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Toronto, Canada

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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Why I Won’t Take my Children out to Restaurants

Written by Rachel Myeers

Do you enjoy taking your children out to restaurants? One mother shares with PLN why she refuses to give in to the family chains and instead saves the meals out for ‘adults only’.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Even though it occurred more than a decade ago, I can still remember the scene as if it was yesterday. I was catching up with an old friend at a family restaurant and the waiter approached us sheepishly.

“The other customers are complaining about your children. I am so sorry, but could you make sure that they stay at your table?”

At that point, I was not a mother, but I had waitressed for years. I could appreciate the difficult situation that the server was put in, and the kids were running around a half-empty restaurant while my friend and I were chatting.

In my mind, there was only one reasonable answer: leave the kids at home.

This cheap mama

I am cheap. You can dress it up and call it thrifty or frugal, but when it comes down to it, I rarely want to spend ten times more on dinner just because someone else makes it for me.

Going out to dinner is a big deal for me and it is something I don’t want to do unless I am going to enjoy it.

When I do go out for a meal, it is usually with my husband or a good friend. We take our time and take advantage of the opportunity to spend quality time away from the distractions of social media, work, and family pressures. We relish the opportunity to laugh and talk together while someone else does the serving and cleaning up.

The real deal

If I was to have a family meal at a restaurant my meal would go something like this:

“Turn around and stop bothering the family in the next booth.”

“Can we please have some more napkins? My child has spilled their chocolate milk. Again.”

“No, you cannot have my phone. We are supposed to be talking to each other. Please colour your overpriced children’s menu.”

“You cannot be done with your chicken fingers. Those were $10. You have to eat five more bites. Yes, five. No, you cannot have ice cream unless you eat five more…”

Needless to say, I would not be spending the meal having a heart to heart with my girlfriend or reconnecting with my husband. I would be spending it trying to help my children behave.

Family friendly dining

Just because I don’t want to take my children out to eat doesn’t mean that I don’t think family meals are important. In fact, our family usually breakfast and dinner together at the table every night as a family. We share different aspects of our day and reconnect. The difference is, this is done in a way that is much more child-friendly.

In our house, I don’t call my children to the table until the meal is served. There is no expectation for them to sit still and behave while waiting anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes and beyond to even start eating.

The portions on my kid’s plate come appropriately for their age and appetite. If they want more, they are welcome to it. If they can’t finish their plate, we can save it for later or compost it if necessary.

As my children are getting older, I am starting to venture into taking them out one-on-one for meals. As they mature in their ability to self-regulate I am encouraging them by taking them out for more adult experiences.

I recently took my seven-year-old out for a meal before a play. I brought along a toy for her to play around with as we waited for our food, but took the opportunity to have some good conversations as well. We are building towards a strong relationship as she grows into an adult.

But until then, the $10 nuggets will be a rare treat.

So what do you think PLNers? Should families enjoy meals out together or is dinner time better spent at home? Let us know in the comments!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.