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Mom’s restaurant hack for toddler is dividing the internet: 'So wrong'

"Call me cheap."
/ Source: TODAY

One mom's hack for getting her toddler to eat in restaurants has TikTok twisted.

“Call me cheap, call me whatever, but if we’re going out to a restaurant, I’m packing my kid a meal," Karlie Smith, 21, said in a TikTok video with more than half a million views. "I do this for many reasons. On Friday nights, my family and I get together, and tonight, we’re getting food out. My son is not getting food out.

"For one, you want me to pay $6.99 for chicken tenders and fries that my son is going to throw half of it on the floor? You’re crazy," she said. "Also, whatever I pack is probably going to be healthier than what the restaurant has anyways."

Smith showed a meal she packed for her son that day: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced bananas, cheddar cheese cubes and a chocolate Lara bar, stored in a plastic container.

"Also, when we get to a restaurant, my child is not waiting for anyone to take his order — he wants to eat now," she continued. "I can just hand him this and let him go to town. Also, my child is not opinionated. He does not care what he eats; he just wants to eat."

Smith explained that if her son wants restaurant food, she'll order it. "Also, I usually get him chocolate milk because that's his little takeout treat," she says. "And after he finishes his food, he's usually eating off my plate."

The comments section of Smith's video was alive with negativity:

  • "This is so wrong."
  • "No ma’am we don’t do this. I work ... to give my kids whatever they want especially when it comes to going out to eat."
  • "Maybe don’t bring your children then?"
  • "Seems like you are teaching him that he will always be catered to immediately. No patience. Maybe teach him table manners and he has to wait."

But Smith's savviness was also reinforced:

  • "Listen, my child would much rather have Lunchables than anything on that menu."
  • "We go out to dinner once a month as a treat and I let my 3 year old get something from the restaurant. I also bring puffs for her to snack on."
  • "As a mother to an autistic toddler who only eats select foods, I love this."
  • "I would do it. My kids are PICKY."
  • "You can tell who’s a parent and who’s not in the comments."

A few servers pointed out that bringing food into a restaurant can be a liability or violate allergy-friendly policies.

Smith, a single mother of a 2-year-old and a newborn in Ohio, tells she was taken aback by the contempt.

"Some people said I was 'abusive' to my child,'" she says. "I would understand this better if he were 10."

Smith said her son typically rejects restaurant food, throwing it on the floor. "At home, he eats all of his meals so I started packing him food for restaurants which he doesn't throw," she explains, adding that a PB&J is generally a healthier choice than fried kids meals. She points out that some children with allergies or certain disabilities may prefer familiar foods.

"For some reason, parenting can be a big competition, as if people have something to prove in the comments section,"

Karlie Smith

Rather than hire a babysitter, Smith includes her son in family experiences while catering to his needs; if her son requests a restaurant meal, Smith will order it.

"I can feed my child from the moment we sit down at a table — which is when he wants to eat — instead of waiting for drink and entrée orders," she says.

A former server herself, Smith says she leaves appropriate tips and a clean table. If a restaurant didn't allow outside food, Smith says she would order a kids meal for her son. So far, that hasn't happened.

"I have always dealt with online mom-shaming and unsolicited advice for the most outrageous reasons," says Smith. "It's like dealing with a bunch of grandmas who say, 'Why isn't your baby wearing socks?'

"For some reason, parenting can be a big competition, as if people have something to prove in the comments section," she adds. "All the hate, disrespect and anger is unacceptable. You can agree to disagree."