02 May 2011

To Lunch or Not to Lunch

Ever try to eat in a restaurant with a tired toddler? Its not easy. Sometimes you just have to be willing to admit defeat. G and I made a tactical error yesterday when planning the day. We didn't realize that LR would need a morning nap. She's phasing out of them, but there are some days when they are just unavoidable. Plus, she's had a cold all week, so she's probably more likely to need one. Had we been looking for the signs, we might have avoided having to "not dine and dash."

We got to the restaurant, we had the waitress bring us drinks, only then did we realize that LR wasn't going to make it through an entire meal without hurting herself or others. So we grabbed our stuff (including kids), paid for the drinks and ran out the door. This abrupt change of plan might have been in LR's best interest, but EC met the news with a meltdown of her own. It's very difficult to tell a preschooler that you're having chicken fingers in a restaurant and then inform her that it will be boxed mac and cheese at home instead. Unfortunately, sometimes its necessary for the greater good.

We started the day with plans to go for a family walk in a park near our house that has lots of hills and a great paved path through them where the girls could walk and explore a little. There is also a great playground at the entrance, so we could always fall back to playing there if the kids weren't into the walk - this is known as Plan B. Its very important to have a Plan B when dealing with toddlers, but its not always foolproof. Case in point: there was a bike race going on at the park - which we knew about and even thought we might watch a little of. What we hadn't counted on was them closing the park for it - no paved trail and no playground. So, we parked at the entrance to one of the many hiking trails and just went for our walk there. The terrain proved a little tricky for a 1 1/2 year old, so our walk was short lived, but at least we got some fresh air and a little exercise. Next up - we needed a snack. A farmer's market on the way home provided this - unfortunately, LR was too busy running around to eat her homemade apple cider donut and she had the muddy pants to prove it. From here we went to the playground to swing and slide. LR was fussing on the way to the playground, but she kept saying, "Park!" so we ignored this very obvious sign of fatigue and took it as a sign to hurry to the swingset.

At this point, we should have realized that three outdoor activities was probably overdoing it. Instead, we let the kids run and swing and slide until we had to admit that lunch was in order. On the way home, we decided a restaurant meal would be more fun than heading home. Another error on our part - never make four stops with your un-napped toddler.

This was all clear pretty soon after arriving after the restaurant, but we had two kids to consider. We had to weigh how difficult it was going to be to eat lunch with our crazy toddler versus how loud our preschooler was going to scream if we told her she had to go home. Its a balancing act. At this point, LR was flailing her arms, throwing everything she could get her hands on - which luckily was only menus and napkins. And there was no kids menu, so G and I were trying to figure out what the kids would eat.

Finally, we gave in to the impending meltdown of daughter number two. Scooping up LR and putting on EC's coat, we informed the waitstaff that all their table set up and attempts to take our order had been in vain. We had to leave before the meltdown reached monumental status. Of course, EC started wailing in protest that she wanted to eat at a restaurant. So, we toted two wailing kids out to the car.

Its hard to maintain a sense of decorum during all of this. I felt guilty for inconveniencing the restaurant staff, disappointed that we were heading home where I'd have to fix lunch, and pretty terrible that EC was so upset with the turn of events. As a rule, little kids don't respond well to spontaneity - they like you to give them a five minute warning if the location or plans are going to change. I also wasn't convinced that we'd read the signs right and thought that maybe we were making it all worse by heading home.

Of course, LR fell asleep within a minute of being put into the car. Proving that we'd made the right choice. She didn't even wake up when I took her out of the car and she napped for an hour after we got home before waking up for lunch. Looking back, I can see what went wrong and how we could have avoided it, but I also know that this kind of stuff will still happen even if we do follow all the "rules."

I think the only rule that we really have to remember is to that when parenting toddlers, you have to be willing to go with the flow and let the plans change with the mood of the crowd. Come to think of it, I have friends that I have to follow the same rules with.

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