Every parent has experienced this—a spontaneous decision to go out for dinner with the young one turns into regret and a pledge to order in next time. When Dylan was merely a non-walking, non-talking, non-solid food eating blob, he was the best meal partner because he just wasn’t at that level of awareness yet. He had no yearning for what we were eating because he had never experienced it before. He had no desire to grab every condiment bottle and utensil at the table because he had not yet felt the liberation of being able to feed himself with a baby spork. He would just contently stare into the oblivion of whatever babies think about.
Now, at 13 months old, he can at least walk, babble, and stuff food into his mouth like a legally drunk adult. With great power comes great responsibility, and right now, he’s not being very responsible. With his newfound abilities, every object on a restaurant table is a toy. Every restaurant is a concert hall that needs its acoustics checked. Every floor is a blank canvas on which to make Cheerios art.
The other night when we went out I could just sense the “Oh shit, they have a baby…” thoughts from every table around us. Most of the time the family with the baby is guilty until proven innocent. Dylan now realizes he can affect the world around him with his actions, so he now takes every opportunity to affect the world around him like a mofo. He screamed, scattered food, and fidgeted in his high chair until we resorted to taking shifts of one of us eating while the other took Dylan outside to blow off all that crazy baby energy. It’s at that moment I realized we have reached another maturity milestone with Dylan.
That’s where the parental units come in. Our job is to show him the way—how to not behave like your drunk friends at Denny’s after a night out. He has to learn that it’s not okay to scream as loud as possible while refusing to eat and scatter Cheerios on the floor like a calling card. How does one instill that sense of shame in a child to conform to social norms? Like every other lesson in parenthood, it begins in learning what not to do next time.
The biggest mistake we made was trying to do dinner right after Dylan got up from his nap. We should’ve allowed for some free roam time. Going straight from sleeping in a car seat to waking up in a car seat to being forced to sit in a high chair just made him feel cagey and full of pent up energy. This led to the prison meal shifts in the middle of dinner.
<rant>I don’t really want to use this blog to dispense advice because what do I know? However, one pet peeve of mine is when children act up in a public place like a restaurant, and the parents DO NOTHING. Trying to ignore the child has never worked because they know there are other people around and are using their surroundings as leverage. Meanwhile, the entire restaurant hates you, and God just killed a kitten. If the kid is unruly, a change of scenery usually calms them down so suck it up, put the fork down (you should be used to cold food by now), and take them outside for a little while. Maybe this works for your kid, maybe not. But the world will appreciate the effort. kthxbye. </rant>
Dylan just kicked it up another notch with his independence and opinions. He’s growing up and so must we. I know we’ll make plenty more mistakes.