The “Kids and…” Series: Restaurants

Today we’re going out to a meal together. All of us – that’s you AND your kids.

Here again is a link to my “inspiration” post:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/05/granderson.bratty.kids/index.html

I am proud to say that on a normal day (meaning, when my child is not having a satanic moment – because again we all have them, KIDS ARE PEOPLE, TOO, just a gentle reminder, y’all), T can happily sit in a restaurant for upwards of 45 minutes. No, he does not watch DVDs while we eat, nor does he play games on our iPhones. Yes, he has a few restaurant toys (cars and trains and such) and crayons and paper for the lulls in the actual mealtime portions of the event. In addition, and most importantly, we engage him as a part of the dinner party: again he is an actual person, folks, not an accessory plopped in the extra chair beside us. We listen to his conversation, entertain him with stories of our own, and in general pay attention to him (versus running our own agenda or conversation, which to him is a mixture of boring and Martian). In turn, he usually repays us by not annoying us or others. Not a bad tradeoff if you ask me!

Of course, there are still times and places reserved just for date night and the like. Time of day and length of outing depending, T just can’t endure the trek at times, and we recognize that and make arrangements to have him stay behind while we go and enjoy, or we just decline the invitation. It sucks having to say no sometimes, but it is what it is.

Another observation: restaurant outings fashioned around T’s actual routine go much more smoothly than forcing a late and/or long event on the boy. And when the special occasion crops up that he is welcome at (family wedding, birthday dinner, etc.), we either go for a portion of the time and excuse ourselves when our time runs out, or C and I “tag-team” it and take turns taking him outside to burn energy when allowing him to do so inside just isn’t appropriate (T’s train-chuffing moves usually tips us off to the exact moment where he needs to be excused with one of us do a lap around the block).

The other action that works wonders during our more troublesome moments is the step-outside-to-have-a-talk maneuver. I had to use that one just this week with T while at lunch with our play date friends, and right at the very start of the meal no less (hadn’t even ordered yet – yeah, that early on). Needless to say, when he was presented with the choice of leaving right then-there or returning to the table and resuming appropriate mealtime behavior, well, he chose wisely – and he appeared to be pretty darn hungry, too.

Finally, I wrote this last week in response to the story link above, which I firmly believe is fundamental as well:

“Kids and restaurant behavior has much more to do with how parents approach and handle mealtime at home versus the level of the niceness of the ambience of the restaurant, adult, family or otherwise. If there is no expectation of a seated, TV-free, and conversation- and manner-filled experience at home for kids, then don’t even bother taking them out to the express TGI Friday’s meal, IMO.”

And with that, bon appetite!

Tomorrow we’ll head to the grocery store, since we can’t eat out at restaurants every day – and thank goodness for that!

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