Passing the dinner torch — taking kids out to eatWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a progression that takes place from the time you bundle up your sweet little baby for your first dinner out as a family to the time your child is able to spot a pair of golden arches from a mile away and can’t pass a Red Robin without saying “yuuum” in just the right tone.
Before your first child is old enough to order off of the menu, you carefully ensure that all possible dinner-interrupting issues (hunger, messy diaper, crankiness, etc.) have been considered and prevented prior to arriving at the restaurant. You do not yet realize that prevention of all incidents is overly optimistic and utterly impossible. There are not enough extra outfits and interesting take-along toys in the world to ensure a hassle-free eating out experience when it comes to children.
If the child is your first and he or she is old enough to join you at the table, there is also much prepping that needs to be done once you are being seated. You sanitize your child’s area properly and clear it of any endangering objects. You also sanitize the high chair and check its seat belt for any inadequacies. You then line the high chair with a cushy, antimicrobial device to guard against any germs and/or discomfort. Lastly, you put a plastic, disposable place mat in front of your child before his or her little hands are set free to roam.
The preparation process becomes much easier with subsequent children, as it only entails a half-hearted sweeping away of someone else’s leftover crumbs, the removal of only the sharpest knives, and a quick visual check of the high chair for anything so sticky you would not be able to remove your child later on. Once your child is a full-blown toddler or you have multiple children, sanitation becomes the least of your concerns.
Past the age of 2, your concern while at a restaurant turns away from your child and shifts to those eating around you. All of the cute, chuckle-worthy child antics you may have experienced as an innocent bystander suddenly aren’t so funny when it is your own offspring offering up the dinner show. My son was still fairly new to running when he decided to bolt off behind a diner’s long service counter in order to display his new athletic prowess. Evidently, I ended up being the show that day since he was much shorter than the counter and out of everyone’s sightline. All anyone saw was an adult woman sprinting the length of the restaurant for no apparent reason.
Cat and mouse chases are only the beginning of a parent’s mealtime public embarrassment. There are the sudden tantrums, the countless spills, the ill-timed bowel movements and the rare, but within the realm of possibility, vomiting on the table. Such a list of eating-out mishaps would seemingly lead up to asking one very obvious question: Why would we subject ourselves to such misery? Truth be told, it’s not completely miserable and it shouldn’t be embarrassing.
Eating out is a part of life for most people. It’s one of those little things that we do in our society that we pass along to our children without thinking twice about it. It is one more way in which we are showing them how to be like us.
Meals out with our children are actually a microcosm of our life with them. We start off so carefully in striving to keep them perfect when they are so carefree and without a clue as to how to fit into their surroundings. As they progress and learn the ropes a bit, we slowly let our guard down while still showing them how to tow the line. The whole process is quite messy and no doubt full of surprises, but when they learn to do it on their own it all seems worthwhile.
I have to say that I am somewhat looking forward to the day that a family dinner out means watching my children chase down their children. It will mean a piece of success and the realization that a torch has been passed. I am also quite curious to know if the elderly restaurant patrons are smiling at me struggle through my children’s mealtime indiscretions because they are fondly recalling the days with their own small children or if they are secretly just laughing at me.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising two children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.