One in an ongoing series called "Parenting: It's Not About You!" Or a series called "Things I Write When Warming Up For Paying Work."
I subscribe to the theory that children are savages and it's a parent's duty to society to civilize their particular savage(s). Since one of the hallmarks of civilization is being able to go to a restaurant without doing anything to justify the waitstaff garnishing your food with their saliva, it stands to reason that you've got to teach your kids how to comport themselves in these places.
But children aren't the only ones who need to learn; parents should recognize that they're also expected to behave well. Here's how to not be an entitled jerk or make your fellow restaurant patrons hate your baby.
START EARLY; GO OFTEN
When I was a new mother, one of my goals was to take the baby someplace new every day. This was because I was wracked with anxiety over forgetting something vital to my daughter's well-being and gripped with dread by the prospect of being berated by any of the famously judgy people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area . I figured the only way to master these terrors was to embrace them head on.
The same goes for going to restaurants. Take the baby out. Believe you me, these are the glory months because babies in restaurants are easy. But if you get used to going when it's easy, it will never get much tougher.
Practical considerations: Always check the space. In the first months of Trix's life, we stuck to places with patios, all the better to have room for maneuvering the stroller into position. Why did we have to consider this? Because our baby decided that only the stroller would do for her afternoon naps -- so we walked downtown just in time for her to pass out. Which brings me to my second consideration ...
It is unfair to everyone if you inflict a meal out on a child who's tired. Do not set your kid up for failure by taking her to a restaurant if it means she'll miss a nap or blow past bedtime.
I know it's flattering to think of yourselves as still being as spontaneous and fun-loving as you were pre-kid, so of course you'll meet your friends for tapas right around Albrecht's afternoon nap time. I know you want to be like your friends Jack and Amanda, whose little Cardamom napped through an ironically-attended monster truck rally and was using chopsticks in restaurants by the time she was 13 months.
It's nice that other people got the low-maintenance kid model. But you didn't, so get over it. Tell your pals that your little Albrecht relies on consistent routines, it's developmentally appropriate, and here's a Plan B.
(At left: The daughter, 6 months old, sleeping through her first meal at Sam's. She has since developed a fondness for the risotto special.)
DON'T GO EMPTY-HANDED
If you're a parent and you don't already have a boatload of child-friendly games and videos on your smartphone , remedy that. (And while you're at it, make sure that both parents have sufficient child-friendly entertainment on their devices.) Grab a book (for the kid, not you). Bring along a crayon wallet, because restaurant crayon selections blow.
I have a small zippered pouch in my bag with shelf-stable emergency snacks and child-sized cutlery. My daughter loves nothing so much as being able to use a knife and fork , and having Trixie-sized cutlery keeps her happy. The snacks help if our food is slow in coming.
Practical considerations: When it's time to give the kiddo a sippy cup, go for the ones that have straws. This way, your child learns how to drink in a way that guarantees they'll never go thirsty at a restaurant and you don't have to carry a sippy anywhere.
DON'T BOTHER ORDERING FOR THE TODDLER
With rare exceptions, children's menus are insults to children and parents alike -- the former because kids can and will eat something beyond chicken fingers, the latter because you're paying a lot of money for a boring plate of food your kid won't finish. Know what other food comes in small portions, but has more variety and provides a better bang for the buck? Appetizers.
Most American restaurants have enormous portions, so it's never been a problem for one or both of us to share a meal with our daughter. Just ask the server for a separate plate or use a bread plate that's already on the table.
AGREE ON A DIVISION OF LABOR
When our circle of friends began having children, we'd meet up at restaurants and over the course of the meal, the child's mother would end up devoting her attention to the child and leave her own food uneaten while her husband got to enjoy a hot meal and good company with his friends. And I'd sit there and wonder, Am I supposed to stop eating in sisterly solidarity? Should I seethe over male privilege? Should I just accept that it was none of my business because every relationship is different and maybe this didn't even bother her?
Still, when I had Trix, I told Phil, "Let's not make that us." So we trade off. I like to hope that my friends did that too, and I just didn't see the trades.
REMEMBER YOU ARE BUT ONE OF MANY TABLES IN YOUR SECTION
Part of being the family that people don't hate at the restaurant is recognizing that the restaurant employees are not in fact there to act as your auxiliary parenting unit. Make their jobs easier on them, and when you become a regular, they'll go out of their way for you.
We're clear about what we're looking for in a table (well away from people who look like they came to a restaurant expressly for a kid-free meal); we pick up all messes promptly; we always ask for extra napkins so we can keep tables, chairs and toddler clean.
Most importantly, we ask for the check to arrive with the meal. This way, we can make a quick escape if our daughter shows signs of being over the dining experience. Back in the days when the kiddo did experiment with dropping food on the floor, if we couldn't get to the mess, we padded the server's tip. Now, I just write a thank-you on the receipt if service has been good.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Grown-ups, you're not going to get a relaxing meal out of this. You're going to get a meal someone else made and you don't have to do any dishes. You're getting an opportunity to hang out with your children while they learn how to be in the world. You're also getting a chance to watch them get blown away by how much they like shami kebab, or see them swell with pride when they master the pasta twirl with fork and spoon. Be grateful that you've got the kind of life where you can go out to eat as a family. Then go do it with courtesy.
Got any more pointers for turning your children in ace restaurant attendees? Beyond "Just don't bring them," I mean? Share them on Twitter -- I'm at lschmeiser.
 There are many things to love about living here, but the unbending dogmatism of some people and their attendant willingness to tell total strangers what they're doing wrong is not one of them.
 My daughter is enamored of Matt's dancing all around the world, and you can buy downloadable videos, so I keep those on my phone for her.
 I have these placemats, which we used to identify the parts of a table setting and where they go, and I fear I've created a monster. Trix does not hesitate to tell people that she takes her food on a plate, thank you .
 While we're on the subject, I cannot recommend Duralex enough. We have these glasses, these bowls and these plates, and they are perfect for toddlers. I figured I'd rather teach Trix not to make music with her fork and plate at home than have her discover she could do so in a restaurant.