Damien Eats Out
I have already shared my opinion on the subject far and wide on the Internet (and have received my share of irate responses). My thoughts on this are that ninety-nine percent of young children enjoy a quiet meal in a nice restaurant about as much as you enjoy a four-hour-long staff meeting. Unless your little ones have an unusual propensity for sitting quietly in one place for hours while daintily digesting gourmet foods, do them a favor and stay at home for a few years. We did; worked great for us! We saved a lot of money by not eating out, and extra weight was never a problem for me back in the day.
When the kids were seven and 4.5, very slowly we started introducing them to the world of fine dining.
Our first dining trip was to a nice Chinese restaurant, where both Mr. Goldie and I had used to be regular customers, back when we both worked in that area. Contrary to most Chinese restaurants I've seen, this one is very quiet, with a lot of ambience, background music, and excellent service. Mr. Goldie and I ordered some finger foods for the kids, and decided that he and I would split an appetizer. We chose the pu-pu platter.
The rest of the lunch was spent hissing and cussing at our kids to PLEASE STOP IT about the "poo-poo" platter already, no it's not funny, even if it was funny before, it isn't anymore, so would you please just SHUT UP! Nothing worked. The kids were in stitches about the name, to the point where they were rolling off their seats and were unable to eat their finger foods. They found it hilarious.
Our next restaurant of choice was the neighborhood Damon's, where I used to take the kids on occasion. They loved sitting there like grown-ups, working away at their hamburgers with knives and forks and making small talk. Until one day LilProgrammer, who was nine years old at the time, had to use the bathroom. He excused himself and left the table.
Five minutes later, LilProgrammer very quickly returned with a shocked look on his pale face. He asked if we could leave right away and never, ever come back to this restaurant again. He was scared out of his mind, but he refused to tell us why.
Three years passed before he could even talk to us about this. As it turned out, upon entering the bathroom, he saw, and I quote, "a cut-off penis" floating in a urinal. Even though I was able to convince him that it was, in fact, a used condom, he still won't eat at a Damon's again.
A year later, our church had a Godparent Or Special Friend Day. The way it works is, your kids' godparents come to church, and instead of the Sunday School lesson, they do a craft together. Then everybody goes out for a nice lunch, and the godparents supposedly take off with the craft, which they supposedly cherish for years to come. All my kids' godparents live in Russia, so I invited an old coworker of mine. This way, I figured, my kids wouldn't feel left out, and the coworker and I would catch up on the old times.
We went to TGI Friday's. The lunch was decent. The kids were quite well-mannered as far as the public and the waitstaff went. As for my poor friend, he didn't know where to look as he was fielding question after question:
"Are you Mom's boyfriend?"
"No, we are friends."
"But this is a date, right?"
"Just stop it, guys," I cut in, "You know very well this is not a date."
Five minutes later, the conversation would start over. My friend has never offered to meet again.
Next time LilProgrammer went out to eat, it was on his 11th birthday. A new restaurant had just opened in our area, and my friends were raving about it. So, as a very special present to my firstborn, I snuck him out of the house when his brother was out with grandparents, and we went to the new restaurant for dinner. It was a forty-minute wait, but it was totally worth it. The food was great, the prices reasonable. LilProgrammer was on his best behavior and carried an entertaining conversation with me. All was wonderful until the next day, when the poor LilProgrammer came down with the worst case of diarrhea. He spent three days on the toilet, and swore restaurants off forever.
I still eat out occasionally with ChinchillaBoy. He loves it. He does tend to always order pizza, but I figure he'll grow out of it. One day, I keep telling myself, we will all go out to a nice restaurant, as a family, and we will have a great time, and everyone will enjoy the good food.
And my children will pick up the tab.