME. Or even early. Give yourself the opportunity to choose between multiple tables during your reservation time slot to select the table that will work best for your needs.
  14. Plotting out your spot in the restaurant should be handled with as much dedication and care as charting the next spaceship launch. Windows = good. Squeezing between two tables = bad.
  15. Learn how to ignore the stink eyes you'll get from fellow diners.
  16. Have an emergency "We have to get out of here RIGHT THIS MINUTE" game plan. Be ready to implement it at a moment's notice.
  17. As soon as you get to the table, make sure everything has a 2-foot radius clear of the baby. This includes: place mats, bread dishes, silverware, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, wine and water glasses, menus and candles.
  18. The minute your server appears, take action: give them any extraneous items from the table and order yourself a drink. (And, if your baby is eating off the menu, it might be a good idea to put their order in, too).
  19. The minute that baby sits down it's SHOWTIME. You are the lead in the production. There are no understudies. You are always on and you get no breaks.
  20. Who says you have to give them full spoonfuls of food? Putting half the normal amount of food on the spoon allows you to stretch out their dinner. It also allows you to shove a forkful of your own dinner into your mouth every now and then.
  21. Create innovative games to distract little brains. One time I entertained Max just for a half hour just by making my fingers walk across the table in front of him over and over.
  22. Don't drink so much that you lose your eye-hand coordination. You have to be on your game to catch any and all toys that get flung over the side of the highchair before they touch the dirty floor.
  23. Don't be ashamed to pull out the iPad. A few months ago were had taken my parents out to eat for their anniversary. Max had finished his dinner and we were still eating so I set up the iPad with his favorite show. Judgy McJudgington at the table next to us gave us a disapproving look, "Oh. I see he's getting his screen time in." Yes. Yes, he is. And he's being perfectly quiet and not bothering your dinner you while he's doing it.
  24. Get dessert to go. It's the only way you're going to enjoy it.
  25. Remember: he's just a baby. He doesn't know any better. And who cares what other people think, anyway?
Happy NaBloPoMo!

Happy dining!

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