Parenting Hack: Restaurant Busy Bags

If you’re anything like me, you’re not so comfortable with how your 2 year old could probably design and develop her own app. My child is painfully professional when it comes to her technological skills because, let’s face it, she spends too much time on the iPad and playing on my iPhone with all the “educational apps” we’ve gotten her.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a huge hang up with technology and kids but I also see the other side of the street when parents discuss the fights over iPhone time, screaming over limits on screen time, and general sedentary couch time and lack of connection. We battle with these things and I sometimes worry that I might be impacting her imagination or creativity with built in plots and repetitive games.

baby ipad

Image by

Either way- we all know it works!

Technology works like magic when you’re sitting in a restaurant and your child wants to climb under the table and over the booth behind you. It works when you just want to eat a hot meal and not “entertain” like a broadway rendition of Lion King in the middle of Red Robin. And can I just say, bless Red Robin and their table tablets with tons of apps for kids. I have had me a nice hot burger and fries without having to dance on stilts and I thank you for that!

Kid at restaurant

Image by Erik Przekop

But here’s the deal- I know better and with a little amount of time and effort I can throw together an awesome parenting hack that saves me from having to rely on my phone. AND I still get to enjoy a hot meal!

So what do you need?

  • Tote or hanging cosmetic bags work well
  • Crayons and markers with coloring pages or coloring book
  • Little toy cars, action figures, barbies, etc.
  • Quiet books (these are amazing and you don’t have to make them, you can buy them on Amazon!)
  • Wind up toys (best place to get novelty toys is Cost Plus World Market…go figure)
    Legos/Blocks (small)
  • Colored clothes pins and matching paint chip samples (pinterest)
  • Large magnets
  • Lacing Activities
  • Books, play dough, etc.
  • Plastic utensils, wipes, straws

You get the idea! The most important thing to remember- They only get to play with the restaurant busy bag when you go out, otherwise the items lose their novelty. You also have to switch out items every couple months or so to keep it fresh. I love the dollar bins at Target, Cost Plus World Market, Etsy, and Dollar General for cheap, new items to keep ’em occupied. These all work for air travel too!

I never fly without a backpack for Boba filled to the brim with novel toys, games, books, weird little crafts and snacks for days. Trust me, it works and I can relieve some of the mommy guilt with a little less screen time.

Keeping Score…We All Do It

So last night was amazing, a much needed girls night downtown with a friend! Now don’t get too excited, my ladies nights have changed quite a bit since my early 20’s but not quite in a bad way. My friend and I had an overwhelming need to eat Chipotle and paint ceramics- wild, right?? I know, I know…simmer down over here before I burn the city down! But my needs have changed, and not because I’m a mother now, we’ll talk more about this in another post.

Anyway…so back to the topic of keeping score. As I stuffed my face with yummy salty lime chips smothered in burrito bowl toppings, my friend discussed with me some of the stuff she’s dealing with in her relationship- keeping score and feeling fried! Yes!! I was actually excited to hear her say that she argues with her husband about not having enough time, or who’s more tired, or even who’s more sick (as to have more of a break), etc. Now I’m not heartless, I don’t get off on my friends fighting or issues in their relationships but I was happy to hear her illuminate a theme I’ve been hearing when I talked with almost all my mommy friends- keeping score with our partners and just an overarching feeling of not enoughness.

keeping score

So here’s the deal- we’re all going through it. Almost everyone I talk with who has young children is arguing that they never have enough time alone, or how they have too many responsibilities and not enough fun, or how they can’t stand to hear their partners complain about being tired or needing one more thing from them. We’re all there and I have good news and bad news. Good news first- it’s happening to all of us so you can stop worrying that your relationship is going down the tubes or that everyone else has it together and you’re the only one struggling to tread water AND it’s just a phase of life!

Bad news? I read something aboutĀ adult children living at home much longer than they used to. Ok, so maybe it’s a long phase but I hear it does get better! Little kids are wonderful, rollie pollie balls of love and cuddles and a never-ending arsenal of funny shit- seriously, kids say some funny stuff! BUT, they are a crap ton of work too, like sooooooooo much work! They are needy, sleep-sucking, bundles of bodily functions and they are also a never-ending arsenal of whining and melting down. Sometimes kids can be downright jerks…but it comes with the territory. They are little humans with big dreams and zero experience. They need a lot of help and demand a lot of our time and there’s not much room for much else when they are say, under four? Maybe 10? Ok…25!

Kidding, kind of. I’m sorry this post is not more uplifting but it has a point. I find it wildly comforting that others are going through the exact same thing, the same phase of life and I have support and a sense of humor about it all (not always, but my 2.5 year old Boba is playing nicely with her dolls right now while I write this post…so I’m feeling pretty humorous about it all)! And I’m not going to try and fix the problem because, like I said, it really isn’t an actual problem. I think the problem might be more in the stories we’re telling ourselves about the situation. We cause our own suffering much of the time because of our lack of acceptance of the situation we find ourselves in (such as the phase of life we’re discussing) and the stories we tell ourselves about what it all means. What do we tell ourselves?

  • I’ll never sleep again.
  • I’ve spawned a demon child that will always be a rude picky eater and quite possibly a serial killer.
  • My partner is a lazy sack of crap that regrets having kids and maybe even marrying me.
  • I’ll never have an uninterrupted anything, ever again (trip to the bathroom, trip to the store, good book, good sex, good sleep, hot meal, phone call, etc. you get the point)!
  • I have no idea what I’m doing!
  • Other parentsĀ have it all figured out.
  • My friends never fight with their partners, they all have perfect marriages.
  • Everyone is judging me and they know we’re struggling.
  • Everyone is doing it better than me.
  • I’m a failure.
  • I can’t do anything right.

The list can go on and on…and depressing, right?? Aye! The shit we tell ourselves kills…it quite literally causes more problems than the actual situation or “problem”.

So do yourself a favor and find a group of moms, vent and laugh A LOT, try hard to breath and let some of the perfectionism go, STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE’S OUTSIDES- this is a whole post on it’s own (mental note), and try and be more loving and compassionate with each other. Your partner and you have good reasons for feeling the way you do, this phase, this life, it can be brutalful (meaning: beautiful and brutal at the same time). But that’s the beauty of it all- the ups and downs, the precious moments alone in the quiet, a hot meal, a hot shower alone, making out behind closed doors like you’re highschoolers sneaking around, the dead-of-night-cuddles with nursing babes, the war stories shared over overflowing coffee cups with friends who just get it! I get it. I’m in it. And I won’t be cliche and tell you how it goes so fast and hold onto these moments because they will be gone before you know it crap. Because sometimes you just don’t want to hear that bullshit. You want to hear that you’re not the only one and that it will not last forever. So drink another cup of coffee, plan a play date so you can maybe get a minute to fill your soul cup, and feel free to share your war stories and late night cuddles here, friend.