Hj alluded to it in his last post and I am here to explore the subject further. How does the American casual dining experience change with the addition of an infant?
Whether you choose the traditional baby-in-carseat or the more relaxed baby-in-arms look on arrival, you will certainly be greeted with a host of genuine, tender smiles from both patrons and staff. If you are new to dining out with an infant, you will need a gentle reminder (preferably from a trusted source) that all those doe eyes are not even seeing you. Rather, they are fixed in wonder at the tiny bald head that is probably at this moment bobbing wildly in the pre-wail state. Babies, as a general rule, hate dining out. They will lie quietly in ambush, listening from the rear-facing car seat as the unsuspecting new parents carefully lay out the restaurant plan, taking into account baby’s last feeding, baby’s general mood, baby’s last poop, and of course baby-friendly atmospheres. Baby will be deceptively silent as the question of where to eat gets thoroughly discussed in the front seats. Baby may even let out a happy gasping chuckle as tiny one-way streets and sudden u-turns lend themselves to jars and bounces, which babies love.
As you enter the establishment of choice, baby will need about 10 seconds to stare at the garish walls and the fawning masses, as well as have a short listen to the Latin tango music coming from Above before giving the cue to all within earshot: “Babies hate dining out!!!” Ironically this is precisely the amount of time it takes for all eyes to be on that sweet precious baby face.
This is the part of the show where the nervous glances begin, mainly from the new father to the new mother, and vice versa. As the waitress kindly leads them to a corner table, there will be the typical jostling and bouncing which normally delights and calms. But to baby there is nothing normal about this experience and nothing fun, either. In fact, baby may even indicate that he or she hates dining out.
Baby will experience all manner of holds, positions, and patting during the meal. There may be a rotating series of short periods in the car seat, with papa, with mama, on a blanket, on the breast and then start over again as baby’s tiny precious face wrinkles in anticipation of another angry howl. In the end you will find yourself in the ladies’ room juggling a flailing newborn and a stinky diaper, or perhaps you will be the one in the car jostling the sniffling little one. Either way, you will be wondering what your entree tastes like. And you will probably find out on the way home, with a styrofoam box on your lap.
Thankfully our baby is above average, and she loves eating out! In fact, she gave Chorizo’s her highest rating yet: she slept through the whole meal which is a tiny baby version of a big compliment. Then she cried when we left.
Up next: Air Travel with an Infant