Most of us as parents want to teach our children the ways of the world and hope that they catch on pretty quickly. I realize that we should be setting the example as well, though most of us do a terrible job. I forgot who it was that said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”, but they were spot on. I have so many conversations with other parents about one topic in particular that we almost all feel the same way but continue to make the same mistakes. Why on Earth do we think that it is a good idea to take our tiny humans out to eat in a restaurant?
Right after Brennan was born, my wife and I, along with some of my buddies from the Navy would go out to our favorite Mexican restaurant on Tuesdays for taco Tuesday and bring the baby in the carrier. We always had a bottle with us and would feed him if he got fussy and we had no idea why other parents never wanted to take their kids out in public. Then it happened, he learned how to walk and learned the word no. Our foodie life began to crash down in front of our very eyes! What used to be so easy turned into an absolute nightmare. He wouldn’t sit still, was being super loud, didn’t want to eat anything and brought our stress levels to an all-time high. We thought we understood what other parents had said; we were wrong, we still had no idea. Enter Lilly…
If having a kid is difficult, it is thought that a second one would be twice as hard. I found that it is exponentially more difficult, but also more rewarding. What was a hassle before in going to restaurants had turned into a battle zone. Now we have two whiners who don’t want that kind of milk or chicken nugget and only likes the “boring rice” and doesn’t want to eat wherever we are. Then the fight for attention begins where they get the exact same meal but his is bigger than mine or hers looks better than mine. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times that I have turned to my wife and say that we aren’t going out to eat with them until they are 16 and can be our designated driver after driving us to drink more. Those brand new parents out there enjoy them in a carrier while you can.
Now I don’t want to sound all gloom and doom, there are some pro parenting tricks that we have learned throughout the years of battle to make this process flow much more smoothly. We have certain restaurants that we know will be better because we peep the menu before going and ensure they have chicken nuggets, pizza or grilled cheese. We like going to sports bar type places because there is guaranteed to have something on TV that will take at least one of their focus away from the wait. Buffalo Wild Wings is a favorite because of the loud atmosphere, TVs, boneless wings (grown up chicken nuggets) and they even have tablets to keep the kids busy! We never have the waitress bring out the kids’ food first because they will be done more quickly and inevitably ruin our meal. We miss our old Mexican restaurant Cazadores in Suffolk, they were always great with the kids, brought out extra chips often and the food was ready so fast that there was almost (I say almost) not enough time for a full tantrum.
One of the big factors that most people overlook is that timing is everything! There is a sweet spot between 5:15 and 6:30 that we need to arrive at a restaurant. Any earlier and the kids will be hungry before bed again and any later will mean that they are half asleep and more grouchy by the time the food comes. This is also tricky for Saturdays or days that there may be a wait for the meal. We always try to have a plan B if the wait is too long. We also have learned that the kids always get most thirsty at bed time and while waiting for a table so they always have their water bottle with them to quench that insatiable thirst. We also keep a few snacks in the car for those emergencies that the kids are just starving and can’t wait any more for our food; I know we have all been there before! The best scenarios are when the weather is nice and we have a 10 minute wait to let the kids sprint around on the side of the building and let them burn off that energy before begging them to eat their food and sit in their seat and stop looking at their brother and so on.
We continue to make the same mistake and I’m glad that we have family nearby to babysit sometimes and give us a quiet meal from time to time. Honestly, part of me misses their chaos when they aren’t there.
Stay hungry and strong out there dads!