Family Mealtime=Family Success:

While out with my family at a restaurant recently, I was approached by another diner in the ladies’ room. What she said blew me away.

“I just want to tell you how lovely your family is. Sitting next to you all was an absolute pleasure. Seeing your children eat so nicely, sit so nicely and be a part of your conversation without iPads is rare and just so wonderful to witness.”

My first thought was, “Are you talking about my children? You must have us mistaken for another family.” Just kidding…sort of…but I’ll get to that point later.

To have a stranger recognize what she did about my family was pretty amazing. I felt proud, joyful and very lucky. Her comments were very meaningful to me, especially since I put so much time and effort into teaching my children manners. We are still working on those at the dinner table in the house but if they can be respectful and behave outside of the house…I’ll take it. Baby steps, right?

I can’t tell you how many times I go out to dinner and witness a family who isn’t even talking. All the kids are watching movies on iPads and even the parents are on their phones. Listen, I get it, I really do! Electronics make the best babysitters! It’s a way for parents to ensure their children won’t act up at the table and creates blissful silence.

All that said, isn’t the point of sitting down to eat as a family to talk about your day, spend time together and make memories? How can all that occur if everyone’s faces are looking down and no one is conversing?

My rule has always been and will always be, no phones/iPads at the dinner table. I want my kids to learn how to function at a restaurant so when they are adults, they know how to communicate and behave.

I believe parents are scared of how their children will act in public. Will they embarrass them? Run around the restaurant? Disturb other people? Make them look like bad parents? Probably. They are kids. However, if we don’t teach our kids to have manners, especially out in public, how will they ever learn them?

Now back to that point I was referring to up above. Right before I took my son to the bathroom, my husband was upset with him for whining at the table. We also got frustrated with our 11-year-old, who was acting like a know-it-all. Despite these hiccups, I thought we were having a lovely dinner. My husband, who has less patience than I do, was not as forgiving.

When I told him what this lady had told me in the bathroom, it put everything into perspective. I mentioned the irony that from the outside, it looked like we had the perfect family, while on the inside, he thought the kids were misbehaving.

Kids are going to be kids and can’t be expected to be perfect all the time. Remember, there is no such thing as perfect. If we expect our kids to be perfect, we will be disappointed every single time. Let’s dissect the positive. My kids were dressed nicely, eating food that kids don’t normally like and they were sitting down. What more can you ask for? Yes, there were some negative moments, but as parents, we need to recognize and celebrate the good ones.

This complete stranger recognized these good ones and as a mom, I couldn’t have been more proud. It was like the paycheck we as moms don’t receive. It was the pat on the back we deserve but rarely get. It was everything to me!!!

It’s scary for parents not to have a crutch when eating out. With a little planning, I say go for it. So you fail at it? Big deal. Here is a checklist for you: Are you going out early enough? Are the kids super hungry and cranky? Have they had a long day? Perhaps another night would be better to go out. Is the restaurant appropriate? We can’t control everything but we can certainly try, and that is all that matters.

Start training your kids at home. Make sure the rules you would expect them to follow at a restaurant, apply at home. Start training yourselves at home. If you are expecting your kids to act up, you will be looking for any little thing to jump on them about. You will not be in the right mindset to handle what may be ahead. You might not even be able to identify the good behavior if you are only focusing on the bad.

Leave the electronics at home and really be present with your family. Try new foods, tell jokes, talk about what is going on in everyone’s world and keep your kids engaged. Don’t forget to take a deep breath and go in with a positive outlook, instead of sitting down at the table expecting the worst. You might actually be surprised how much you will enjoy your experience out for a meal with the fam.

Together We Can Master Motherhood™…and dining with kids.