Monday, October 22, 2007

An Evening Out

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I went out on what we anticipated to be our last date before the baby arrived. We started with a plan for a nice, but not overly fancy dinner and then a movie. It was probably a Friday night, and I remember that every place we tried to go to was crowded with a long wait. The dining "ambiance" of the restaurants decreased as we went along. So did our timeframe for dinner and a movie -- I believe we ended up at a crowded little Friendly's for dinner, and no movie because we were both crabby by this point.

As I recall, I had a slight panic attack, sitting in the booth of the restaurant, bright lights glaring overhead, and loud children running all around. I thought, "This is it! This is our social life once we have a baby! No more nice restaurants, no more going out!"

But, right from the start, we grabbed our girl and brought her out, packed like a caravan heading out on an expedition -- baby in carrier, large diaper bag filled with items for every possible emergency! Sure, we never took her to 5 star restaurants, but nicer family restaurants, and actually, the occasional almost-upscale restaurants for special events. And over the years, we have always brought a few things to entertain her (and now her sister), made smart choices when going out -- taking into consideration length of time since the baby's last nap, how much patience do we think the children have -- are we talking appetizer & dinner patience, or just dinner patience...? And, we have always gently corrected inappropriate behavior and taught our girl proper restaurant manners. And with all of this, our girl is pretty well-behaved at restaurants, and so we are able to take her with us and have an enjoyable evening out of the house.

Tonight we went out to dinner. It was a beautiful, warm October night and my husband had today and tomorrow off from work. I was feeling a little cabin-feverish from my own workday so we decided to head out for dinner. We went to our local Applebee's which is not super fancy, but it is a nice compromise between our 6 year old whose first choice is always McDonald's, and my husband and I who would prefer not to eat a burger at every meal. We set out with our big diaper bag for the baby, and I actually brought my own, new portable booster seat that I could strap her into and have her sitting in the booth next to me. This seemed more comfortable to her than those typical wooden restaurant high chairs. My husband and I were in the mood for an appetizer, and our older daughter asked for salad as her appetizer -- I had brought along Cheerios and Gerber Puffs for the baby and everyone was happy. I still alternated between eating my own dinner, and feeding baby food to my little one -- but it was a nice change of atmosphere and I didn't have to cook! She was very entertaining, especially when she realized that her new booster seat was light enough that she could stand up and peek at the people behind us -- but she didn't figure that trick out until we were just about done with dinner and they seemed to think she was cute.

It's great to be able to get out of the house from time to time, and I think it's so important to take your kids with you when it's appropriate -- that's the best way for them to learn how to behave out in public!

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