There was a timeframe of about 1 1/2 years when the boys were babies that my husband and I rarely went out to eat. If we did, it was just the two of us on date night or out with another couple. The thought of bringing the boys to a restaurant and knowing what would ensue was the deciding factor when it came to making a reservation or cooking at home. Now, I know people are going to ridicule me saying:
How are the kids going to learn to act properly in a restaurant setting if you don’t bring them and therefore teach them?
I have friends that are in the mindset of, “The babies came into our lives; we didn’t come into theirs. Therefore, they have to learn to assimilate into what we want to do.” Basically – don’t let the kids run your lives.
Keep it to yourself (Did I say that?!)
I don’t disagree with any of the above commentary, but at the same time I wanted a hot meal. I didn’t want to have to deal with the tantrums that ensue when N hits G or one of them refuses to eat their meal because “it doesn’t look like macaroni and cheese (or insert any other common childhood food…chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly)”.
On those rare occasions that we opted to brave the possible insanity, we packed the world in the diaper bag and remembered to practice our deep breathing.
I wish I knew then what I know now. My mindset has changed drastically when it comes to this topic – not because the boys are older and (a little) less picky, don’t throw tantrums (although sometimes one happens to slip out), and are more communicative BUT because, darn it, I missed out on some great memories and fun! Here are some surefire ways you can enjoy your meal and get some awesome quality time in with the kids!
Enjoy Dinner Out with Kids!
Check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time to avoid any issues – especially if there are food allergies involved. My older guy had feeding issues, so we’d know to pack some items that he would be able to eat – making him super happy and avoiding a possible meltdown due to low sugar levels because he couldn’t eat anything on the menu. Also, knowing that the food takes a bit more than the attention span of a 2-year old to be prepared, bring some healthy snacks along. We’d pack goldfish crackers, raisins (I’m proud to say none ended up up their noses), or squeezable apple sauce.
You have little kids and are planning to dine out for dinner. Take into consideration their eating schedules. It’s a bad night when you first go to dinner at 8 p.m. and the little ones are used to eating at 5:30 or 6:00. Meltdown galore. Either feed them ahead of time if you HAVE to take the 8pm reservation, or switch to an earlier dinner time (or restaurant).
Our boys love for us to quiz them on math questions at the dinner table at home, so we do the same when we’re out. We make a game of it – they answer a question but then they have to take a bite of their meal (enrichment plus avoiding the sometimes act of taking forever to finish their dinner). We bring playing cards and play war or Go Fish. I would be lying if I said they didn’t bring their electronics now and then, but we designate their “electronic play time” to be during dinner. They cannot play the whole time, and when dinner is on the table those devices are out of sight.
CHOOSE YOUR RESTAURANT WISELY
There have been a handful of times when R and I go to Capital Grill and see these children sitting at their table so quietly (there may be an iPad under the table, but sometimes there isn’t). We stare in disbelief and awe.
There are some children that can act accordingly in fine establishments. I am in no way knocking my boys, but I know that they love to be themselves and can be animated and obvious at times. I also know that I will then take them to a different restaurant where they can be themselves and we will have a super fun dinner.
On an aside, we have taken them to “fancy” restaurants and they have acted like the gentlemen that they are, after a bit of coaching. N even took me out for my birthday to Capital Grill, bought me a rose and paid for dinner (Dad slipped him a gift card when he dropped us off).
A week ago owner and chef Brian Cartenuto invited our family to Tucker Duke’s in celebration of the debut of their kids menu.
It was so much fun! We went with a great friend, and fellow blogger, Heather of Local Mom Scoop, and her family. The kids ordered their favorites from the menu, while we tested out some apps and their insane burgers.
The ambiance was family-friendly too, which took a little weight off my shoulders as to “worry” factor when it came to the boys. They ate like kings and had a blast with Heather’s daughters.
Here are some of the “adult menu” items that we opted for. They tasted even better than they look in these photos. Those nacho tots were insane – 1 lb of tots with pulled pork, sour cream, salsa and more.
I wish I told this to myself years ago. Kids are kids. They are carefree and boisterous. They can be quiet little lambs or animated characters. It’s ok if your kids act like GOOD children at restaurants. As long as you teach them proper manners, to use their inside voice, try to avoid any pitfalls (see above tips!), and just chill – the dining out experience becomes a lot more fun. I never compare my boys to anyone else’s kids at other tables. My boys are so loving, smart, creative and fun – albeit a few octaves louder than some – I just need to reinforce manners, know they are human (and young), and enjoy my time together with them.
What do you do to help ensure an enjoyable dinner out with your children? I’d love to know!
Interested in checking out Tucker Duke’s? That’s a silly question…you need to check this unique burger joint out! Check out their menu and locations and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram!