Monday, January 2, 2012

Dine Without the Whine

Photo by Kia Rodriguez

We are of the belief that you should shop and eat out with children as much as possible. This is coming from parents who religiously make time to have some . Be it a date night out or a movie on the couch, we try to put each other at the top of our priority lists. In most cases, however, we have a crew in tow and endure all of the craziness that ensues. We love it. We ate out when we were dating and share fine dining experiences with our children as much as possible. To see children interacting with a world that they are only observers in at this point in their lives is priceless. Little ones enjoy new scenery and delicious food just as much as their parental counterparts. They are not interacting with a waiter, and certainly not paying the tab, but they are there learning about how all of it works. Many parents will eschew taking the children to dinner or marathon shopping trips but I embrace having my children with me. I use each experience to teach them how to best behave when we are in public places that are not specifically geared toward their entertainment.

Case and point, we ventured to dinner one Friday night a few weeks back. Packing everyone in the car is a fete of its own but here are a few dinner prep questions that must be answered before leaving the house:

1. Does everyone look decent enough for dinner? This is not playtime. Get the appropriate gear for an evening out.

2. Is there creative or electronic backup? Crayons, pads, pencils, small portable electronics or readers are a few items to have in mind. I am not an advocate of overusing the electronic devices and we actually are the latest of all our friends to introduce handheld games to our children. Not all restaurants have crayons so your alternatives will come in handy if your restaurant is out of the way or the kitchen is backed up. Crackers and straws can only go so far.

3. Has everyone gone to the bathroom? You never know the cleanliness of public restrooms or if one will be available. Make sure everyone goes before you go.

4. What will the children eat? I know this sounds a bit preemptive, but having an idea of what to order the children will help to save time when you are faced with a huge menu of choices. If you can order their meals first you may be able to enjoy a semi-quiet & very quick glass of wine while they eat. When you are eating, they have their entertainment to keep them busy.

Tip: Don't be rushed but do keep your schedule in mind. This is not a leisurely evening out where you can let the candle burn and burn. The little ones will max out at about 2 hours so be aware as the eye rubs and crankiness set in. That means that it is time to go.

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