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Meltdown at the (no, it's not) OK corral

The other night I narrowly escaped a meltdown myself. After Mr Green recovered from a ghastly gastric bug that forced us to cancel dinner plans with friends, we decided to reconvene. The last few times we took LGO out to restaurants, he played the golden boy, charming the staff, amusing himself in between courses, and gobbling up whatever we put in front of him. We even managed to have coffees afterwards. Yes! we punched the air. At last we can go out and have Nice Meals as a Family. Needless to say, we jumped the gun.

Better luck next time?

The evening started off just fine. We were armed with toys and snacks. We left home obscenely early, to avoid hunger pangs and overcrowding. The waitress gushed about LGO's cuteness to the point that Mr G and I cynically began to suspect insincerity. (Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much gushing.) Toward the end of the evening -- after he'd thrown the crayons, spat out every bite of $30 sirloin, and ran away from me toward the kitchen -- the gushing, funnily enough, fell away.

I propose a toast!

After what transpired the other night, the Next Time won't be until LGO turns 18, or whenever he announces that he's off to college -- whichever comes first. Then we can all toast with gorgeous cocktails, and actually taste them, as a family. Now I'm going over the evening whine by whine, partly because I don't understand what went wrong. I feel like we played all the right cards. LGO had a decent nap, a decent snack, and a decent run around in the park beforehand. In this case, there was no forewarning of the meltdown to come. He wasn't a) tired, b) hungry, or c) overstimulated.

What it boils down to:

HE JUST DIDN'T WANT TO BE THERE. In his own little unfathomable toddler brain, LGO had decided he'd had enough. Tots in the 1-3-year range have no concept of delayed gratification but plenty of willfulness and intensity. All things considered, it's not surprising things turned out the way they did. Of course the other diners were having civilized adult dinners, and I felt personally responsible for spoiling their ambiance. I remember all too well what that was like, pre-LGO, listening to some screaming holy terror that made Damian from The Omen look like a sweetie pie. The only thing worse than the holy terror was the musak or wanky jazz playing in the background. How had this happened? How had the cruel tables of fate turned on me?

How had I become that parent?

We tried to finish up and get out of the restau as quickly as possible, trying to save what little was left of our faces. True to form, once outside LGO was infuriatingly, instantly happy-go-lucky. Now that the incident has been relegated to the memory banks (the key to which has been thrown away), I wonder whether I should have, or could have, handled it differently. What tactics do you use to survive the public meltdown and live to tell the tale?

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