The Family Dining Experience.

Have you ever planned an evening at a restaurant with your kids & friends and wonder what the hell you were thinking? We had a gift card for a nice, but supposedly family-friendly restaurant, so we figured we would save some cash & take everyone there, have a good meal together, come back to our house afterwards, get the kids into bed and then throw back a few beers with our friends. Seems like a logical idea, yes?

The hubs & I knew it was possible our children wouldn’t behave; we never know what we’re going to get when we take them out. We always thought it was important to take our kids out to dinner so they wouldn’t turn into “that kid” – you know who I’m talking about. That kid who looks like they’ve been sheltered at home for the first years of their life and never went out to dinner until that night?! Before I had kids of my own, I’m fairly certain I looked at “that kids” and wondered why their parents weren’t taking them out of the restaurant, or, at the very least, keeping them under control. Why weren’t they eating? Or coloring? Didn’t their parents bring them something to do other than run, jump & scream in the middle of a restaurant? Why did they bring them here; this isn’t a place for kids?!

Then… I had kids of my own. Karma’s an evil bitch.

All the judgment I had placed on other parents and “that kid” over the years caught up with me. It’s happened a few times in the past, but this recent experience was one of the worst. We had 6p reservations and were seated right away at a round booth; we figured that would help corral the kids, but the restaurant was in a big old building, with lots of distractions, especially for an active 2 yr old. She refused to sit, so the hubs took her for a walk. He gave me his drink order, and I stayed back with our friends, along with our oldest, who decided to color. The service was terrible and it took forever to get our drinks and to place an order for food. The hubs stayed in touch with me via text since the youngest was happiest exploring. That was, until the oldest realized her Daddy was gone and started screaming for him. The hubs came back, grabbed his beer and took both girls with a big sigh, and simply told me to let him know when the food arrived. It didn’t come until 7:15p! By this time, my guilt of not helping had grown to supersize standards, but at least the girls were hungry, so they actually sat and ate long enough for the hubs to finish his dinner as well. I think this lasted about 10 min, maybe.

My youngest is a bit of a ham & loves to perform; if she sees an opportunity to show-off in front of a new audience, she takes full advantage. My oldest is more of an introvert, but if she sees her sister doing something fun that’s getting attention, she will join in. At first, my youngest just jumped all over us on the booth, making silly faces & singing silly songs at the booth behind us (an older set of couples, who didn’t seem to enjoy the adorable faces she was making). When she realized she wasn’t getting the desired reaction, she wanted out of the booth and screamed & arched her back so we had no choice but to set her down. While we visited with our friends, she jumped on the floor, ran around, crawled on the floor, squealing, making animal sounds, etc… and then her sister saw what she was doing, so my oldest got in on the action. They played horsy until my youngest “played dead” and my oldest dragged her across the floor. It was pretty funny, but everyone around us looked annoyed. We were irritated too; we hadn’t seen our waiter since our food arrived a half hour ago. I made a joke about letting the kids be obnoxious to get us cashed out faster, but it just wasn’t happening. So any tolerance I had left disappeared. We told the girls to stop & BEHAVE for what seemed like the 20th time, but their ears were broken after being stuck in stuffyville for way too long. I offered to take them, since it was technically my turn – but both girls threw a major fit because they wanted DADDY! My guilt grew and, let’s face it, now I really needed a beer. About 10-15 min later we were finally out of there and we couldn’t wait to get home.

To our surprise, both girls went to bed faster than I think they ever have. Even though the hubs & I were SO exhausted by that point, we ended up having a very nice night with our [probably-scared-shitless-to-ever-have-children-of-their-own] friends over a few beers.

I don’t know if we will ever return to that restaurant, mainly because of the terrible service, but I expect they have a picture posted of our family with a “Refuse Service” sign under it. Thing is, we will do it again. How else will kids learn how to act in a restaurant unless you take them out on a regular basis? Yes, you will have terrible experiences, and they will be “that kid” at some point. They are kids, right? And to me, the best way to learn is through experiences; sometimes those experiences will suck, but I am already laughing about this event. Some day, when we drag them to dinner as teens, they may scoff at an annoying little kid who is making faces at them, and I’ll have to remind them that restaurants are for families, and that includes kids. Then I’ll share some of these crazy stories and trade a laugh with the hubs while embarrassing our kids… hey, something to look forward to!
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