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Dining Out with Kids

When JD was a few months old, I would often take him to NYC to have brunch with my friends. We dined at places like Spring Street Natural and Jane. I would wheel my stroller into the restaurant and quickly feed JD a bottle and burp him. Then I would recline his stroller and tuck him under a blanket for a nap. And he would nap the entire brunch—in case you didn’t know NYC brunches are long and boozy (well not boozy for me anymore), but you get the point—my baby was an angel. The patrons in their fancy clothes with designer bags didn’t even notice him, because he was that quiet. I haven’t been to an NYC brunch with JD since before he turned two. I would never subject the other diners to my preschooler who wants to eat in like 10 minutes flat, race little cars on the table and color (and by color, I mean drop the crayons on the floor 500 times in a row.) Now I dine at family friendly restaurants or take JD on walks here and there when eating out at nice restaurants that don’t have a kiddy menu (yes, we obviously eat at nice places too). I thought I was safe yesterday when I met my mom at a diner for dinner. I said DINER (What's up, NJ!) and no, I was not safe.

When we walked in, I asked for a booth because JD is over the high chair but can’t really sit still in a chair. The hostess was so friendly. She got down on JD’s level and asked him if he wanted crayons. Of course he said, yes! She gave him two boxes. When we sat down the waiter came over and asked if I wanted to order JD’s food right away. So, I looked over the kiddy menu and ordered chicken strips, fries and applesauce. I also asked for a few slices of fresh tomato because JD loves tomatoes. JD got busy coloring with the crayons the hostess gave him and every, now and then raced his cars around the cups and sugar bowl. He was having fun and being a kid. I was talking to my mom and reading emails in my Blackberry because I hardly worked yesterday.

Soon all of the food arrived. I got a burger the size of my head, that I deserved because JD’s play kitchen was delivered to my home damaged (SO ANNOYING!) and I was out yesterday shopping for one (at 2 stores!) and then driving home with it wedged in the backseat of my jeep, completely blocking my rear view. Don’t worry JD was home with my mom.

Then it happened.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder if you're there!” JD sang his own words (ha!) and I said, “Good job! What a great singing voice you have!”

JD then said, “You wanna hear Itsy Bitsy spider?”

“Of course!” I said and JD began singing in a medium voice—he was definitely not screaming. There was a baby screaming and a young mother attempting to quickly make a bottle out of powdered formula and a bottle of water. I thought about helping her, but didn’t want to be…weird.

JD continued to sing in between bites of chicken. When I told him to take a break and eat his chicken, he sang, “I eat my chicka chick -- OH YEAH!” (The oh yeah was a little loud or excited). And that's when the lady sitting behind my mom turned around and said, “Listen, you better control your kid we’re trying to eat!”  JD kept singing about chicken.

Well, this really ticked me off. Not only was I in toy store hell all day, but I was also starving! In my mind, I told the lady off and maybe threw the salt shaker at her. In reality I said, “I'm sorry, but this is a family restaurant. There’s a kiddy menu. The hostess gave my son crayons when we walked in.” Then I just looked at her.

“I know this isn’t fine dining, but he’s got to be quiet!”

In my mind, I pounced on her like a cat. A big, angry cat.

In reality I said, “He’s 3 and he’s happy and singing.” Then I turned to JD and said, “Honey, please sing softer. SO HE SANG IN A WHISPER!!! IT WAS SO CUTE. Um, then the waiter brought over his FREE scoop of ice cream because it came with his kiddy KIDDY meal option. Sheesh!!! The lady turned around and looked at me. I said, "Happy Holidays!" and smiled.

I’m OVER people eating at diners or pizza places and being freaked out by a happy, loud kid. Deal with it. Or eat at Jane in NYC, because I know better than to bring my preschooler to a fine dining establishment with New Yorkers. If there’s a kiddy menu, free crayons and a pizza counter where I can buy slices, just don’t yell at me or my kid. Because I'll speak my mind and have the last word. As in, "Happy Holidays!"

This morning the universe was realigned because while shopping in Target for presents for JD’s teachers (we picked out candles), he belted out, “Mary has a little lamb….” and some nice lady actually joined him. “I know that song,” she said. Ah, don't we all!

Has anyone ever told you off at a family friendly restaurant because your kid was being a kid? Are there certain places you won’t take your kids to eat?

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