Up until this week, we have been very fortunate to have a well-behaved child at restaurants and other social events. Her desire to be stimulated would always ensure a pleasant experience for Matt and me, while she took in the elements around her—sometimes for hours at a time. She wouldn’t make a peep, and we didn’t dare complain! We constantly had people coming up to us at whatever restaurant/lounge/event commenting on her behavior. It was funny to have a child get lots of attention for the lack of disturbance she caused. She got just as much notice for being “good.” Sadly, I’m counting it all as a fond memory today, because I think we may have hit the point in our relationship with Bellamy where we must reside our dining efforts to “kid-friendly” establishments.
My husband is an Operations Director for a restaurant. Food and dining is part of our life. I will go through the drive-thru of Chick-fil-A any day of the week, but you won’t find me sitting inside. It just doesn’t happen. When we spend money, we go places where we want to spend time. The experience is always something to enjoy, and we thought we produced the perfect offspring for wining and dining. I don’t want to say I was wrong, because kids have so many short phases of growing and gaining independence. But I do think we will be thinking twice before booking the next reservation for fear of having to box up our food again.
This “I can’t have my baby out to eat right now” phase started this week. She’s been out with us from birth, especially at her dad’s establishment. We feel safe there, like we can practice learning how to dine with baby in tow without making anyone too angry. The staff love her, and the atmosphere is family-oriented enough. We decided to participate in a special supper club Thursday evening thinking it would be a fun night of delicious à la carte sampling. Wrong! Being crammed in the middle of tons of people at a tiny two-top table with a very vocal child did not go over well this time. I started sweating almost as soon as we sat down.
Here’s the thing. Bellamy isn’t an angry baby. She’s actually the happiest baby. She is so zealous for life she can’t contain it. When she was smaller, fascination with the world around her manifested in long stares and big smiles. Now she screams and shouts for pure joy at everything and everyone! She communicates by shrieking, almost as if she is saying, “Isn’t this great?!” The only way to tame the excitement is to feed her, which we do, because we tend to eat at the same times. But she’s not quite able to feed herself yet, so someone has to assist her. It’s when we stop feeding her and try to eat our own food that she goes into chatty mode. To us, it’s so sweet how much zest she has, but to others, a happy scream and an angry scream is, well, a scream.
After the supper club fiasco (We only shared one item and decided to call it quits.), we decided to try again the next day by having breakfast together. I was determined to have a redo of the day before—like I was owed something—and insisted we go despite our apprehension. Low and behold, our sweet bundle just couldn’t hang. She started to cause a scene, and I realized I was the picture of what I said I never wanted to be. The thing is, it’s not always a choice. (You can only explain so much an a 9-month-old baby.)
I quickly asked for a box, encouraged my husband to finish eating and decided my cold breakfast would be enjoyed more at home without the pressure and looks from disturbed surrounding tables. Once safe in the car, we put the idea on the table that for now—as in, we don’t know how long—it may be a better idea to not take her with us when we go out. It’s not worth the money and the stress, especially when she just wants to express her happiness! We stopped by Target on the way home and had a total blast watching her laugh hysterically as we zoomed through the aisles and chased one another with the cart. This time is about knowing our child and stimulating her in ways that work for everyone. The lessons of table manners will come in time, but for now, I want to learn to build her up in the environments she most enjoys.
Like I’ve admitted to myself before, you can’t make life with kids a lifestyle it’s not. There’s a great level of acceptance in being a parent. Luckily, so many phases pass quickly, and it doesn’t stay inconvenient or difficult forever. I know we may temporarily give up something we love, but only to find a better balance for our family. I have to be willing to recognize where we are in the here and now and find new reasons to love it. Our here and now is any loud Mexican restaurant—the more mariachi, the better!