On the joys of dining out with an 18-month-old wrecking ball

Story by Sammi Johonson

It’s those post-baby-pre-toddler months that are truly hectic. Why even try to dine out? Why go and try to have any sort of adult conversation, or kid conversation for that matter, when your 18-month-old wrecking ball will have nothing of the sorts?

Take this scene. We’re meeting old friends, the type of friends who pick up conversation immediately where it was left, even if that’s been months or years. Happy hour, they say. It’ll be fun. Hubs and I enthusiastically agree, while urging our friends to reserve the only table in the brewery that is a mile long, because three kids equals 20 people in a restaurant setting, and we’re coming in like a hurricane. The big kids settle in with their special mocktail or soda, token plastic cup of crayons and kid-decorated, restaurant-issued menu with tic-tac-toe and mini crosswords. It’s a thing of beauty to those big kids. Then, there is Indy, who has recently entered the up-down phase, as I so lovingly call the period starting at 18 months, give or take.

We settle in and order our beverage of choice, with her sitting on a lap as she’s taking in the scene, assessing her playground (restaurant) and identifying apparent obstacles to tackle with zest, nooks and crannies that she’ll explore with blind confidence and the set of stairs that we’ll go up and down a million times. She’s like a CIA agent, surveying the landscape with trained eyes. Her first move is the continuous up and down in our laps. Up one second (as you push your beer far to the middle of the table), only to be demanded to be put down again, just not on that side, the other side. Now up to mom, now to dad, then to be passed across the table to mom again because dad suddenly became a threat that demanded immediate action. If she isn’t passed upon demand, she’ll shape shift into a limp sack of lead potatoes or an aggressive octopus wriggling and writhing to some unknown cranny at the bottom of the ocean. The end result is Hubs and I now sweating and chugging our beers because it’s apparently time to go.

Yet, in our seemingly endless ignorant optimism, we decide to order another round. We’re with our pals and we love them, so let’s punish our baby, us, them and everyone in the entire restaurant some more. Now we’ve moved onto taking the tiny human bulldozer into our arms and casing the joint. We inadvertently are eavesdropping onto everyone’s table as we cruise by to view the lights, now the windows, the merch, more lights, back to smiling Grammies who nods with a knowingly wise face and totally gets it. Better yet, we run into a random couple, sans kids (on an actual date!), who are talking about their kids and I’m like, “So sorry I’m just in your zone here in the corner of the brewery and totally encroaching on your two hours of freedom, hi and now bye.” But they smile and nod and totally get it. I love them for that.

Now we’re at the stairs and we switch roles: the other parent sits down and the other is on crazy baby duty. Up, down, up, down, up and more up, then down and more down. Every. Single. Stair.

By this point, our angel older kids are like, “What the actual … ?” And we’ve really got to go. We give sweaty hugs to our pals, pile in the car, and everyone falls asleep in their clothes because we’ve, yet again, pushed them way past the point of return. Then we get home and put them to bed fully dressed, no teeth brushing (sorry Dr. Buffington!) and sit and say to each other…

Well, that was so fun!

And we mean it. It was fun! We’re social beings and we love being with others and know that this sweaty, frustrating, psycho stage only lasts a hot second. One. Long. Second.

Let’s get on an airplane, they said. It’ll be fun.

Sammi is a mother, wife and business owner. You can contact her at sammi@sambrownco.com