Restaurant date for a party of 5! Hold tight, because this isn’t for the faint at heart. Let me set the tone for you. My 4 year-old is hangry (hungry + angry) and pouting because she “is starving” and cannot wait another second for her favorite spaghetti. My 2 year-old is climbing out of his high chair, trying to do a belly flop on the table. The bread bowl goes flying and all of us duck for cover. Sometimes full glasses of water get knocked over, drenching everyone. Silverware continues to mysteriously disappear into that black hole under the table.
Let us not forget the cardinal rule that most kids between the ages of 2 and 4 live by. Rule 27 found in section E of the parenting manual: at least one child must lean in and whisper the dreaded words of “mommy, I have to go poop” as soon as your hot and steamy entrée is placed in front of you. No seriously, how do all kids inherently know the one way to interrupt a dinner is to request to use the bathroom as soon as you pick up your fork?
Restaurants have become our Achilles heel. My husband and I, apparently forgetting that we have kids, often look at each other and excitedly say “let’s go out to dinner.” We naively fail to recall the arduous restaurant journey that surely awaits us. It’s not long after we are seated and thick into the madness that we look at each other, shake our heads, and say “never again.” We see other families around us and wonder why our kids don’t sit and eat quietly like these poster children from TV. Simple, you may say. But the way our kids our set up, that’s just not our reality!
And remember the starving 4 year-old? It turns out that suddenly, as of this very moment in time, she has a late revelation that she does not like spaghetti, and therefore refuses to eat a single bite. And the 2 year-old has managed to create a noodle hurricane fiasco, with half of of the strands on his bib and the other half stuck to the back of his ear. Inquiring minds want to know, how does a toddler’s food end up in such strange places? My food is cold once I return from the impromptu/scheduled poop-break. However, I manage to scarf it down with one hand as I’m consoling the newly spaghetti-hating 4 year-old with the other.
And as for the cocktails? Forget about it! Drinks are not the same when you have to quickly gulp them down to catch the kid about to belly flop on the table. We angrily mumble when the bill comes and ask ourselves, what exactly are we paying for? We leave the restaurant hot, sweaty, and super stressed.
So what do you do if choose to venture out to a restaurant on a wing and a prayer? These are some tips that have taken the edge off:
- Timing. Try to eat at an off-peak time. Whenever possible, we aim to venture out between 2pm-3pm. This is that semi-peaceful lull between their afternoon nap and the inevitable evening meltdown. Aka, the calm before the storm! Also, restaurants are usually less crowded during these hours. Off-peak times have shorter wait times and fewer neighboring customers looking to have a quiet, romantic meal. Sorry, no romance for them today!
- Family friendly places. We try to pick restaurants where kids are welcome. Also, noisy places help us to blend into the existing sounds. Look for family-friendly restaurants in your area.
- Outdoor seating. If you need another noise-canceling option, outdoor patios are your friend! The outdoors keep them entertained and magically engulf some of the toddler chatter.
- Be Prepared. Lastly, pack activities for the kids to enjoy while you are waiting for your food. My children are more likely to turn- up because they are simply….. bored and constrained. Yep, time to pull out the iPad learning app. But when all else fails, resort to takeout, at least until your kids are 10!