Once in a week/10 days, I am so bored of eating food cooked by my hands that I am looking for opportunities to eat out. I want to go out, anywhere will do. Even the roadside vada pav or pani puri will do. Yesterday was one such day. Being a Sunday, I was feeling more listless. It had something to do the fact that the next day was going to be a Detox diet day.

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Image: flickr.com

As I was about to announce my intentions of a kitchen strike to my darling hubby, we got to know that we had been invited for my hubby’s uncle’s birthday. Tremendous, problem solved without my husband giving me icy you-are-lazy looks. So we went to this new place called Pizza Express (renowned Pizza chain of London) near Gateway of India. The place was huge and so was the crowd. Luckily for us, our 10-seater table was pre-reserved. The menu was brief but good. Though I’d prefer feeding my daughter risotto, I had to content with feeding her chicken pasta, prosciutto ham pizza and dough balls. In earlier days, I would have carried a packet of biscuits/theplas, but now I have stopped doing it. I have learnt that whatever comes, my little daughter will not stay hungry. She will eat something or the other to fill her tummy.

She ate a little with me but she would go to every family member, on the table, who would lovingly feed her. One good thing about toddlers is that they know when to stop. If they shake their head, you need to realize that either they are full (and don’t want to eat more) or they don’t like to eat that particular dish. So better refrain from force-feeding them which makes them shy away from eating altogether.

One problem I regularly face with my daughter is her reluctance to wear a bib/napkin. Though she is not a messy eater, food has this uncanny attraction to new/rich clothes. So however much I tried to avoid, some sauce spilled on Aanya’s brand new dress gifted by her aunt. Just imagine my horror. My husband says, “Don’t make her wear expensive clothes in restaurants or parties.” Of course, I don’t listen to him. “If she doesn’t wear these clothes outside, then should I make her sleep in them?” Hence, I have learnt some tips for food stains cleaning on clothes which most often than work. I came home and immediately washed the area. Thankfully, the stain’s gone.

And then as a mother’s life is never simple, I needed to take her to the washroom. Twice. Though I make her wear a diaper whenever we step out, she refuses to pee in it. I know it’s a good sign but not very convenient when you are out. I will tell you why. My daughter will use a washroom only when there’s her little pink potty seat around. Now do you see my problem? Is it convenient to tag her potty seat along wherever I go? So I have to be a little imaginative while making her use the washroom.

And finally, the restlessness syndrome. Once she was through eating and bored of interacting with the same people, she realized she needed a change of scene and faces. So she started visiting other tables in the vicinity. Strangers eating or talking would look at her cute doll face and smile encouragingly, talk to her a little or some would just look around concernedly to confirm if the child’s not lost and heave a sigh of relief on catching my protective eye. A lady even took out a small bar of chocolate and offered it to my daughter. In spite of my repeated teachings not to take stuff from strangers, she grabbed the chocolate and came running back to me. These are the times when I feel awkward. Should I have just smiled at the chocolate lady in appreciation or should I have frowned at her for giving chocolate to my daughter? Of course, I chose to do the former. And I also sent Aanya back to her to voice her ‘thank you’ which she had so conveniently forgotten the first time.

After an hour and a half, our dinner out came to an end by the time which I was slightly exhausted but my little one’s spirits were still nothing if not buoyed. These are some takings that I have accumulated over the months with dining out with my little one.

  • Dal, roti and subzi are good and nutritious diet for a child. But don’t make it mandatory for your kid to have them every day. When you eat out (if once in a while), make your child eat with you too. This way, she learns to explore and appreciate different types of foods and cuisines and fortifies her belly. But avoid giving her uncooked foods like raw salads etc.
  • If eating out with family/friends, try to feed your child yourself. But if any other member volunteers, don’t hesitate to take up on the offer. It will not only give you a much needed break but also give that person the joy of feeding a small child.
  • Let your child wander a little (of course within your eyesight) and talk to strangers. There’s no harm and this way your child becomes social and interactive.
  • Be a little sceptical about letting your child eat something offered by a stranger.
  • Take a change of clothes for extreme situations. As soon as you return home, wash the stained area off your child’s clothing. Most of the food stains go away easily with immediate wash. For turmeric stains, pour a few drops of lemon juice on them and keep overnight. For oil stains, dust a little talcum powder and let it rest for a while. In worse scenario, you will have to give it for laundry. Well, that’s the price for eating out sometimes.
  • Carry a smartphone with 3G/games, iPad to keep your child busy for some time. It mostly works; your child will let you eat in peace.
  • Always carry water from home for your child or order a packaged water bottle. Also, carry some wet wipes to clear the mess your child might have made. Keep in mind to tip the waiter extra.
  • It’s a good thing to remind your toddler of her table manners but relax if she forgets them. Don’t yell at her. She is small after all and sock everybody who judge parents by the way their kids eat.
  • Family restaurants are where kids can shout, yell or cry and nobody dare stare at you.

Have a pleasant dining experience the next time you dine out with your toddler!