The test of patience: taking your child to a restaurant. The other diners look at you like you are insane, your child is crying and you think your fork is under the table. It happens. Here is how to make it better.
Remember being pregnant for the first time, ladies? It was a dreamy experience. I say dreamy, because we spent most of the time dreaming about what our child will look like, how they will act, who’s funky toes they will inherit.
Ya’ll know you did that.
You also knew, just knew that birds would be chirping and sunflowers would abound when you took your child out to eat. Not a thing would go wrong. They would sit there like any well behaved and mannered child without a spot of food spilled and never a whine would be heard.
Oh, I chuckle at the thought.
Look, I thought the same thing. I must say, in all truthfulness, my kids are pretty well behaved in a restaurant. We have our moments and spills and crumbs and forks on the floor. However, overall, they do pretty well. That said, we have some basic rules about eating out that my husband and I follow. If we can’t make these rules work, we don’t take the kids out and we either order spaghetti from one of our favorite Italian places (side note–spaghetti at home vs in public is a much better choice) or I make something. I would sooner make supper on any given night then lose my sanity.
Eating in a restaurant with children can be a great experience. It can also be, let’s just say, a trying experience. The night could be filled with joy and happy memories, as long as you follow a few parenting rules. The rules of dining with children, if you will.
I thought of some tried and true tips for eating out with children that I thought would be a help to all the moms and dads out there want to know how to make the restaurant experience better.
:: Choose your restaurants wisely: Are they family friendly? Do they have kid’s menus? If the place where you are eating doesn’t offer a kid’s menu, chances are, they would rather not see your young one in their restaurant. It might be best to stay away. And really? Do you want to take your child someplace where the entire restaurant is glaring at you? I don’t. I would rather go someplace with clowns on the place mats and smiley faces in the fries.
:: Don’t go during nap time or bed time: I know sometimes nap time can’t be helped, for instance if you are out shopping and it goes long. However, don’t expect your child to sit and be happy when they are exhausted. I have seen parents take their children in to eat at 8:30 at night. Really? Almost every time the children start whining before the appetizer even comes to the table. Remember, part of parenting is sacrifice. I don’t know what the world looks like after 8:00 pm anymore. Someday. So, plan accordingly.
:: Take along a snack or toy: Oh, to know food is coming and it isn’t in front of you! You know that moment when you are sitting in a restaurant, your stomach starts rumbling then someone walks by with a tray of food? Now imagine that moment with your toddler or child. They are probably thinking:
“Hey! There goes food! Mom, Dad, feed me!”
Your child may get a little grumpy at that point. Take along some cheerios or a favorite toy to distract them until your food arrives. Don’t give them a lot of food before the meal or they won’t be hungry to eat their smiley fries. Give a few cheerios at a time after you have tried every other option.
:: Be respectful of others: Everyone at that restaurant came to enjoy a meal. The LAST thing they want is to hear your child scream. The LAST thing they want is to have food thrown in their direction. If your child can’t handle the moment and is having a tantrum, take them outside for a few minutes to calm down. My husband and I don’t go on as many dates as we would like to, but when we do, I want to enjoy a meal with my husband. Not listen to a child have a meltdown. I’m sure when you are childless for the night, you feel the same way. Be respectful of others.
:: Wear good shoes: What? Whether you are at home or at a restaurant, you still aren’t going to be able to sit down. There will be food to cut, water spills to clean and ketchup to pour. It doesn’t go away because you are eating somewhere else. Save your date shoes for dates with your spouse. Go practical. ;-)
:: Be patient: Remember, it is only for a season. Soon your children will grow up and this won’t even be an issue. Enjoy the little ones. Learn to laugh about it. Stay home if you have to. Make a fun picnic with take out. Or better yet, order in when your children are already in bed and have a “date night” with your hubby.
Eating out can be a lot of fun with your children. Their eyes light up at the menu and being able to choose. They are fascinated with their surroundings and the people near them. These tips for eating out with children hopefully help your experience and expectations. Just don’t go to a buffet with more than one child. Especially if the children are under the age of 7. Just don’t. Trust me.