Not so fine dining.
By Sue Langenberg

–One of my favorite sports in life is restaurants. Not fat food (that’s not a typo) with drive-thru’s, mind you, but real places that take pride in serving some worth while food, or “cuisine,” said with nose in the air. They still make you fat, however.
–Hey, it’s an easy social event when we can all connect, no matter what occasion. Families can gather, toast the event and schmooze the menu away. Friends and I have had some great times at restaurants.
–Unless, there are toddlers. Then all bets are off.
–Actually, these days I have seen some credible table scenes where very young restaurant partakers seem to sit there, have respectful manners and generally have halos over their plates.
–In fact, as I look around, my children were the only ones in the civilized world that thought restaurants looked suspiciously like playgrounds where parents are boring with their useless rules.
–I even complimented a neighboring table recently about how impressed I was about the behavior of their little ones. One time, a family left with twin babies in tow. I guess they heard me say, “Oh, that was brave,” because there was a little laugh toward my direction.
–Basically, I gave up public eateries for the three years or so that mine were restaurant-challenged. That means I was more concerned at that time about my mental health as well as others in the restaurant. It was just too nerve-wracking for hands to be in the right location and food to not hit the floor. Another favorite is to peek to the neighboring booth and socialize with an innocent party trying to have its own peace and quiet.
–There is a lot of advice out there about how to survive it. One friend said, “Have a lot of crackers available and eat fast.” Another thinks it wise to provide the entire restaurant with ear plugs and rain slickers. My main solution was expensive wine – at a distance from wayward hands.
–I always tried at the very least to have crayons and paper while waiting an eternity for the food to arrive. That worked awhile until forks and spoons hit the floor with dizzying frequency. I always noticed that an entire professional cleaning team with an array of sterilizers showed up at our table when we prepared to leave.
–I am finding now that most have a few restaurant stories of their own. One friend said that the very instant the hors d’oeuvres were served, her toddler son suddenly turned up with black olives placed carefully on each finger tip. He was beaming with his accomplishment.
–My daughter and I met at our favorite Chinese restaurant when her boys were younger. The baby needed some bib cleanup attention at the highchair. By the time she turned back to the table, her three-year-old had performed an acrobatic stunt sending two legs sticking up from the booth. It was perfect timing as he unfolded himself upward. Naturally, she was horrified. I saw it coming, however, and knew that I would remember it for future columns and future stories, like when he takes a girlfriend to a prom; directly after the awkward moments of corsage and polite introductions, I’ll remind him to not do sudden headstands in the restaurant.
–After that, I will make every attempt to thrive into the next generation when I can remind his future bride about how fussy an eater he was. The honeymoon will be over when I tell her about how his head would wag back and forth above the menu about how he doesn’t like this and doesn’t like that.