Steps for a Successful Meal Out With Your Small Children

Step 1: Consider where you might like to go. Pick someplace child-friendly, with kids’ menu options, readily available high chairs, changing tables in the restrooms, dishes that can be thrown frisbee-style without shattering, soundproof booths, and strong adult beverages. How far is the establishment from your home? Will anyone there recognize you? At the same time, you want the area to be familiar enough for a child to find her way home on foot, should she wander off. There are many factors to take into account when choosing a restaurant that will please all members of the family.


Here’s a great example of a place to go with kids. It’s under a bridge, and you can tell them to go look for trolls. Hours of entertainment.

Step 2: Before entering the restaurant, set behavioral expectations for your children and communicate these clearly to them. For example: Sit up straight. Be polite to the wait staff. Every once in a while, pick up a utensil and make some kind of attempt to use it. Speak in indoor voices. Don’t stare at other people while they eat. If you embarrass us, there will be no dessert. And we will never take you out in public EVER AGAIN. Be as specific as possible; children do best when given very explicit parameters within which to function.

Step 3: Ask to be seated somewhere unobtrusive, where the children won’t bother other customers. But maybe close to the restrooms? Because the two-year-old is working on going tee-tee on the potty. But not so close to the restrooms that that’s all she wants to do, because we’re not paying for a nice meal just to spend the entire time in the restroom, are we? A corner, a dark corner, somewhere in the vicinity of the restrooms, would be just fine. But not so isolated that we can’t signal our waitress for help. And perhaps with a direct line of sight to the bartender?

Thanks, that would be lovely.

Step 4:  Order a margarita.

Step 5: Settle the children in their seats. Oh look!, tell them, in your most enthusiastic voice, how NICE it is that the restaurant provided them with children’s menus that they can color, and two crayons each. Exude positivity; children take cues from the adults around them.

Step 6: Take the yellow crayon away from the baby, who has started to eat it. Hand it to the two-year-old, who is melting from her chair to the floor, hysterical because she HATES RED!!!!

Step 7: Open the menu. It is time to decide if you’d like to order an appetizer, to keep the children from getting too hungry, or to get your main course in as soon as possible to-

Step 8: Take the two-year-old to the bathroom. Since she has refused your help, watch as she struggles to pull down her pants and underwear, touches every surface of the toilet seat, and then decides that she doesn’t have to go. Patiently suggest that she wash her hands before returning to the table, then patiently respond to her queries as she pokes around the bathroom like she’s Ariel in The Little Mermaid, seeing human inventions for the first time. “That the trash can? That the light? That the soap? Where the paper towels?”

Step 9: Return to the table and apply hand sanitizer to the two-year-old’s hands. Ask your husband if the waitress has been by. She was, but he didn’t know what to order the kids. He got you another margarita, though. Alright, then. Food. You’re here for food. Open the menu.


Seriously though, send them out to eat with the grandparents. For some reason, grandparents like that sort of thing.

Step 10: The two-year-old says she has to poop. And the five-year-old needs to go, too. Sniff the baby just in case; on the bright side, here is a chance to cut out one future trip to the restroom! Give your husband instructions to order the children hot dogs and to choose something for you, something with cheese and salt, maybe a leaf or two of lettuce. As you trudge toward the restroom, exude positivity. They are children, after all. Sometimes children need to potty.

Step 11: As you change the baby’s diaper, watch as the two-year-old struggles to pull down her pants and underwear, touches every surface of the toilet seat, and then decides that she doesn’t have to go. Even though you can see her literally squeezing her butt cheeks together in an effort to keep the poop from getting out. Attempt to explain, calmly, to the five-year-old why she shouldn’t use the automatic hand dryer for entertainment. Because other people are eating their dinners and don’t want to hear gleeful child shrieks and explosive air pressure coming from the bathroom. And also it hurts your ears. And is making the baby cry.

Step 12: Return to the table. Settle the children in their seats. Drink a healthy sip of margarita. Feed the baby the backup Cheerios that you had the foresight to pack. Learn from your husband that he has ordered you a fish sandwich. Ask him when, in the eight years you have been married, has he ever seen you eat a fish sandwich? Apologize for your tone; it will be fine. It will be great. Is there cheese on it? Okay then. Exude positivity.

Step 13: The two-year-old has pooped in her pants. Send your husband to the bathroom with her. Take a healthy sip of margarita. Motion to the waitress for to-go boxes. On the bright side, you’ll get to eat your fish sandwich on the couch while watching last season’s episodes of Game of Thrones. On the bright side, you’re never taking your children into public, ever again.


Wooooo! No kids! But I still haven’t decided if I can take HIM out in public again…


Why Every Birthday Wrecks Me

1Day99_0003Two days ago, my youngest child turned one. I never thought I’d be the mom who cried on my daughter’s birthday, but there were a lot of things I never would have imagined doing, before. That’s what becoming a mother does to a woman: it grabs hold of the person she was, or thought she was, it tears that person apart – yes, literally – and it rewrites her.  What had seemed impossible in her old life suddenly seems possible – for better or worse- to this new, revised version of herself.

But here’s the truth: this wasn’t the first time that I’ve dissolved into emotional anarchy on my child’s birthday. It happens every time, and why? Because I want to have three children ages five and under FOREVER? Uh, no. Not particularly. Because my understanding, when I gave birth to these girls, was that they would stay tiny and manageable, like miniature dachshunds? Cute, but no. Because the thought of finding a place in my house for all of their birthday gifts threatens to bring on a bout of long-dormant vertigo? Well, yes, but that’s not exactly it.

What is a birthday, to a mother? It is the finality of a year. It is the passage of 365 individual days, one indistinguishable from the next, the way the cars of a train or the dashed lines on the highway blur together as they speed past. I admit that in some ways, a birthday feels a little like grief. Where did a year go? What was I doing? What if I can’t recall all the strides they made, every little way that they grew and changed? Where do those memories go when they aren’t hoarded like treasures?

A birthday, to a mother, is a mad attempt to remember it all. It is the realization that we cannot remember it all, that in the past year the compartments of our brains have been gummed up with sleeplessness and shopping lists and frustration and perhaps one too many glasses of wine. Not everything that should have stuck, did. We see that as our failing. A birthday is a reminder that not every memory is going to stick, that most of the days we have with these beautiful human beings will simply be lived, not preserved. But a mother has a hard time letting go.

These feelings of wistfulness and regret do not diminish the sense of celebration, the joy, the desire to make our overwhelming love known to our child on this day, of all days. No, this is something else we learn quickly: that motherhood is all of it, at the same time, a big soup of loss and pain and love and pride. Our children grew inside of us and we brought them into this world, where they will continue to grow, apart from us. One year at a time.

And while we might wish- as the candles flicker on the cake and the cameras flash and everyone smiles wide- that we could make time stand still, ours is not the wish that matters, today. So we put it away. We smile wide, we live in the happiness of this moment, and we try to hold on to all we can of it, because we are mothers, and we cannot help ourselves.


My New Rule for Social Media: Like EVERYTHING.

Several years ago, when I had but one child, I joined a friend of mine for a girls’ night out. Although I didn’t know the other women that she had invited along, we all had kids, and that was enough to keep the conversation going. I can’t remember exactly how it came up, but at some point one of the ladies made a statement that went something like this: I don’t have that many friends on Facebook. I mean, if I’m friends with someone and they don’t even like any pictures of my kids, I’ll unfriend them. 


I know what you’re thinking: Am I going to post a picture every time she loses a tooth? Yes. Like it anyway.

At the time, I thought this statement was a bit harsh, if not straight up crazypants. You’re going to unfriend anyone who doesn’t like pictures of your kids? It seemed to me that Facebook had certain unspoken rules, and this practice was flying in the face of all of them. Take these, for instance:

  • It’s acceptable to friend someone after meeting them in person one time, particularly if the event where you met them involved alcohol.
  • It’s acceptable to friend someone you went to high school with and never spoke to, even once, provided you graduated from high school a MINIMUM of 10 years ago and haven’t seen them since.
  • If you haven’t spoken to a person face-to-face in more than three years – unless it’s, like, a cousin who’s teaching English in South Korea or something – you do NOT like or comment on their stuff unless you want to come across as a weirdo interloper.

Those are the rules. And I’m sorry, but 843 semi-random acquaintances are NOT going to like every picture you post of your child standing in front of various zoo animals or “smiling” at three weeks old. So it looks like you’re going to be hitting the “unfriend” button a whole lot.

That’s what I thought then.

But here’s the thing: The more time I’ve spent as a mom, the more those pictures of my kids doing inane kid things represent my life. My existence. My whole being. And so, yeah, if you don’t like pictures of my kids, if you don’t care to validate that giant part of my identity, are we really even friendly enough to warrant the term “friends”?

And here’s the other thing: If we are, in fact, friendly enough to warrant the term “friends”, shouldn’t I be going out of my way to validate whatever it is that you find important – be it your children, your cat, your new healthy lifestyle, your most recent crafting success, your borderline unhealthy obsession with a certain country music star? Yes, I should.

In light of this second realization, I have a new social media philosophy: Like Everything.


A picture of a freaking adorable card my child made? Like it.

Look, I know that Facebook uses some algorithm that impacts who sees what on whose news feed. You can’t like something you never saw in the first place. I get that. I don’t actually take it personally. It’s certainly possible that I don’t see posts from about 500 of my Facebook friends, and it’s not that I don’t care what they’re doing. It’s the f-ing algorithm. (By the way, I found this article about it fascinating…)

Anywho. Back to liking everything.

If you’re important to me, and it’s important to you, I vow to do my best to like it. Because I like you. I like what you stand for. I like your interests, even if they’re not my interests. I like your kids, even if they’re not as cute as my kids. (TOTALLY kidding. Of course they’re as cute as my kids. Way cuter, probably, because they don’t throw pantiliners all over my bathroom floor or try to serenade me with a doggy guitar while I’m sitting on the toilet.) I like your vacations. I like your home improvements. I don’t like your job troubles or your flat tire, but I WILL react with an appropriate emoji.


A picture of my child throwing pantiliners all over the bathroom floor? Like it.

I won’t, however, like everything flippantly. I won’t like it without actually reading it or swiping through the album, because I don’t want to be caught in a lie. I won’t like it out of pity or to prove something. I won’t like it if I don’t actually like it. Does that make sense?

I want to see how it feels, liking everything. Scrolling a little more slowly. Taking a minute or two more to appreciate all that we share of our lives, all that we offer. And then putting my phone down, or closing my computer, and continuing. To like everything. To see my life the way others do. These kids, my family, are my life. My existence. My whole being. If I don’t give myself a thumbs up, what does it matter who else does?