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Have Toddler. Will Eat Out.

There are reasons why you don't see toddlers at restaurants other than Chucky Cheese. The whole process of going out to eat is exhausting. You must prepare in advance and be sure to pack a bib, a sippy cup, pre-meal snacks and never, ever forget the wet naps.

You've made it to the restaurant. Everyone stares at you as you talk to the hostess about seating you in a corner, far, far away from everyone else, with enough space to park your diaper bag and accommodate a high chair. One of you wrestles the baby's jacket off while the other sets the scene: sippy cup and snacks on the table with jelly packets and a menu for pre-meal entertainment. The waitress places the utensils on the table, you push them to the side. She brings you water, you scoop out the ice cubes and pour some into the sippy cup.

You pray for the appetizers as you take turns bending down to pick up tossed jelly packets. Everyone mentions how cute your baby is and coos at her in hopes for a smile. There is a time limit before you can no longer small talk and you begin looking back to the kitchen in desperation. Fifteen minutes is really the limit before your cutie patootie toddler's tyrant side is revealed due to boredom and hunger. Caroline likes to tip her high chair back, make little shrieking sounds and shot-put hurl the jelly packets.

The food arrives, finally, and the baby lunges for the HOT plates. You quickly grab a french fry before pushing your plate to the corner with the silverware. Agile as a sushi chef you slice up the little one's entree, our favorite is usually mac and cheese and applesauce. You apologize, like a sad old dog who knows he's lost bladder control and peed on the rug, to the waitress as she notices the tiny pieces of half chewed pasta under the table. An older couple gives you the evil eye as your offspring smashes her hands into the applesauce, slaps her palms together and applies the sauce to her hair like a monthly root touch up.

My paper-loving hubby will grab 75 tiny napkins from the dispenser. Mom's got a plan and she's got the tools: wet naps. WET NAPS. You ask for a couple of to-go containers and salvage what you can of your meals. In an attempt to get the jacket back on, baby gets loose and makes a run for the kitchen. You give the waitress and buck or two more for the extra cleanup ahead and jet out as fast as you can, trying not to glimpse the leaning-tower-o-napkin-pisa as you pass by everyone whose night out you've just disturbed.

Throw the diaper bag down, pull a jelly packet from the back of baby's onesie (whaa? how did THAT get THERE?) and buckle her in. Now, your body sags into the seat. You can FINALLY relax. What do you mean, where's sippy cup? Good thing you've got one from yesterday's park visit rolling around under your seat. Next time, let's get Chinese.


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