A little food for thought

19 Oct

Even when you’re busy trying to be a student and a parent, it’s nice to take a break and get out of the house for a few hours. This weekend Sean and I took Hannah to P.F. Chang’s to have lunch with our family, and even though I couldn’t help but think of all the homework I had waiting for me when I got home, I still managed to enjoy my time out.

Hannah also found ways of enjoying herself, including trying to learn how to use chopsticks. We all found this quite amusing (hence the picture below) until she used them as drumsticks and began banging them on the table. This is where my opinion about taking your children out to restaurants comes in: If your experience becomes less than pleasurable because your child is bored or doesn’t want to be there, it’s probably time to leave. Why stay if you can’t even enjoy it?

Now in this case, Sean and I were able to easily take the chopsticks away from Hannah to keep her from disturbing other patrons (once I took a quick picture), but we have been in other situations where we decided to leave a restaurant earlier than planned because we just could not get Hannah to settle down. We’re now quite familiar with the game plan, too: One of us will take her to the car while the other one gets the check as quickly as possible. It’s certainly NOT how we like to do things, but it has been known to happen. We give ourselves credit, though, for knowing when it’s time to go. I have seen many parents let their children run amok in restaurants, and before I became a parent, I could not understand this. And now, as a parent, I still do not understand this.

One particular example stands out in my mind. I used to be a server (or waitress—whatever you want to call it) at a restaurant in Albuquerque, and we had a guest who would come in with her child fairly often. The child was probably about six or seven, and to my knowledge, he had some developmental challenges. I remember feeling terrible for this little boy because his mom would sit at the table nonchalantly sipping on a glass (or two or three) of wine while he yelled and smashed macaroni and cheese into the carpet. Why? Probably because he was bored, and he wasn’t receiving attention from his mom.

On one of their visits, the boy knocked an unopened bottle of wine off the shelf behind their table and hit the guest sitting at the next table. The mom didn’t seem too terribly concerned about the incident. To be fair, I’m sure it can be exceedingly difficult/stressful to raise a child with developmental delays, and I’m sure she just wanted to get out of the house and relax. That being said, I could never understand why this woman would take her son out for what I would have considered an opportunity to bond, and then completely ignore him. Not only did she ignore him, but she ignored his behavior, which caused many a scene in the restaurant. I remember having to walk up to that guest who was hit with the wine bottle and ask him if he was ok. It was mortifying, and I wasn’t even the one who had done it!

My point is, I really don’t see anything wrong with taking your children out to eat, as long as you ensure that they are enjoying the experience as much as you are. It can be a great opportunity to get out of the house and forget about all the other stuff you have to do, if only for an hour or two.

Here’s a little info about two of our favorite “family-friendly” restaurants:

Paradise Bakery: Their food is fresh and healthy. I love that they serve fruit or yogurt as a side item for the kids’ meal instead of chips or fries.

Cheesecake Factory: They provide toddlers with a complimentary plate of fruit and bread upon arrival.

Both restaurants have consistently amazing food and amazing service. They also have several items for children to choose from and are willing to make adjustments to the order (P.F. Chang’s did that for us this weekend, too, which was great). Plus, they don’t treat you poorly because you dared to bring children into their restaurant!

2 Responses to “A little food for thought”

  1. Karen Elliott October 20, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Unruly kids in a restaurant is one of my pet peeves! I don’t mind kids being kids, but when their bad behavior ruins it for the other diners, it’s time to take action (and I usually do by talking with the manager). I like the fruit and bread trick at the Cheesecake Factory – gives the child something to focus on. I babysit for my son and his wife about once a month when they want to go out for a date night dinner and a movie – going out without their kids is a sure-fire for the happy couple to enjoy their meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Wish more people would do this! 🙂

    • Joanne Ingram October 20, 2010 at 5:22 am #

      I agree, date night is definitely important! Sean and I try to do this about once a month if we can, and it’s nice not to have to worry about rushing out of the restaurant because Hannah is tired or bored. It doesn’t happen too often, though. She is usually pretty well-behaved, so we’re lucky!

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