When our child was old enough to eat a variety of solid foods, and old enough to sit in a high chair, we started eating out on occasion. We were blessed with a kid who was not at all a picky eater. However, raising a voracious mouth-stuffer is a special challenge of its own.
My sweet little boy’s mouth become an endless revolving door at dinnertime. Except that once everything revolved in, it never came back out-until later in his diaper of course. For him, sitting at the table meant tossing food back without abandon the entire time. I have very little tolerance for kids being generally bratty in public, and I hadn’t realized how bad we let this become until eating out one time at lunch. It went something like this:
1. My son gets settled in high chair and immediately starts scanning the table for food
2. I pull out the ever-ready snack-in-a-zip lock-bag to keep him at bay until our meal arrives.
3. He starts to fuss when he doesn’t get as much as he wants
4. Daddy takes boy to The Car for a come-to-Jesus meeting
5. Both return unscathed
6. We enjoy a few moments of peace
7. Fussing starts again as the food is served, but still too hot to share
8. Daddy takes boy to the car for the Second Coming
9. They return, again unscathed
We didn’t need to leave the restaurant altogether, but we were certainly prepared to do so. It wasn’t a nightmare, but it dawned on us that how we wanted to eat out is how we needed to eat at home. We started setting our son in his chair for several minutes before giving him any food, and required him to sit there for several minutes afterward. If a tantrum occurred, out of the chair and into a time out he would go. The idea started kicking in for him.
We still deal with occasional food battles, but they are fewer and farther between, and now he knows the rules. I still bring a book or a few special toys along when we eat out, and we make sure to engage him in conversation with us, rather than just talking with each other. While we hope that the worst is behind us, we are always prepared to leave rather than allow our child to disturb someone else’s meal.