I hate bringing my kids to restaurants. “Don’t touch that. Put that back. Don’t eat the salt. That one’s pepper. See? Omigod. Come on. (Sigh.)”
In addition to my little ones’ inability to sit still for even ten minutes, I’m hyper-sensitive to the dining experiences of the other guests. The smallest squeal (is there such a thing?) makes me feel like I’m ruining everyone’s dinner.
My partner, on the other hand, loves dining out. He’s not bothered by their behavior. “They’re not even that loud,” he’ll say, or “It’s 6:10. We’re allowed to be here right now.”
Trying to compromise, we powered through about a year of storming out of restaurants until we figured out how to make it as easy as possible. Here’s what we learned:
- Pre-Game. This is not a drill. Have a glass of wine while you’re getting ready. Put some music on. Chill out a little before you even leave the house.
- Try for a later nap. The last time we went out as a family, we succeeded in starting nap-time at 2:30 and then let the boys wake up on their own – at 4pm! Obviously we can’t always control who sleeps when, but we found that if they nap later in the day, they’re easier to manage in a restaurant.
- Bring toys. Don’t rely on your iPad or phone to entertain the kiddos. Part of the reason we bring kids into restaurants is to teach them how to behave in public. That means we have to engage with them. Try bringing table toys, like small packs of Legos, matchbox cars, or puzzles as a way to do that.
- Arrive early. The witching hour is about 8pm, right? That means you’re a part of the 6pm crowd now. If that seems early, just try it once and be amazed by all the other families there too.
- Order right away. Check out the menu online so that when the server greets the table, you can at least get some appetizers going. When you’re dining with little ones, every minute counts.
- French Fries. It’s a night out. Get the fries. Don’t dig your heels into health-consciousness for the kiddos. There’s a time and a place for everything. In the restaurant, indulge.
Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com and has been living in Jersey City since 2003.