Eating out with children

8 Aug

Entre for our anniversary dinner at Chez Panisse

Last night for our third wedding anniversary, Charlie and I splurged and went to Chez Panisse for a none-Monday night dinner.

Luckily, we hit one of their themed nights and last night’s meal featured duck. Yumm~!

Anyway, since we ate at a leisurely pace (a little over 2 hours for the 4 course meal), I had to go to the ladies’ room a few times. On one of my trips, a lady in line struck up a conversation with me asking about my due date, etc. When I told her that Noah’s going to be our first, she said…”Oh, it’s going to be a wonderful experience….” Seeing that we’re at a nice restaurant, I seized the opportunity to ask for advice on eating out with children. To my delight, she replied that one can get back to eating at real restaurants (vs. family friend chain places) “as soon as possible.”

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said. “If you expect your children to act up, then they will.” According to her, what we need to do is give the child clear instructions for how to behave at the restaurant (i.e. “you are going to sit quietly and eat this…so forth) and then there won’t be any problems.

Charlie and I realize that it won’t be as easy as she made it sound but we have seen someone accomplish this. While eating at an upscale restaurant in New Orleans (we haven’t checked to see if it survived Hurricane Katrina but hopefully it’s still there!) we noticed that the family next to us were dining with their two young kids (maybe ages 4 – 7?). While the parents enjoyed a leisurely meal and adult conversation, the kids worked quietly on their coloring books. They were so well-behaved that they were hardly noticeable. Truly amazing!

My guess is that the trick is to feed them ahead of time (from what I hear, kids like familiarity so they probably preferred to eat what they’re used to eating at home*) and prepare something for them to be preoccupied with while the adults eat. Of course, the meal can’t be too long or else they get bored or tired.

Not knowing how Noah will turn out, it’s hard to say if we’ll be able t pull this off…and even if we do, we might not take him to Chez Panisse Cafe (where the lady and her family were dining) but still, it gives us hope that we can enjoy an occasional meal out. Here’s to more anniversary dinners at Chez Panisse~!

*Charlie and I haven’t discussed this regarding food but we’re not planning to “treat’ our children to nice meals or international travel until they are “ready” or old enough to pay their own way. Several families on our 2005 Europe tour traveled with their teenage children but it was clear that not all of them fully appreciated the experience. Maybe someday we will change our minds but right now, it seems such a waste of money to take kids on that kind of family vacation (at about 2 – 3K per head) when all they want to do is get to a computer so they can chat with their friends all day. Also, given the opportunity, many of the teenagers opted for American fast food *gasp* instead of tasting the local cuisine …another waste.

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