With the holiday season upon us, many families find themselves heading out to local restaurants to enjoy a good meal and celebrate with family and friends. Often as parents we find ourselves bringing the little ones along with us, which can sometimes be just as stressful for our children as it is to us. Many restaurants in the area offer family friendly dining, this can help ease some of the stress when our little ones act out in public dining areas. I love restaurants that make you feel like you’re at home, it can make a big difference.
My boyfriend Tim and I are regulars at many local restaurants, we started going to our favorite eateries long before we had Gavin and built up some great relationships with the staff at these places. Now that we have a little one we still enjoy going out to dinner every now and then and visiting our favorite local hot spot. I’ve noticed that as Gavin has grown and we have visited these places many of the local restaurants have a great family atmosphere, not only physically in appearance, but the staff of these restaurants as well take very kindly to children. When Gavin was just a newborn we would go out to eat and it was so easy, he would sleep in his carrier as we enjoyed a meal. Now that he is sitting in a high chair and eating “real” food things have completely changed. On occasion he has had a small outburst here and there because he is hungry and smells food but doesn’t understand he needs to wait for the food to be cooked. Other times he’s just having a fussy day and no longer wants to sit hostage in the high chair. I’ve found myself embarrassed at times by the way he yelled or cried and people looked. I’ve apologized over and over for the mess he left on the floor and I’ve even asked for a broom or a mini vacuum to help clean up the remnants of eggs or hot dogs scattered across the floor, but every time we’ve had a great waiter or waitress that has accepted the situation with great heart and understanding. I must say, that as an embarrassed parent with a screaming toddler, the way a restaurant handles the situation of your beyond controllable child can really help ease some of the stress I feel.
On our most recent evening out to our local restaurant, Chili’s in Clifton Park, we have had the opportunity to have a great waitress who is a mother herself. She understands how precious children are and also how demanding they can be. She always take the time to make us feel welcome and to acknowledge Gavin. She brings him extra crayons and makes sure his food comes out super quick, she also chats with him and makes him feel special. Any waiter or waitress that can take the time out of their busy work routine to help tend to Gavin’s needs is an A+ waitress or waiter in my book. We have also had great luck at the City Squire in Schenectady, NY; Olive Garden in Colonie, NY,; Red Robin, Chili’s, Ninety-Nine, Friday’s and Cracker Barrel in Clifton Park, NY; and Friday’s in Saratoga, NY. Aside from having great waiters and waitress’ I have also found some great distractions that work well. The usual restaurant favorite, kids menu with activities and crayons can keep him entertained for a decent amount of time, but when that fails parents can be left in a panic. I always make sure I have a sippy cup of milk that I bring with us and a little baggy of crackers to hold Gavin over while we wait for the meal to come. I also use my phone to YouTube children’s shows such as Yo Gabba, Gabba and backyardigans or find toddler games that he can play with, he loves Talking Tom. I’ve also heard from other parents that they bring magnadoodles and the favorite hand held DS or portable hand held Playstation.
So as you head out this holiday season to enjoy a great meal and make great holiday memories with your families, be sure to head on over to any of these restaurants and see what I mean when I say they make you feel like family. And after you loosen your belt buckle and settle down from all the great cooking stop back here and share your experiences with me about your favorite restaurant and how you kept your little one happy during your family meal.