When I was first starting to date Pete (the man who became my husband), we'd take my son out with us to restaurants. Josh was a friendly little guy who liked walking around to talk to people at other tables.
Pete didn't think this was a good idea. In fact, he let us know it embarrassed him, which I have to say was vexing. I wasn't that good at getting my son to stay in a chair for long periods--and didn't actually think anyone else would be good at it either. We did try telling Josh to stay with us, and that would work for a while--but only for a while.
As he got older, Josh got a bit better at staying in his seat at a restaurant. I never brought along any coloring books, though I did appreciate the restaurants who supply crayons. But crayons don't always keep active boys engaged, either.
My own childhood was very, very different. I don't remember going to many restaurants when I was a toddler, but my mother did take my sister and I on an outing to a New York City coffee shop when I was about six or seven. The older gentleman next to me commented to my mother about how much of a little lady I was at the table.
I remember thinking about how boring it was to be at a restaurant--and wishing I was home. I don't know that I ever did get into restaurants until I was a teenager. My first trips to the International House of Pancakes were fun with friends--especially because I got to order coffee.
Some years ago I read a piece by the food writer M. F. K. Fisher about her love affair with restaurants (the plush chairs, snowy napkins, waiters) -- but I don't think this really reflects the way most children feel. My one idea to make them more interested is to make them cook the meals for ten lunches and dinners in a row. That'll get 'em to appreciate restaurants, I bet. And what about the mothers who cook for them?
Couple of tips for getting kids used to restaurants, if you're interested:
7 Survival Tips for Taking Your Kids to Restaurants
How to Dine Out with Kids and Enjoy It
7 Tips for Taking Little Kids to Restaurants
Boy in restaurant photo: Sarah Stierch