21 June 2011

Dinner Out And The Tantrum That Went With It

Father's Day dinner didn't go as planned.
Jake had to work Sunday night, so we decided to take him out to eat on Saturday. We invited my dad and decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Petra's. If you're in the Melbourne area and haven't dined there yet, you are truly missing out on something amazing!
Aedyn had had a borderline bad attitude all day, but Jake took both boys out to the mall play place (so I could get a much needed nap) and ran some energy out. Aedyn fell asleep on the way home and slept for over an hour before I had to go in and wake him up so we could leave again.
He woke up grumpy which I expected and unfortunately stayed grumpy once we got there. He was in full terrible two's mode. None of our contingency plans worked, he was just going to have this meltdown. We had the choice to allow him to scream and disrupt the other diner's meals, or leave. Well, really, we didn't have a choice. Screaming at our table is unacceptable. At home or out. If we're home he gets sent to his room until he composes himself. When we're out, we, as parents, sacrifice to teach our son what is appropriate and what is not in public.
That meant that I did not get to enjoy my salad with my husband and my dad and that Jake had to eat his main entree cold. We switched off sitting with Aedyn in the car until he was cooled down and appropriately controlled. Then we finished our meal and even had dessert with a calm child who knew that if he lost it he would be escorted out to the van to sit in time out in his car seat without toys.

It wasn't perfect, it wasn't what we planned, but it happened. After dessert I took Aedyn out onto the patio area where there weren't other customers and let him run around while Jake and my Dad talked and waited for the bill.

We didn't have to do this. The owners love kids and babies there. And we know they love our babies. They regularly come and ask to take Jaron and Aedyn with them so we get a break while we eat our meal. They will take them back to the kitchen and get Aedyn a drink or out on the patio. They carry Jaron around and love the fact that he'll gobble up cucumber salad and some kafta kabob. They would never ask us to leave or penalize us for having rowdy children.

The reason we are so careful is because we respect them and care about their business. While I know how wonderful the restaurant is and would go back over and over because of my experience there, other diners may be eating there for the first time. MY child's behavior could make or break another diner's experience. MY child might affect the restaurant's business and cause them to lose potential customers. I would never want to do this to such a great place!

Even at other restaurants where I don't know the owners, I employ the same policy. Aedyn may eat with us only if he can control himself. He's two. I'm very aware that at any meal, at any time I may have to sacrifice my dining experience or eat my meal cold as Jake and I switch off so that we do not keep our screaming child at the table. It's not only simple courtesy but it teaches my son some very important values.

Self-control. Unselfishness. Consistency. Integrity.

I'll say it once again. He is TWO. Everything he does teaches him something. Every response I give him is something that teaches him. By removing him to an isolated location when he melts down he learns that public meltdowns are not ok. As an adult I hope that this will teach him self-control so he will not lash out in anger, but handle a situation calmly and then find a way to contact a person who can actually change something.

He is learning unselfishness and courtesy, to put others before himself. He is learning that he does not come first at the expense of someone else. He is learning to consider those around him and how his actions affect them. That while they chose to dine in a family friendly establishment, they did not choose to sit two tables away from a toddler screaming, just like their toddler does, the one who they are paying a very expensive babysitter to deal with for the evening. I pray that as an adult he will continue to treat others with consideration and not think only of himself and his "rights".

He is learning consistency and integrity. His actions have to same or similar consequences no matter where he is or who is watching. Which as he grows will translate to his thoughts and actions being the same no matter where he is or who is watching.

This also carries over from restaurants to other places we go. Multiple trips to the grocery store are not possible for us, gas is too expensive and it's quite the ordeal to get out of the house in the first place. I can't take him home and go back later. But I will abandon my cart and march him to the restroom while carrying his brother, handle the attitude problem and return to my buggy and continue shopping. Sometimes repeating this 2 or 3 times until he gives up or we're in the checkout line. (I will interject here that him crying because I won't let him walk and him pitching a full out tantrum are two different issues, I'm talking about tantrums right now.)

His baby brother I handle differently. Jaron is not yet 8 months old. In restaurants, my tactic of removing him from the table is the same if all else fails and even nursing won't even quiet him. While we are shopping, I just finish as quickly as I can and get him out of there.

I'm Aedyn's mom. I know that more often than not he will need an attitude adjustment while we were out. But every time I deal with it the same way that I deal with it at home. And every time we go through the process I am laying foundation for the man that my son will become. That's what is important. That's why I do what I do.

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