Tonight PR and I foolishly attempted to dine at a restaurant...with the children. Why do we torture ourselves and our fellow diners? Well for one obvious reason, really: I don't feel like cooking or cleaning up afterward! I've spent the entire day tidying and wiping down and clearing off and putting away and cooking the other meals. I know it's part of my job right now as "CEO of the household," but I do have evenings when I've decided that I'd like to eat my meal sitting down and maybe even eat when it's still hot! This was one of those nights. The kids were good all day and PR was home relatively early, so we ventured out...and regretted nearly every moment.
Two of my three are actually very well behaved. Can you guess which child has a hard time sitting at any one place for more than a nanosecond? My darling sweet Caroline, though she has a heart of gold, has the attention span of a mini pinscher. (She yaps and whines a bit like one, too.) I really can't fault her, partly because she's so dang cute and partly because she's 2 1/2. But because Owen sat for 2 1/2 hour meals on cruise ships at 9 mos, 18 mos, and 3 I have a very distorted vision of children's table etiquette.
Here's what I propose. Restaurants with designated times or days for parents with little Carolines. Clearly there is a time when older couples go out to dine- 4:00 or so. Maybe we could slide into the next slot, say 5:15 or so? It would prevent those horrible stares from tables of "date night" couples who have actually spent money on a babysitter to escape their normal dinner entertainment- or worse yet- those diners who don't own such animated appendages (and most certainly do not appreciate the sights and sounds that come with them!) Owen IS quiet. Hudson can be quiet. But Caroline...well, she didn't come with that setting.
Until the time that such places exist, I suppose we will continue our futile effort: dining pleasantly with three young children. To those who have conquered this feat- kudos! To those who are looking for ideas to ease the pain while dining out, this is what works best for our family:
-Junky toys. These are those toys that come in the fast food kiddie meals. I try to keep a stash in the car or my over sized, chaotic purse. And if you lose or forget them, well really that's a bonus.
-Crayons and some sort of paper. While many restaurants now offer this, my children always want the same (or different) color than the other, whichever is not available. I keep a Ziploc bag of crayons in my purse.
-Mini play dough containers. The restaurant will be so very appreciative if they have carpet, but it can create a good 15 minutes of quiet!
-If you are dining at a pizza or an Italian place, ask if they can bring some dough for the kids to play with...CPK does it if you ask.
-Order an appetizer or the kids meal as soon as you are seated. My kids take forever to eat, so once the food is on the table, we're usually in good shape.
-Play "I Spy"
-Keep a stash of mini books or activity pads/magazines in the car
-Bring your own little snack: dried cereal, trail mix, dried fruit this will keep them busy until the meal arrives.
-Take them to the rest room to take care of business and wash hands. Who knows how many germs they have acquired since leaving the car...and, if nothing else, it's a trip through the restaurant.