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Going To a Restaurant With Kids: Am I Insane?

by Bleeping Motherhood
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The year was 2010. My first (and at the time only) baby was about four months old. My in-laws took us out to dinner, and that’s the last time I’ve taken my children out to a restaurant and left with an existing sense of sanity.

Since then, we’ve definitely thrown good money after bad trying to recreate the restaurant experiences of “before kids” with varying degrees of bruises, loss of “last nerve” and the parent shame of a child stumbling out the door of the restaurant with an electronic device clutched tightly in their sticky little hands.

Until last week. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Want to torture yourself? Go with my kids to a restaurant!

Are you like me, like us? Please tell me you are! That we aren’t alone in the misguided attempts of having a magical family experience at a restaurant only to walk away from the booth looking like we were assaulted by french fry-deprived ninjas? I’m not the only one so desperate for someone else to cook, and mostly clean up after a meal that I’m willing to whisper threaten my children over a full plate of grilled cheese that they insisted was the ONLY thing they would eat. And now won’t.

The early days of taking my two children, who turn in to squirming dealers of Satan upon entering a restaurant, mostly involved eating out with our extended family on family vacations. And while I desperately wanted to avoid them, the alternative was frequently fast food, and never the fast food my children liked. (Or, if it was, it was accompanied by some grumbles about their fries. You know who you are…) So off we went so my children could see how much their grandparents actually did love them. And how much the grandparents were willing to spend on watching their daughter slowly lose her mind trying to keep their precious grandchildren from getting the whole family kicked out of the restaurant.

Yes, yes of course we brought coloring. Yes, of course we brought toys. I even had special toys that only came out on the special rare occasions of restaurants. I would have the server bring the children’s food first so they couldn’t complain of abject hunger. But flipping themselves around in seats to stare down the people behind us, multiple trips to bathrooms, climbing under tables to eat the floor fries—Really? And you don’t like grilled cheese—was just way more fun to my children than any other thing I could bring.

We’ve never really liked the idea of going out to eat and handing our children devices. No judgement on parents that do: you do you, we’ll do us. We had a vision in our head of a happy family eating together, enjoying each other’s anecdotes. Until we went to Chili’s. At Chili’s, they have computers on the table to help with re-ordering drinks, bill paying, and turns out, some games on it.

You guessed it. We were those idiots that would not bring our old phones, or even our current phones that our children could play games on them for free. Nope, we spent the extra $2 for the tiny assortment of games available on the Chili’s computers. Because that makes a whole lot of sense.

I can’t reasonably explain why that was different. Why we were willing to do it. Perhaps that one time at a Chili’s just hit us at the sweet spot. The moment where we desperately needed a chance to shut down and that need to be cared for by the smiling staff at Chili’s lowered our resistance and we gave “the nod” to the computer games we had to pay to let our children play. Did we get a deep breath? Yep, with a taste of guilt at the end of it.

For maybe a year or so, that was about our only restaurant experience. Keeping in mind we don’t go out to eat that often, we’re talking maybe five times we did it.

Then last week happened

Since this all started in 2010, it’s easy to ascertain that my oldest is now eight—What? How did that happen?—and my youngest is almost six. By some miracle, they are maturing. I’m not sure how, because I question if their parents are, but they are.

Last week, the children and I did some slow traveling. By slow traveling, we have a long trip, (in this case, a total trip of 12 hours), and we drive for an hour or two, go to a children’s museum for a couple of hours, then travel two or three hours to a hotel. Then do it again the next day. On the trip down, I had packed food for us to eat for lunch and dinner. However, on the way home, we were out of food.

The first two days, we nearly became stockholders in McDonald’s based on how much of their food we ate. But the last night, we were lucky enough to see a Texas Roadhouse near our hotel, and after having eaten there with my parents the week before, I was willing to give this restaurant thing with my children, one last chance. (Which is what I always say.)

We were set up for disaster. It had been a long day of traveling, children’s museums, traveling and swimming at the hotel pool. I was tired and ready to be home after eight days away. They were tired. It was just me and the children as my husband was at home. I’m not sure if this could have started out any worse.

But it was the best. The best time I’ve had at a restaurant with my kids. We all engaged with each other. I RELAXED over a glass of wine. Nobody ate fries off the ground. None of the other patrons were whispering about us under their breath. And when we walked out, I had my arm around one kid and was ruffling the hair of the other one, all while laughing.

Was it the wine? I’m sure it helped, although I’ve tried wine before and still left restaurants cursing under my breath. Was it their maturity? Most likely. These children getting older comes at great pain, but with great rewards.

For any of you moms that think you’ll never again have a good restaurant experience with your kids, well, here’s some hope that it just might happen. And a glass of wine may help it a little.

Audrey Saracco and Kerri Haack (known as Bleeping Audrey and Bleeping Kerri) are the comedic brains behind their award winning blog, Bleeping Motherhood. The blog and their series of “Would You Rather” books are inspired by many of their own personal life experiences as moms.

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