Allie's first sleep-over meant we were forced to present Julia with a reasonable compensation package that included a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's.
Deb and I hate Chuck E. Cheese's.
It's loud, the food truly sucks, you know every surface is covered with Ebolavirus and there's always at least one obnoxious kid who will shove your child to the ground and climb over her broken body to get to a skee ball ramp. That said, a trip to Chuck's is a small price to pay to avoid upsetting the delicate balance of sibling equity. If we didn't, one of our kids would feel less loved than the other causing her to immediately turn to a crack pipe to provide the nurturing mommy and daddy would not.
This time Debbie had the brilliant idea to have dinner before we went to Chuck E.'s. I don't know why I thought this was against the rules. I honestly thought Chuck E. Cheese's hired enforcers who would throw your ass out if you didn't eat their sucky pizza before letting your kid play Whack-A-Mole for three straight hours.
We wound up at a fairly nice place. There was no kid's menu, the soup of the day was a tomato bisque with blue cheese and caramelized onions and the waiter had a crumb scraper so I'm thinking this was the alternate universe version of Chuck E. Cheese (like Spock with a goatee).
We were there early so there were a lot of nicely dressed old people quietly eating dinner with us. It was nice. Although we did hear the couple next to us say that someone named John would definitely get diarrhea if he ate there because of all of the antibiotics he's apparently taking. Julia was fairly well behaved considering the fact that we didn't order her anything to eat. We are bad parents. But we knew that ordering her a $17 cheese toasty would mean it would just sit on her plate. After all, she told us that she wasn't hungry and just nibbled on the bread that came before our appetizers. We are bad parents.
But we're not as bad as the lady two tables away from us who plopped down a DVD player in front of her daughter so she could eat her meal in peace. COME ON. This kid was probably three and carried on a conversation with everyone at her table. Not that we had her health records available, but this little girl didn't seem to have any unusual behavioral problems, she was just your standard issue unreasonable three year-old (similar to the one we were sitting with). But obviously she was unruly enough to require electronic intervention to keep her from screaming obscenities and pulling every one's dinner plates on to the floor.
It just seemed a little over the top. They kept the DVD player's volume low, but it still seemed downright rude to make everyone endure Barney. After all, they paid a lot of money to eat bisque and get their crumbs scraped. Maybe the DVD player was the only way this woman thought she could get out and have a nice dinner. I shouldn't say much because every parent knows that once you've endured one of your kid's complete meltdowns you'll never be judgemental of another parent's solution to pacifying his or her kids. But this DVD thing seemed like a bad choice.
If you're going to risk taking your kid to a nice restaurant, then you should probably have established the look with your child. The look is the expression you put on your face that tells your kid that if she doesn't do what you tell her to do there will be a small nuclear detonation that will destroy everything she's ever loved (including Chuck E. Cheese's). If you don't have the look, take your kid out for noodles while you work on developing the look. Leave the DVD player at home.
I have very little wiggle room to preach. Julia wasn't perfect while we dined. She was out of her seat and kind of loud at times. But I'm pretty sure her behavior wasn't as disruptive as low level Barney sounds.
By the way, Julia screamed bloody murder when we tried to go into Chuck E. Cheese's. She was afraid of the robots. She didn't want anything to do with the robots. We finally got her into the place but only after promising her that we'd stay well away from the robots. She stopped screaming and had a relatively good time. Maybe she would have stopped sooner if we had soothed her with a little Curious George via portable DVD. Hard to say.