Restaurant outings when you have no children is a nice, casual affair and something to look forward to. It is usually a delightful event that entails a bit of pre-planning and some general discussion with your significant other about where you will go, what you will choose to eat when you get there and when you should leave the house.
With children ALL of these things go out the window and the outing is much more akin to a strategic military operation. Here are some considerations to ask before taking kids out to a restaurant:
1. Choose a place that is moderately loud so you will not be judged by those sitting around you trying to enjoy dinner?
One school of thought, of course, is “these are my kids and I am paying the same money as everyone else to eat here.” Well, to each his own, but I just hate the stink eye so I try to choose a restaurant that will drown out the inevitable wailing coming from our corner booth when one of my kids’ shoes falls off into the below-table abyss.
2. Choose a restaurant close by that has food scattered on the floor?
I know my kids’ food is going to end up on the floor so I would like to go to a place that understands our plight so as to avoid the aforementioned ridicule. Granted, it may not be possible to find an establishment other than a saloon that meets this criterion, but I’m pretty sure when we leave the restaurant a haz-mat team comes in with industrial vacuums to clean the place up.
3. It’s okay to choose a restaurant based on the quality of the pre-dinner crayons.
The second you walk through the door of a restaurant with small kids in tow, there is an imaginary clock that starts ticking. If they are not sufficiently occupied within minutes the bomb may explode and no one will enjoy dinner. It is vital that you pre-plan and know if there are games, a menu they can draw on or the potential of fast appetizers coming our way.
4. Consider the distance from home and how will that affect the nap factor.
After 3pm you must be very careful about how far you drive in a radius from your home because there is a dreaded possibility that the little one(s) will fall asleep in the car if it happens to exceed the NZR (Nap Zone Radius). Anything over 12 minutes one way in the car in either direction from your home past 3pm will make wake ups difficult and add 2 hours to bedtime.
Mexican restaurant are usually quick and they often serve chips and salsa to help avoid a pre-dinner tantrum.
4. How quickly will the servers bring food to my table?
There is a meltdown period in any restaurant wherein offspring will get exceedingly bored with everything around them and commence to freak out. This can be temporarily offset by the quality of crayons and pre-dinner games that is presented to you upon being seated. [Note: Mexican restaurant are usually quick and they all serve chips and salsa that help avoid a pre-dinner tantrum. Also restaurants that offer bread and butter can be a lifesaver when it comes to staving off the boredom factor that accompanies the toddler’s visit to any restaurant.]
After all this advice it is altogether probable that my kids are the only ones that misbehave in restaurants. Sorry to all of you we have been seated next to for the last seven years. I suppose the best advice is just teach your kids to be perfectly behaved at all times. I hear you loud and clear and that is my first choice. But maybe, just maybe, some of you can relate. What are other parenting tips when visiting a restaurant with toddlers?