We are a family with two working adults.
Unfortunately, this means that there are two adults who are exhausted by the time dinner rolls around. Now we try and plan for this, obviously, as we are not made of money and cannot eat every dinner out of the house. But there are times where we just throw our hands in the air and say, “That’s it. Hop in the car.”
We have our basic favorites, which usually rotate around two things:
- They have something I like to eat.
- They are good with my kids.
That’s it. I’m SO easy to please. And yet, there are many, many places we don’t frequent because they fail miserably at Number 2. I’m pretty consistently amazed at how many establishments not only ignore their younger diners, but seem to be counter-intuitive to them eating there.
So, if you happen to be in charge of an eating venue and you would like my business, here are some hints that have worked masterfully well for us in the past. Feel free to pick three things from the following list.
Have kid-friendly drinks and cups.
Until my youngest was three, we kept our own cups in the car. I couldn’t believe how many places would bring us a drink for a child in full-size cup. Lids and straws are not only to our benefit, but MAN, do they save you some serious clean-up later. Sprite is a great kid-friendly drink, but we have a picky drinker who hates fizz. So have a juice, lemonade, or milk (the best!) back-up for us. Also, if we ask what drinks you have for kids, please do not offer up “Diet Pepsi”.
Keep my kid entertained
I’m not asking you to put on a three-ring circus for my kids, because learning to self-soothe in a restaurant is part of the life skills I want them to gather on their own. But crayons and coloring packets go a long way. The best places have tactile stuff for my kids; I love pizza places that bring out a small bit of dough for the boys or the quirky diner that hands out mini Etch-a-Sketches.
If my kid is little? They need food, pronto.
Oh, you will forever win me over with the additional effort of bringing out food for them before the rest of the meal. Have you ever had to corner a possum? That’s what a hungry toddler at a restaurant is like. I can keep the entire dining room to a dull roar if you bring out their food when it’s ready – or even better, supply me with crackers or bread for them until it is ready.
If my kid talks to you, please respond. Please, please, please.
I’m not asking you to start a discourse with them about the price of tea in China, but my four year old is now at the age where he wants to be acknowledged as a person. Can you blame him? So if he orders his own meal, please look him square in the eye. Treat him like he might be paying the bill. (He’s not.) It means the world to him, and that translates to a much happier Momma.
DON’T MENTION DESSERT
I know you have a dessert menu. Of course I do. I’ve probably been thumbing through it while longingly caressing that picture of a brownie with ice cream. But dessert is a power-play in my house. I control dessert, and the less you bring it up, the better for all of us. Nothing will set us down a spiral of self-destruction faster than you offering said brownie to the child who wouldn’t eat his dinner.
What other criteria makes you a happy dining parent?