Monday, April 16, 2007

Children at the Restaurant

Going out to the restaurant with the llittle family (meaning with children that are still quite young) could be a rock 'n roll event. Even more if parents didn't plan it at all. Because kids in a restaurant with unprepared parents = lots of noise, angry customers around you and a waitress dreaming of Valium! When I'm sitting next to kids in a restaurant (mine are too old now, so I spy), I can't help myself but noticing... A-Ha, nothing to keep them busy. A-Ha, parents talking while children are doing whatever they want. A-Ha bad habits and behaviours. Besides new born (then, nothing can be planned, really...), here are a few ideas to make the moment spent at the restaurant a great success and to go back home happy-happy-joy-joy!

1. Bring them stuff to keep them busy: crayons, paper, mini photo album, little cars (you can draw a road on the paper placemat, it's great!), finger puppets, small building blocks, figurines, card game, small book, etc.

Not a good idea: anything that makes too much noise, anything that can break (you want to avoid drama, right?), small parts that can get lost (more drama) and the usual daily toys (you need a little novelty here if you want to keep their attention).

2. Keep them busy while waiting: learning to put butter on bread is a great challenge, draw with them, have them participate if there's a salad or bread bar, tell fun stories, make them laugh (your neighbours will find it so cute and who knows, you might help them be happy for a while!), talk about how much you're proud of them (forget about blaming them, it's not the right time).

3. Avoid going to the restaurant when children (or parents) are too exhausted. You'd better keep this activity for a better moment.

4. Plan a survival kit, just in case (pacifier, bottle, blankie, extra diapers...).

5. Enjoy small pleasures: now that everyone is sitting at the table at the same time, that the meal will be prepared by someone else and that there won't be any fight to know who's turn it is to clear up the table and do the dishes, that's something!

Magical thinking? Come on...
Don't think that it's at the restaurant that you'll be able to teach your children good table manners. Everyone can tell if your children never sit still during meal time, that you let them play with their glass of water and other behaviours that might not be ideal.
In fact, it's at home that you must work the hardest to teach them good manners. The reward is when at the restaurant, they do well on their own. And then, aren't we proud of our progenitor? Mostly if next to us is a mommy running after the younger one who just decided to train for cross-country crawling between waitresses while the oldest is making a huge fuss because there are mushrooms in her plate that touch the potatoes and that daddy-dearest is watching sports news on the gigantic flat screen TV. You harvest what you sowed, unfortunately. So let's start right now: what a Monday! But the rest of the week will get better...

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