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Parenting column: Daring to fine dine with small guests

Baby & Toddler
Can you remember life before children? Dinner dates would be spent in adult restaurants as family restaurant acoustics would echo blood-curdling screams, tired cries and little bodies scampering up and down the aisles like peak-hour traffic into the town centre.

When you have no children of your own, this bustle is as far from pleasant as possible.

I remember being a childless individual back in the day. It was extremely easy to pass judgement on parents struggling to control their little monsters.

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Families can realistically eat out in style, and with reduced calories and sodium, if Michelle Obama is to have her way.is a qualified remedial therapist with more than 10 years’ experience.

Only when I become a mother myself did I truly begin to empathise with that fragile parent desperate for a quiet meal, with more than five minutes to chat to their spouse uninterrupted by “mama, dada”.

I will never forget the day my husband and I decided to take the plunge and venture to a fine dining restaurant with toddler and stroller in tow, and a belly ready to pop the Monday afterward. We joked on the way saying it was my “last supper”. It was indeed.

Our nearly two-year-old so calm on the way through seemed to be pulling out all the stops for me as if he knew how badly I needed my once-in-a-blue-moon béarnaise fillet with pomme frites and sun-dried tomato salad. All went well until we placed the order.

It was as if my angelic offspring knew the most awkward time to perform was once the kitchen had started preparing our meal and there was no way out.

The first outburst was to be set free from perambulator bondage.

The second was to run free. Me, always being the over-prepared mother had toys, teddies, puzzles, you name it.

Nothing I could have packed would make this baby of ours happy.

The looks, the commentary truly captured the fear I felt prior to arrival.

We eventually left after a woman exclaimed that parents with young children belong in a MacDonald’s drive-thru.

So, what do us parents do? Should we never venture beyond our secure home? Spend our lives at the good old Spur? There are only so many burgers you can eat.

It is a free country. Nobody should be punished by baby blessings.

We should be able to continue living as normally as before.

Parenthood, as wonderful as it is, is hard enough, and continuing as before will only make our transition that much easier.

Our relations with our spouses need to be cherished for they are the foundation of good parenting. We made them as a team; we raise them as a team.

This is a hard pill to swallow for so many, and yet is the truth.

Before venturing out, do your research.

Look on the websites and see if they are kiddy friendly

If they don’t specify, see if they have jungle gyms and kids’ menus as this is a telltale sign that they cater for the smaller guests.

Call the restaurant ahead to prepare them and see what the response is preceding the visits.

Wine farms are always good “five star” family options. They always seem well appointed with rolling lawns to run and roll on, and the guests appear unflustered either on account of the tranquil surroundings or the copious amounts of wine being tasted. Either way, it is a win-win situation.

Practice makes perfect:

The initial visits will always be taxing on first-timers. Exposing yourself to a fear always minimises it, so revisiting the same place for a while will make your child feel calm, and in turn make you feel comfortable too.

The more the merrier:

As a first time-venture, I would highly recommend you take good friends in the same predicament. You will not fall prey under the beady eye of a heartless stranger.

The toddlers share the same lingo and can entertain each other. Giving you more “adult time” as well as peers to lean on when things get ugly. It takes other parents to truly empathise and feel your pain. A glass of wine is also highly encouraged to take the additional edge off.

Calm mom, calm toddler.

Have distractions in cases of desperation:

If you have pulled out all the stops and still do not succeed, this is the time. Do what all parents do best BRIBE!!

Bribing tools:

* Dummy

* Sweetie

* Toy

Options: making the child feel they have a choice empowers them to think they have the power, (hahaha, we know that they don’t) but it works.

Dry teething biscuit or zoo biscuit; it’s a no-brainer. They think we are stupid. If all else fails there’s always the good old electronic devices.

Make friends with the owners:

Home away from home is the best.

Children are more likely to act up in a place they feel out of their depth.

This will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Let the children be sensory:

I allow my children to modulate themselves with sensory play.

From dough to sand, flour to cream. It keeps them busy and calms them down. In some restaurants, the children have the opportunity to assist in the food-making process.

Whatever the outcome, be at peace with the following:

* This, too, shall pass.

* You are not alone.

Never mind a thick skin, to be a parent you need a thermal fur coat.

Now liberate yourselves and venture to where parents dare to go.

* Koetser is a qualified remedial therapist with more than 10 years’ experience.

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