A word on dining (with sidekicks)

Someone wrote a few words regarding kids in restaurants the other day (here), and some of my friends thought I was the author. Which was either because a) I have a potty mouth or b) they have observed our family dine in public on a bad day or c) the kid in the picture somewhat resembles Arthur. The article and the story that inspired it got me thinking.

We spend a lot of time out and about. We eat picnics when we can, but we also eat out a good bit. Because guess what? When we had children, we didn’t immediately die. We still like to go out, and sometimes we bring our sidekicks along.

It’s kind of like walking on a sidewalk. You’re walking, doing your thing, enjoying the sunshine. You keep your own pace. But oh! Someone else is also walking here. You don’t have to go out of your way completely, maybe just a tiny little bit to the side so you can both fit. Or maybe for one second you need to adjust your pace so you don’t bump into each other, as annoying as that might be. It’s similar in a restaurant, or, you know, anywhere else in life that is not on a deserted island. You give a little, you take a little. You may not be thrilled to have a couple with two young kids sitting next to you while you try to enjoy your meal. And hey! Said couple may have preferred to sit next to a family who might be a little more understanding. But it is what it is.

If everyone’s kind and respectful, we can all get along. And eat a hamburger in peace – which I think is the ultimate goal for everyone in life all the time, or it should be.

That said, I have a huge problem when people let their kids be jerks. In restaurants, on playgrounds, or anywhere else in life. Every kid is a jerk sometimes, I get it. I have occasional jerks, too. But. But I don’t let them be jerks on someone else’s time (or money). If my kids interfere with someone else’s potentially peaceful dinner, it is my responsibility to do something about it.

A big part is choosing the establishment wisely. We don’t take our kids to a fine dining restaurant on a Friday night at 8pm. We would be setting ourselves up for failure and a terrible experience for all in involved.

Instead, we take the boys to family friendly places. That doesn’t mean Chuck E Cheese or a place where they sit in a play area with other kids. It’s a restaurant that is used to serving kids. A place where we don’t stick out like a sore thumb or are surrounded by hipsters following the latest food craze. We love Brooklyn Crab because it is so casual and beach-y, and the kids can play. We go to our local diner often, because it is casual, and our children are loved there despite the messes they create. But we also go to other restaurants that aren’t as perfect for children.

We always bring small toys and sometimes something to color or draw with. Also, the kids love to be involved in conversation, so as much as I would just like to talk to my husband or stare into nothingness, it works magic to throw in a little chat about subways or planes or the adventures of our day together.

We request that the food be served at the same time. Some restaurants like to bring out the children’s food first, but it’s a total pet peeve of mine (although I know that most waiters mean well). If the kids eat first, I can never take a bite of my own food in peace. Also, I think that kids can wait for their food to be ready and eat with everyone else.

I will not apologize for taking my boys out in public, for enjoying their company and teaching them about dining out and behaving well. I don’t allow them to act like monkeys on steroids. They have to sit. They have to wait. They can’t climb or jump or be loud. In fact, the same rules apply at home. Most days.

Long story short: eating in restaurants is great can be nice. Just know where you can and cannot go and don’t let your children ruin other diners’ dinner experience. It’s true: no one else will think your kids are as cute and precious as you yourself think they are. They are just another kid with the potential to get on other people’s nerves and ruin their dinner. So if your kid can’t sit still or keep it down, don’t go out. Or leave. It’s ok to say “no” to your kid and to set firm boundaries on what is ok and what isn’t.

Just because I have a kid (or two) doesn’t mean I appreciate other people’s misbehaving offspring. But it also doesn’t mean I can never leave my house again, and that children in general should not be allowed in public. Just use common sense, some compassion and, you know, be nice.

And for those child-free diners among us, cut us some slack. Most of us are doing our best. A smile goes a long way and will make someone who is trying to engage some pint-sized hotheads feel much more at ease.

Now go out and enjoy some pancakes!

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3 thoughts on “A word on dining (with sidekicks)

  1. I totally agree with this. If you let your kids run amok without setting any boundaries, then you are responsible for that. And I think it’s our responsibility to shame those parents into oblivion.

    • I don’t know about shaming anyone into anything. I think parents have it hard enough without anyone shaming or judging them at all times. All I’m saying is to use common sense and be kind to each other.

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