Our weekend started at 4.30pm yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. Saturdays and Sundays mean little to our family; I’m on maternity leave from work (and therefore every day is a weekend, right?) and The Boyfriend works a six-day rota, meaning his weekends don’t often fall on a Saturday and Sunday. Today we decided that lunch out would be a nice way of spending time together as a family, enjoying each other’s company, relaxing and just being together.
The Princess had different ideas.
To be fair to her, she did maybe hint at preferring not to go out (I think she actually said, “I don’t want to go. I don’t want lunch. Princess not eat lunch”. It was cryptic.)
Not wanting to be Those Parents, you know the ones whose lives are ruled by their kids, we went out for lunch. I’ll say this now. Never. Again. She wins. I promise from now on, I will always listen to The Princess. I never want to eat brownies and ice cream that quickly scrunched that far down in my seat with a face that red ever again.
We’ve had toddler tantrums before, even ones in public, but really it’s only ever been the odd act of defiance swiftly turned around by stern words and the threat of not going out later. I’ve counted myself lucky (OK, I may have sat quite smugly) as I’ve read about other mums’ struggles with demon tantrums, thinking the worst I’ve ever had to deal with has always been confined within our house. And with very understanding neighbours, these don’t bother me too much.
But today it happened. Today we had the Mother of All Toddler Tantrums at lunchtime in Frankie and Benny’s. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t short-lived. And it certainly wasn’t unnoticed. Even the waitress felt the need to tell The Princess that only good girls got to have ice-cream and she was being a naughty girl, which actually made me bristle because, yes, The Princess was being naughty, but who the hell was she to comment?
Anyway. We had throwing of jigsaw pieces, menus, a well-caught Aquadoodle which was side-swiped across the table, and the flinging of The Princess’s self over all sides of the highchair before our drinks were brought out. We remained determined to have a good time. We tried distraction, we tried singing, we tried whispering things about good girls getting trips to the park and how proud we were of her last time we went for lunch as she was soooo polite and soooo well-behaved.
It all fell on deaf ears.
The food came, the dramatics started, blonde curls flew as she shook her head violently at the very thought of having to eat spaghetti Bolognese. We bargained. We grew weary. I begged her to eat. I threatened to stop CBeebies that evening (I carried this through, but, damn her, she didn’t seem to notice). Then the screaming started. We told her to stop. It got louder. We told her to stop in louder voices. It got louder. I grabbed her hand and did that shouty whisper thing in her ear that means I’m being Really Very Serious. She squealed for two minutes without taking a breath. People were looking. Staff were looking. The room seemed very quiet except for the screaming. We were powerless to stop her.
Thinking about it, we could have got the bill and left, but I was starving, I was enjoying my food and there was the promise of pudding. No. She would not dictate our afternoon, we will just ignore her and carry on.
The screaming got worse. And worse. The Boyfriend took her outside to calm down. I felt the ladies on the next table looking at me, judging us for being The Parents Who Can’t Control Their Kids. I looked over and smiled apologetically, dying inside.
The Princess returned exclaiming she was a good girl. “Good!” I said, “so you’ll eat some lunch now?” “No I WON’T EAT LUNCH!!!” and the screaming started again.
The plates were cleared, pudding was served, the screaming continued along with the cavorting around in the highchair. The Boyfriend turned her highchair to face away from our table, but The Princess has Inspector Gadget style arms, and so the cutlery on the next table was immediately lifted. With a mouthful of brownie I swivelled round and swiped the fork she was holding over her head like some kind of trophy, before it was hurled into the nearest waiter. I turned her back to our table. She screamed.
Eventually, The Boyfriend took her outside to wait by the car while I fed Little Pea and settled the bill. The three (obviously childless) ladies on the next table, who were terribly Penny Vincenzi-esque, all Sloane-ranger head bands, pearls and pleats, made comments about how ear-piercing her screams are, and how it’s difficult to ignore her, all disguised with smiles but obviously meant as reprimands for ruining their lunchtime conversation.
I have to say I’ve never been so embarrassed by my daughter’s behaviour. I know all (most) parents go through this with their toddlers (tell me it’s true, please?) but when yours is the only one in that restaurant at that time making that noise and there’s seemingly nothing that can be done, it feels very lonely.
If there is even a hint of a tantrum brewing in future, we will not be venturing out of the house. It’s official. We are Those Parents. But at least no-one will witness another meltdown like that from The Princess. No pudding is worth that again.