Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to be a good dinner guest

Last night, we celebrated our friend's Rick's birthday with dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea. Because of Sophie's bedtime and the fact that Chelsea's about a 25 minute-drive away, we had early reservations, at 5pm. And as we sat through dinner-- drinks, appetizers, salad, entrees, small-talk and all-- it occurred to both of us how we took for granted that Sophie would be OK through it all. And she was. She sat in her high-chair dutifully, played with the crayons and coloring paper she was given; started eating her pasta, carrots and fish-sticks while we looked at our menus; occupied herself by starring around the restaurant, smiling and flirting with the waiting staff while we put in our orders and had appetizers; fed herself fistfuls of strawberries when the salads arrived; and happily jabbed and swooshed away on the iPad when we ate our entrees. Give her some oyster crackers (thanks one of the many waitresses who fell in love with her) at the end while we chatted and settled the bill, and Sophie was the absolute paragon of perfect toddlerhood. She didn't whine, never fussed, patted Jude or I on the arm when she wanted some attention and kisses, but then always went back to whatever she was doing. And at the end of dinner when I carried her out of her highchair and let her walk around the restaurant a little, an elderly couple who was sitting at the table next to ours sweetly said, "She's a doll!" I beamed with such pride... :)

Maybe it's because she's so used to sitting at the table with us as we all have dinner together, or because we literally take her everywhere we go that she's accustomed to sometimes having meals outside, but we've never had to worry that Sophie won't do well in restaurants. From simple diners and cafes to white tablecloth places like the Common Grill or Cafe Zola, as long as Sophie has her own food that she can feed herself with, the iPad or her favorite books to flip through, and her Mama and Dada within arm's reach, she's a happy camper. We've learned to quit while we're ahead though and having appetizers and entrees is just about as much as Sophie can take. No desserts for us. We attempted to do that while we celebrated my defense at Cafe Zola and that probably stretched her attention span a little more than she was capable of tolerating. We only narrowly managed to avert a mini public meltdown by distracting her with taking a walk outside.

But now we know better- secrets to a successful meal out with a 15-month old: a good afternoon nap, a variety of finger foods, good media for distraction, some good old fashioned love and attention from Dada and Mama, and splitting the joint after the main course. Priceless :)


srah said...

I read "splitting the joint" not as "leaving" but as "and then we smoked a doobie with our baby." I had to reread it several times to get what you meant! I wonder why my brain went there.

serene said...

Hahaha... I didn't even think of that other meaning! Although I do know some parents who are not beyond "drugging" their babies to make them more pliant and less of a public nuisance...