Before the children arrived everything was so easy. You and your mate decide to eat out at the last minute or plan a special dinner out to celebrate something. You just did it. You talk about going out to eat, you grab your bag, your car keys and off you go!
The addition of one teeny tiny little person changes everything. You may have tried to keep the same lifestyle at first. You bundled your little one into the car seat, packed extra supplies in the diaper bag and patiently waited for your table to be ready at your favorite spot in town. But the waiting time moves quickly toward Junior’s next nursing time so you need to go sit in the Ladies Room or sit down in the waiting area to care for your baby’s needs. Very often the next few hours of this scenario prove to be too much work for an evening out and you decide that eating in restaurants will be a thing of the past in your family.
Actually the first few months can be the easiest time to be in a restaurant. If you time it just right the baby may sleep through the whole meal and you were able to eat a meal that you did not cook for yourself!
But toddler-hood is the true war zone for young families who try to eat out. The key to winning this war is in the preparation time. Before you leave the house:
• Be sure the outing will not interfere with your child’s normal naptime or night bedtime. Children love and crave routine and consistent schedules.
• Keep the earlier part of the day relatively calm and restful so your child is not over stimulated or tired.
• Pack small snack foods for your boy or girl. They will not be as patient as you are while waiting for the food. The tastes of little children may not match up with the items on the menu.
• Pack crayons, paper or a handheld video player with the sound MUTED.
• Pack a small toy that is saved just for these occasions, like church or visiting at a home without children.
• Do not ignore your child while at the restaurant with friends. Sometimes a child will misbehave because they are accustomed to having your full attention at home. Talk to him and include him in the conversation occasionally.
• Do not expect your toddler to act like a grownup. But also do not allow them to get up and wander around the restaurant, even in a casual style place.
Eating out can be a special event for families if the stress is lifted off by being fully prepared before arriving. If all of these tips do not help, keep in mind that the empty nest will be here before you know it!