Q: Help! We find it almost impossible to finish a restaurant meal when our 18-month-old twins are along, which is always. We give them toys to keep them busy, and they do well for about 30 minutes after which chaos breaks loose. They begin screaming and throwing things and make it very difficult for us to finish our meal much less enjoy conversation with other adults who may be with us. It’s very embarrassing and I generally end up leaving the restaurant with them. How can I be more proactive about this problem?
A: Let me pose a thought problem to you: You have an adult friend who is generally very personable but has a habit of becoming disruptive in crowded public spaces. He invariably begins a loud argument that rapidly deteriorates into screaming and throwing whatever objects are handy. Would you invite him to join you for dinner in a restaurant?
No, you would not. You would not want to be associated with this individual’s public outbursts, and you would not want to subject other patrons to them either. That is nothing more than commonsense, and the very same commonsense applies to this situation with your 18-month-old twins.
It’s one thing to invite other adults to your home for dinner. In that event, feed your twins before your guests arrive, then do your best to keep them occupied while you entertain. Better yet, have your guests arrive after you’ve fed, bathed, and put your twins to bed. If only for the parents’ sake, this age child should be in bed by seven o’clock anyway, and the commonsense of that policy is doubled with twins. It is axiomatic that the later one lets young children stay up, the more wound up they get, and the more difficult it is to get them into their beds and off to sleep.
If you’re going out to a restaurant with other adults, do yourselves, your friends, and other patrons a huge courtesy and hire a sitter. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that no one appreciates paying for a meal that is disrupted by unruly children of any age. Your friends may smile through the chaos and reassure you that everything is okay and they understand, but they’re just trying to put on a game face and be as polite as possible.
All of this leads me to another issue, which is the apparent reluctance of today’s parents to obtain babysitters. This is something that people of my generation and older frequently comment on (to one another) and scratch our heads over. My conversations with the “our kids have gone everywhere with us since they were born” crowd lead me to conclude that this rather inconvenient practice is driven by one part fear (generally unfounded), one part the need, on the part of the mother, to live up to the new “Good Mommy” standard, and one part lack of responsible teens who are willing to babysit. The latter is simple to deal with: if you can’t find a sitter, then don’t go out.
I’ll deal with parts one and two in an upcoming column. Stay tuned!
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at www.rosemond.com.