If you're a new parent, there will come a time when either you or your spouse will say these words:
''Let's take the baby to a restaurant!''
Now, to a normal, sane person, this statement is absurd. It's like saying:
''Let's take a moose to the opera!''
But neither you nor your spouse will see anything inappropriate about the idea of taking your baby to a restaurant. This is because, as new parents, you are experiencing a magical period of wonder, joy and possibility that has made you really stupid. You are not alone: All new parents undergo a sharp drop in intelligence. It's nature's way of enabling them to form an emotional bond with a tiny human who relates with other humans exclusively by spitting up on them. Even very smart parents are affected, as we see from these two quotations:
Albert Einstein Shortly Before The Birth Of His Son: ''To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms -- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness.''
Albert Einstein Shortly After The Birth Of His Son: ''Daddy's gonna EAT THESE WIDDLE TOES!''
After a month or so of bonding with their baby, the typical parents have the combined IQ of a charcoal briquette. This is when they decide it's OK to take the baby to a restaurant. I know what I'm talking about: My wife and I have a baby daughter, and we have repeatedly taken her to restaurants, even though by now experience should have taught us that it would be far more pleasant and relaxing for us to stay home and play tic-tac-toe on our foreheads with a soldering iron.
But we cannot help ourselves, and neither can you, if you're a new parent. That's why today I'm presenting these Helpful Tips For Dining Out With A Baby:
1. THE INSTANT YOU GET TO THE RESTAURANT, ASK FOR THE CHECK. You want to be able to pay and get out of there as quickly as possible when your baby screams, or decides -- as babies instinctively do, in restaurants -- to grunt out an impossibly large output, such that you experience a dreaded condition known to diaper scientists as Projectile Huggies Leakage (PHL). So it's best to pay your bill as you enter the restaurant, adding a little extra (say, $800) to compensate for the fact that after you're finished, your table may have to be burned. Some parents never actually enter the restaurant: They simply drive up to the front door, hurl money out the car window, then speed off, their baby wailing like an ambulance siren in the night.
2. REQUEST A TABLE IN A LOCATION THAT WILL NOT DISTURB OTHER DINERS. For example, if you want to eat at an elegant restaurant in New York City, you should try to get a table on the roof. Or, better still, at a Bob's Big Boy in Cleveland.
3. SELECT AN APPROPRIATE CUISINE. Of the wide variety of cuisines available today -- Italian, French, Chinese, Tiny Portions Of Meat With Some Kind Of Inedible Decorative Stuff Dribbled On The Plate In A Pattern As If It Were An Art Project Instead Of A Meal -- I would say that the best kind of cuisine, for the parent of a small baby, is a cuisine that you can eat with one hand. You, of course, need the other hand to keep putting things into your baby's mouth, so your baby can spit them out (a baby is not happy unless it is emitting something from somewhere). In fact, you may need both hands for this activity, so you might want to order an entree that you can eat with no hands, sporadically lunging your face down to your plate and snorking up food Labrador-retriever style. You will not have time to taste anything. Restaurant employees know this, and sometimes, for fun, they serve prank entrees to new parents, to see if they'll notice. A Boston restaurant recently got a new father, distracted by a small baby, to eat a whisk broom covered with melted cheese.
At least he ate something. Sometimes I spend the entire meal carrying my daughter around the restaurant, crossing paths with other nomadic parents carrying THEIR children around, each of us leaving a trail of drool. Our big night out! It may not sound like fun to you, but we parents of newborns are able to enjoy it because of our philosophy of life, which can be summed up by the immortal words penned by William Shakespeare shortly after the birth of his first child: ''Woogum woogum WOOGUM WOOGUM WOOGUM!''