I stood in Target, looking for something on the shelves that they never carried and never will. In theory, I was there for a bathing suit. My first post-baby bathing suit since my second son arrived in the world. As I hadn’t lost the baby weight yet, I needed one so that I’d be ready for a family trip to Cape Cod. But like so many bathing suit searches, it was about much more than a piece of fabric.
“Where do you want to eat?” Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with their family has faced this question, probably followed by a drawn-out conversation about likes, dislikes, convenience, and whatever dish you got there last time. If you have young children, you may automatically exclude whole categories from consideration. You may never even consider bringing kids to ethnic restaurants and others without children’s menus.
But if you’ve always longed to check out that new Indian place but don’t want to spend money on a babysitter, there may be hope. It’s actually easier to bring kids to restaurants that don’t specifically cater to families than you think.
While it may seem intimidating, I’ve successfully brought my toddler to restaurants that specialize in a variety of cuisines, including fancy Italian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, and Japanese food.
Here are a few tips that can help:
The band-aid was the first sign of trouble.
My parents, my in-laws, Chris, and I were all rushing around, trying to set up Sprout’s fourth birthday party. A few days earlier, Sprout had badly cut his ring finger and now the band-aid was peeling off. Like all children, Sprout takes his band-aids Very Seriously. While we have a plentiful supply of Thomas the Train band-aids at home, my current stash was limited to Star Wars. “Look, I have Star Wars band-aids!” I exclaimed, trying to work up an adequate level of enthusiasm. “I don’t want Star Wars band-aids! I want Thomas!” he cried. After much whining, including an exclamation of “I don’t want to watch Star Wars!,” my mom resolved the situation. She offered to “make” a dinosaur band-aid from a plain bandage and dinosaur stamp.
This dramatic arc was solid foreshadowing for the rest of his birthday party.
“Where are you going?” I yelled at Sprout across the playground as he zipped around on his balance bike. “I told you not go back there!” My words echoed off of the wall of the building that my son just disappeared behind. My face dropped into a frown as I waited for him to emerge from the other side. When he came around, I walked up to him and said, “You are not using your bike for the rest of the day.” Of course, he broke down wailing.
Another day, Sprout wheeled his bike down the sidewalk near our house, feet flying. But this time, he dragged his sneakers along the pavement when I yelled, “Stop!” Coming to a halt, he waited for Little Bird and I to catch up, despite his fidgeting hands showing his desire to go, go, go! As soon as we reached him, he was off again, speeding ahead but listening for my call.
As I decided whether or not to buy a pedal bike for his fourth birthday, I thought about what side I should weigh more heavily. Was he responsible enough for this present or not?
No one wants failure. Most of the time, it kind of sucks. But it is a fact of life. And one that kids need to deal with on a regular basis. They can – and will – learn about it on their own. But they can also learn about it from us as their parents.
I recently wrote about how I’m using my own failures to teach my kids how to deal with theirs at my first post for Her View from Home, Teaching My Kids Grit by Modeling How to Fail Well.
Here’s the first paragraph:
Riding to my first community bike ride of the season, I rejoiced. The blue skies and perfect temperature surely meant plenty of families would show up. But as I waited at the community center with my young son, my hopes faded. A biker riding up the parking lot piqued my attention before I realized it was one of the other volunteers. Not a single family showed up to my family bike ride. Instead, my kid, my two fellow volunteers and I pedaled over to the ice cream shop anyway.
Read the rest at Her View from Home!
A few Saturdays ago, Sprout accompanied me on my community bike ride, acting as an enthusiastic second and playing readily with other kids on the playground. The next day, he broke down screaming three separate times when we were celebrating an early Fathers’ Day brunch with my parents and in-laws. I actually picked him up and left the restaurant so he could calm down, something I almost never have to do. This past year with a three-year-old has been full of contradictions: happy/sad, stable/falling apart, independent/clingy. With him on the cusp between being a toddler and school-aged kid, we felt the full-brunt of the threenager phase. With his birthday just past, I’m looking back at the ups and downs of living with a three-year-old.
“You look just like your mom.” Those are always the first words out of anyone’s mouth who knows my mom and is meeting me for the first time. Admittedly, my mom and I have many things in common. Namely, a talkative nature and knack for strong opinions. But lately, I’ve been noticing more and more the ways that I’m like my dad.
On first glance, my dad and I don’t seem to have much in common. My good high school friend once half-joked that he had never heard my dad talk. That was obviously false, but had enough truth to it to be funny.
But for all that our personalities are different, his influence has definitely rubbed off on me.
Sitting at the top of our concrete stairs, Little Bird smiles down at me. Even though he doesn’t talk yet, his big grin says, “Look at me, Mama! Isn’t this awesome?” Used to my daredevil of a baby, I shake my head, smile back and hustle up the stairs before he gets the idea to climb down on his own.
I suppose it’s appropriate that one of my kids is a risk-taker. After all, exploration and adventure are some of my big values, in whatever form they come. My family stories overflow with risk, from biking around the world to immigrating to America. And I myself was a kid who never hesitated to put anything in my mouth and embraced the wildness of the outdoors. But all of that doesn’t make it any easier on my mental health.
Ants. So many ants. They were crawling all over the seat, fabric and metal bars of my bike trailer. I poked at the swarm with a leaf, but they just scattered. I sprayed them with Lysol, but that didn’t seem to faze them. Finally, after hearing many proclaimations of “Ew!”, Chris stepped in. After spraying the whole trailer with the hose and shaking it upside down, he declared that I would not be bringing Little Bird on his first ever bike ride that day.
Before I became a mother, I had dealt with a lot of problems on the bike, from flat tires to thigh-grinding hills. But never ant infestations. This was only one of the many times I’ve had to adapt one of my major passions after becoming a parent.
Bing! The chime on my phone rings, indicating a new message. It’s a video from Chris, reaching across the country to me while I’m on a work trip in New Mexico. It starts focusing on Sprout, being a lump on the couch with his red velour blanket over his head. The camera then swerves to Little Bird, who is walking towards it. Walking! When the hell did that happen? At that moment, I realized just how long a week away is when you have young children.