I feel like we conquered the world tonight. We were able to take all four kids out to eat and there were no major meltdowns.
Dining out with kids is the Olympics of parenting. Not only are you going out to a public place where your kids need to behave, but there is the element of needing to wait. Many restaurants are pretty understanding when you bring children in(get them in and out), but there have been instances where we’ve waited an hour (already seated) to just get an appetizer. That day did not go so well.
We were out getting some shopping done when we realized that we would have to stop to eat. So we grabbed everyone and headed into Panera Bread, not a typical restaurant, but it has the advantage of being served quicker and healthier food options then most places.
If you’re not familiar with Panera Bread, it’s a soup and sandwhich place that you walk up and place an order and wait a few minutes for your order and carry it back to your table. It allows you to grab your food quicker then a typical sit down restaurant.
When dealing with kids, time is of the essence, so make the most of it. To begin with, try to figure out what everyone wants BEFORE you go in, this eliminates a lot of idle waiting.
Next, team up, in this case Eric handled ordering and getting the food while I entertained the kids. Which brings me to my next point, have some type of activities on hand. I always keep a pack of 8 crayons and random scraps of paper in my purse especially for these occasions. It will keep the kids entertained long enough, hopefully until the food arrives. Our 2 oldest, the boys, decided to turn the paper into paper footballs, which was fine by me, you definitely need to go with the flow. So I took the opportunity to draw pictures for our 1 year old, while our 3 year old colored.
Once our food was done and Eric brought it back to the table we got everyone situated with their meals right away. Typically our dinnertime consists of our 3 and 5 year olds constantly getting up and running around. They always need a drink, napkin, to go to the bathroom, or literally run in circles. We were realistic that our home mealtime would be a very real possibility eating out as well, but surprisingly they were intrigued in eating their meals and actually sat and ate.
Although 9 times out of 10 eating out is a chaotic mess, the combination of preparation(bringing crayons & paper), team work (having a game plan in place), and expediting the eating process made for an overall pretty good trip.
Play it by ear – if your kid(s) are already cranky, or are having a bad day, you may want to opt for the “eat in the car” option. I’m sure many people are looking at me with a raised eyebrow, but the theory of “bring your kids regardless” only works so well. If you’ve ever had a kid have an epic meltdown in the middle of the restaurant you know that the logistics of packing up food, picking up a screaming child, grabbing your purse, wallet, diaper bag, waiting to get the check and pay…all makes for a disaster.
You’re not a bad parent if eating in the car means a happy kid…and happy parents.