If I have one piece of advice on dining out with children it's this: don't bother. If you decide to try it anyway, lower your expectations. A lot. Real low. And bring a bib, plenty of baby wipes, and a flask of something stout to slip into your sweet tea...and possibly the children's.
We went to dinner with Tim's sisters and brothers-in-law last night for a birthday celebration. Charlie was in a great mood the entire time because he was getting to eat food that is normally off limits, and he was with his aunt, who he loves. Andrew was all smiles and giggles himself until I wouldn't let him have a drink of Diet Coke, then he threw a tantrum that must've made the devil himself beam with pride.
It was a very casual place, fortunately, and I tried to contain the fit at the table at first. When he lost it and started picking up things from the table and flinging them violently, other people in the restaurant started turning around to watch the train wreck unfold. When he threw his cup against a wall, about fifteen people let out a collective "ooOOOOoohh!" and I decided it was time to make an exit. There's nothing worse than trying to handle a behavior problem with an audience. Half the people want you to pick up the little angel and cuddle their anger away; the other half want to see you pull out a belt and beat their pants off.
Assuming you understand why both of those ideas are stupid, what do you do with an 18-month-old who can throw a tantrum of epic proportions? I suspected we were in for it when he was a newborn and he gave me this look when I didn't get my booby into his mouth quick enough--
Bitch I will cut you.
I walked around the restaurant with him for a few minutes, and after he calmed down we returned to the table. The tantrum resumed at full force as soon as he saw the forbidden soda again. This kid's got stamina! Tim volunteered to take him out so I could finish eating. A few minutes passed by, and Tim's sister asked where he was. I wasn't in a hurry to find out, personally, because I knew that finding Tim meant finding my flailing, screaming, red-eyed, demon-possessed baby. But I couldn't just leave an unarmed man alone with Andrew, so I went to look for them. They were nowhere inside the restaurant. After watching the bathroom door for a few minutes in case they were in there, I decided to go to the parking lot. Locating them outside wasn't difficult since Andrew was wailing like a tornado siren. Around the corner of the building I found Andrew on the asphalt of the parking lot, kicking and screaming, and Tim standing there watching him, powerless.
It must've been a pathetic sight to anyone passing by, but my philosophy is to let 'em scream. Just don't let the fit control anything and don't pay it any more attention than you must. Hard to do in the parking lot of a restaurant.
I took over fit duty and let Tim go back inside with his family. I put Andrew in the van, and he continued to scream. He screamed for the next half hour while we waited. In fact, he continued to scream the whole way home-- an hour drive. He was still screaming when I changed his diaper and put him to bed. It was a fake, fit-throwing scream and not a real something-is-wrong-with-me scream, as evidenced by the fact that he paused for a minute when he thought we were going to give him a piece of candy.
The bad news is that the end of our meal and the entire ride home was hell. I still had a headache at midnight, even after two Tylenol. The good news is that Andrew knows how to stick to his chosen method of trying to get what he wants. It didn't work out for him, but I admire his dedication.