Friday, June 15, 2007

How to Eat Out with Kids and Keep Your Dignity

(Here's my column from today's Saipan Tribune.)

We were in Guam a while ago, and were staying with our friends who are first-time parents. Their child is two – the same age as our youngest. For those of you who haven’t gone through it yet, let me tell you, the first kid is a shock to the system. It’s stressful trying to figure out the workings of a baby and adjust to frazzled sleepless nights. The thought of ever having more than one of these critters is incomprehensible to the first-time parent. At that point in your life you cannot imagine that some day you may look back and think, “One kid was eeeaaasy.” When a few more kids come along, you’ll think, “One kid?! That was hardly stressful!” After our second child was born, I realized how simple it was to just have one. When people would ask me about the transition of going to two kids, I would respond “One kid is a hobby.”

Nevertheless, our friends, like many first time parents, were frazzled. I introduced them to the idea of how to eat out, and they were so liberated by the simplest of concepts.

The reason it’s hard to eat out with young kids is that they don’t sit still and they don’t like to wait. The eating part isn’t so bad. It’s the waiting-for-the-food part that leads to mayhem and beaded sweat on your upper lip. So, Mara and I long ago came upon a simple solution: we place the order from home.

We have the menus of our favorite restaurants at home, and when we do want to go out to eat, one of us becomes the waiter and collects everyone’s order. We call the restaurant, and place the order. The restaurant inevitably asks “Will this be for take out or delivery?” and we say, “We’re eating there. We’re coming with kids, so we want to have the food ready when we get there.” They understand. They are soooo thankful. After all, they don’t want our kids sitting idle for 20 minutes waiting for the food to arrive, because, well, they won’t be sitting idle. They’ll be shooting spitballs, making toothpick forts, spilling water, torturing one another by looking at each other, dropping silverware, wasting napkins, and commenting way too loudly about the wads of chewing gum stuck under the tables. So the restaurant loves that we call ahead. We walk in, they whisk the food out as we pull out our chairs, we eat, and go home with minimal disruption to anyone’s sunny disposition.

That’s all. Nothing earth-shattering. Very easy. Call ahead and order so the food is ready when you get there. It’s a way to reclaim your dignity… sort of… or maybe not really. After all, you’re still carrying a diaper-bag and wearing a “dad badge” – that patch of dried drool on your shirt.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

When I was a waiter I would have loved it that had happened. Every waiter loves a quick turn of a table. The faster you get up, the faster someone else sits down. Plus, if the kids leave happy, the parents leave happy. If the parents leave happy, they tip well. That makes the waiter happy.

Bev said...

My niece is two also and going out to dinner with her can be torture sometimes! thanks for the tip. I'll tell my sister about it=)

Bruce A. Bateman said...

The other side of the coin is this: Remember that horrible restaurant where the service was terrible and the food barely edible? Don't boycott them, go back, but take your two year old. Dawdle and take your time over iced tea and crumpets. (:-))

Seriously, David, thanks for the tip. I'll use it soon.

Mona said...

That's a great tip. Eating out doesn't have to be difficult, so cutting the wait time is crucial, especially since my son has no concept of patience or any idea that banging a fork against the table is really annoying.