Last Friday we went to eat dinner at a local italian restaurant, Sogno di Vino, in Poulsbo, WA. We’ve eaten there a handful of times over the past couple years and have enjoyed their braised short ribs, divine pizzas and mushroom ragu. We were seated at one of the last available tables around 6pm and were greeted happily with menus and bread. We sat and discussed planets, racecars, zebra jokes and “Freckle Juice” until we ate our pizzas, pasta and aforementioned ragu. The food was lovely, our oldest, who is clearly in a growth spurt, ate her share and mine, and our littles munched happily while periodically stopping to notice the small fireplace in the corner and the window paintings on the wall of grapevines in Italy. “Wine is grape juice, Papa”, says our 8 year old, who also declares that “It tastes gross to kids”. Near the end of our meal, our server visits our table to tell us how impressed the staff was with our kids’ behavior and that many of them didn’t even realize we had little ones eating with us. She then brought us a bowl of ice cream to share. When we received our tab, it had a discount listed for “Well Behaved Kids”. A pleasant surprise after a lovely meal.
As a family of five with kids aged 2, 3 and 8, we know the restaurant staff isn’t always terribly excited to have us at one of their larger tables. Having worked front of house in the restaurant industry prior to having children, I also know first hand what it can be like to serve families. We eat most of our meals as a family around our kitchen table. It is one of the ways we come together throughout our week to talk about our lives, to catch up and to share our love. We don’t have any hard rules about there not being iPods or laptops at the table, but most of the time they aren’t welcome. We do sometimes Google something surrounding our conversation… we’ve been known to look at Google Earth quite a bit at dinner time. Our kids are also encouraged to pick up on general etiquette at the table. That same etiquette occurs when we’re out at dinner. We, as parents, lead by example and if we have to spell out what and how we’re doing something, we will. We don’t expect handouts for acting respectful of the folks who bring us our food. But it certainly makes you feel good when someone else notices your kids in a positive light.
My suggestions to other parents:
* Take your kids out to eat at least a couple times a month.
* Give your kids a snack before you head out.
* Be sure they’re rested and healthy.
* Be ready to engage with your kids.
* Notice the people, art, music, food in the room and talk about it.
* Encourage your kids to talk with you just like you would talk with another adult.
* Enjoy the time you’ve carved out to be with them.