Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I need help. My three-year-old is pretty well behaved when we are out to dinner. My wife and I are pretty quick to dispense justice…err… gently discipline him… when he is acting up. And when we are out to dinner as just a family it is very enjoyable. But, here is my problem: it gets incredibly stressful and downright exhausting when we are out with friends with kids his age and those friends don’t set the same… or ANY… boundaries.
I find myself correcting my son’s behavior while my friends do nothing to their child. I just want to yell at my friend, “hey bozo, you want to put the drink down for two seconds, step in here and tell your kid to stop screaming like a wild banshee and running around the restaurant?”
I don’t feel comfortable disciplining their child, and biting my tongue is growing increasingly annoying… and painful. I know every parent has their own boundaries. But how do you deal with the situation when the boundaries are so very different… or worse yet, nonexistent?
Trying To Enjoy My Dinner
Dear Trying To Enjoy My Dinner,
There is nothing more exciting than children running freely around hot food and trays weighted down with ice-cold drinks! Instead of worrying about your child or your parenting responsibilities perhaps you should begin a betting pool to see which kid does the most damage? Or which waiter will bite the dust? It’s really fun for the whole family!!
Sure, there is a strong possibility your child may grow up to act like a total douchebag in public, but, really, you can look at this as just another fun family opportunity. One where you can bet on how big of a jerk your child can be by the age of 35? How many friends he will lose in a week? Or how many complaints he can get at work before getting fired? Fun! Fun! And more fun!
Of course, if you abhor joy and merriment and would prefer to take the Debbie-Downer approach, here are a few quick-fix options:
1) The Duct Tape Solution: Simply duct tape offending child to his/her chair and, for absolute efficiency, duct tape mouth shut as well. Enjoy meal. This one is extremely effective although it may not allow you to keep your friends. Can also be used on rowdy frat boys.
2) The Spike The Punch Solution: Nothing gets a child to behave faster than a slight sedative in his apple juice. This one is probably illegal but perhaps worth the punishment? This one is used by rowdy frat boys.
3) The Passive/Aggressive Solution: This one relies on constant comments like: “Wow, little Timmy sure is energetic. I bet you have to check your food for spit a lot when you go out.” Or “Little Timmy sure can yell. There’s nothing like a damaged eardrum to make me realize I should see my doctor for my annual checkup.” This one will probably make you hate yourself.
4) The Craigslist Solution: Place an ad looking for new, better friends. This one may require several strange and awkward dinners with pervs, freaks, and a possible serial killer or two before you find a family with whom you click.
Of course, you can always forget the quick-fix options and try talking to your friend. Although, most people are not very receptive to hearing that they lack parenting skills. I think this depends on the friendship and the personalities of the people involved.
The best option, and one with the least chance of getting you arrested or tackled by rowdy frat boys, is to stick to just going out to dinner with your immediate family. If you want to meet up with your friends and their children, try and plan some time at a playground where all of the children can run off their energy. You may be dining alone now but you should remember that the consistent parenting you are doing will make for one fine young man down the road!
Young father and his two kids at outdoor cafe photo via Shutterstock.
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