Yes, that's right, I've come to dine at your establishment and I'm ballsy enough to bring my child along with me. More realistically put, my child needs to eat and I am merely a food-stuff facilitator. I kind of like to think of myself as mom-slash-personal-assistant-slash-handler and I'm handling Napoleon's ID. Think of me more as those people who do advance work for the President, or for Castro.
Now that I'm here, let's try and work together to make this as enjoyable (or at least as less of a teeth-clenching and hair-raising) experience as possible. Here are a few ground rules to govern our relationship, or a list of demands, as you may see it:
1) I intend to leave you a large tip. Recognize this in advance. I feel it is necessary and perhaps the only way I can secure the ability to return to your restaurant in the future and as a small compensation for the cheerios and other detritus which we will be leaving behind, under our table and spread about a three table radius of the high chair/booster seat when we leave. (Case in point-- a hamburger bun strewn on the floor, under the table and stepped on at Brasserie? This alone warranted 30%).
2) The minute our butts hit the chair at whatever table you've stuck us with (understanding that it will most likely be the most undesirable table in the place, farthest away from (x) other diners, (y) your colleagues lucky enough not to have gotten us assigned to their station and/or (z) anyone with all of their hearing) you need to immediately bring us a bread basket. It doesn't need to be free, it just needs to be full. The key to a happy, quiet child? One who's mouth is full. Nothing can quite accomplish this as quickly as carbohydrates.
3) Now that we've gotten the bread, take our orders and bring us out our food as soon as humanly possible. Appetizers? Bring out everything as soon as it's ready. Entrees? We'll take them ASAP and leave the appetizers right where they are. The bread? Its novelty is fleeting. We'll need new and exciting food options about every 7 to 10 minutes (and that's if we're lucky). A European, relaxed dining experience? If I wanted that I'd have stayed in France. What we both need to understand is that I'm on borrowed time. I've got exactly two pieces of bread, eight forkfulls of kid's sized macaroni and cheese and about ten french fries before I've got to get the check and get the hell out of here or you're going to start to see fireworks. In that time I've got to not only feed my little one but I've also got to order my own food, consume it and pay the check. Trust me, speed is key.
4) Bring me whatever I ask for, no matter how odd it may seem. A glass of ice cubes, a shrimp fork and some lemon wedges? Spare napkins, ketchup packets and two wine lists? Whatever it is, just bring it. Keeping a baby/toddler/child happy in a public eating establishment is less of a balancing act and more like trying to defuse a small explosive device. If I need ice for my sippy cup understand that in that gi-normous diaper bag I'm straddled with I don't have a sno-cone machine. There's only so much a person can carry without having to hire a sherpa, sometimes you just can't be that self-sufficient. Bring me a glass of ice. If I ask for ice water, I'm not asking for "cold" water, I'm asking for "ICE" water. If [insert name of your favorite celebrity] were eating at your station and [he/she] asked for ICE water would you bring them cold water, or a glass of ice with water in it? Ever see that movie "As Good As It Gets"? Well, until a human being hits about the age of 10, we're all about as OCD as Jack Nicholson. Understand that as a parent, I have been through this drill every day since my little person was born. I know what she likes and can anticipate her needs better than you can. If I need ice (or lemon wedges, or extra napkins or whatever) to avert a meltdown, bring it. I'm not asking for you to negotiate peace in the middle east, I just want some ice.
5) Understand that your help in these matters is appreiciated and this can't be a successful endeavor without you. Trust me, neither I nor you want to interrupt the other diners, I'm doing my best but I can't do it alone. I also can't live for the next eighteen years only going to drive-thrus. When in doubt, just remember rule #1 above.