May 2013 Parenting Tip: Date Night with the Kids

nervous_babyWhether you have one child or four, does fear stop you from going out to dinner with your kids…ALONE?  Yes, it can be a scary task at first.  What if my children are nightmares?  What is everyone in the restaurant gives me dirty looks?  Will our waiter spit in our food because we are so messy?

These are all normal thoughts!!!  I love to cook for my children but there are nights when I yearn not to do dishes and have someone else be on clean up duty.  I am also a single married mother during the week as a wife of a traveling husband.  Hence, date night.  Every week, I take my boys, 6, 4, and 1, out to a kid friendly restaurant, of their choice.  I usually pick a night when I know we have an after school activity and there isn’t much time to prepare dinner.  It can definitely be intimidating to walk into a restaurant with three little boys all by myself.  It seems the whole place turn their heads and I either get, “Aw…three boys…wow…you are so brave” or witness a couple moving to a different table far away from ours.  I get it, and don’t take it personally…no one wants to hear screaming kids who are throwing food all over the floor while they are enjoying their dinner.

I recently went out to dinner with my boys and saw another mother, also with three boys dining alone.  I was so excited there was someone aside from myself, courageous enough to do it.  We started talking and realized we had very similar experiences with dining out alone.  We both agreed that just because our better halves might not available to join us at times, doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of a nice evening out alone with our kiddies.  We congratulated one another on being fearless, getting out, and having the confidence to enjoy a nice meal out alone with our children.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some tips on how to make your date night with the kids special and fun, while leaving the anxiety at home:

  • It’s very important to pick a child friendly restaurant.  If you head into a place that is not accustomed to children, alone or not, (even if they are angels), you will absolutely get the stink eye from both the staff and fellow diners.  Trust me, I know from experience.
  • If you able to, make sure and head to dinner at an earlier time than you might normally serve dinner at home.  This is when you will see other families eating with kids, as well as people who are more tolerant.  5:00/5:30 seems to work well for us.
  • Be prepared!  Depending on the ages of your children, it’s important to be armed and ready for anything.  Kids getting restless waiting for their food?  No problem…take out the markers and coloring books you brought along or play a game of WAR with the cards in your purse.  Baby had a horrible #2 accident?  No worries…you have that extra change of clothing in your diaper bag and can clean it right up.  You will notice I left out electronic devices.  They definitely distract the kids  but date night with the little ones is all about spending quality time together.
  • Talk to your kids ahead of time on the way to the restaurant.  Explain what your expectations are from them and what the rules are.
  • Get your children excited for dinner.  Let them know this is something special they are getting to do as a reward for good behavior.
  • Keep your cool and try not to get frustrated.  Remember kids are kids and they can’t be expected to be perfect.  Know their limits and what they can handle.  Did the kids have a long day and perhaps are exhausted?  Maybe it’s not the right night to expect great behavior from them and you should perhaps choose another night to eat out.
  • Apologize to the waiter ahead of time for the messy storm he is about to witness, especially if you have a child in a high chair.  They will appreciate your acknowledgment.
  • Don’t be embarrassed and self-conscience that you are alone dining with your offspring.  Be proud and confident!  You will get a lot of people who will feel bad for you that you are alone, but they obviously don’t realize you are a pro and in fact love taking your kids out to dinner.   You will also get a ton of people who will applaud you, and come right up to you and tell you. I can’t think of anything better than being out with my boys, having a nice dinner, and enjoying each other’s company.  It feels great and I feel proud that I can do it all by myself because with three kids under six, it’s certainly not easy.
  • When fellow diners come up to your table and tell you how well-behaved your children are, not only will you be cheering for yourself inside but your kids will feel great too.  Make sure and use this opportunity to give them positive reinforcement!
  • If dinner didn’t go as well as you planned, instead of getting angry, try to figure out why.  Did the food take too long?  Were you stressed out from something unrelated and could have approached an incident more calmly?  Don’t get discouraged and give up on date night.  Find the problem, fix it and try again!
  • Encourage Dad to also participate in date night alone with the kids.  He may be intimidated at first but with some guidance from you, he can do it!  This is a great way for the kids to bond with Dad and as an added bonus, this creates alone time for you.

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I hope I can inspire and encourage you to create a date night tradition in your family.   It will be something for you all to look forward to and help you bond with your children.  It will also increase your confidence as a mother and allow you to realize that as a mom, you can conquer anything!

 

Thanks for reading and remember…TOGETHER WE CAN MASTER MOTHERHOOD!®

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