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MANN: Eating out with children is not for the faint of heart

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November 22, 2018 - 12:10 PM

 


OPINION


Yesterday my husband suggested going out for dinner. He knew I had been at work all day, he was excited to see the kids and he wanted to take us out for some food.

He had good intentions. 

But as anyone who has ever taken a child under five out to a restaurant knows, eating out can be a bit of a lesson in patience. 

It is a great idea in theory — no one has to cook, there are no dishes to wash when you are through and there are usually leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch box.

But more often then not what transpires is a chaotic ballet of flying food, clanging cutlery and filthy faces.

There are a few lessons you learn after several disastrous dinner outings.

First, napkins...lots of napkins.

When requesting extra napkins make sure to indicate to your server with your thumb and index finger the thickness of the stack of napkins you require for your family’s meal.

Cloth napkins are even better if supplied.

Second, always remember the child to hand ratio.

You will need at least one hand to tend to your kids while you eat. 

It is pretty much impossible to eat anything with both hands, because you know you will need at least one hand to stop a plate of chicken fingers from crashing to the floor. 

Forget about ordering a steak or tacos.

If you can’t eat it one-handed with a fork, it’s off the menu. 

And if you exceed the child to hand ratio you might as well order your meal to go.

The third lesson is distraction. 

Always eat at restaurant with crayons and a colouring sheet, and if you can find an establishment with a basket of toys, go there. 

The time between ordering your food and your meal arriving can seem like an eternity, so the more time they can spend scribbling on a kids menu, the happier you’ll be.

Otherwise you will be fetching your kids from under the table and chasing them before they run into the kitchen.

Lastly, the most important lesson is to not get too stressed out. 

Resign to the fact that at the end of the meal you'll be picking up French fries off the floor and picking penne out of your kid's hair.

The people at the next table will probably hear a story about your son or daughter's last bowel moment as they sip their expensive wine. 

For the most part though, eating out with children can be quite enjoyable. 

Sometimes I wish I could just sit quietly at the table for a moment, not covered in macaroni noodles, or apologizing to the table next to us for my children’s acrobatics, but that is also part of the fun. 

To see my kids faces light up when that bowl of ice cream arrives at the end of the meal is worth all the hassle.

— Becky is a 30-something, red haired, mother of two, trying to navigate this life as best she can. She enjoys talking to people and discovering their stories. Still trying to balance her personal and professional life, she juggles work and play. In her spare time Becky can be found visiting with friends, spending time with her famiy and saving time by reading while walking.


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