Ever notice how when you give a little kid some control over their lives they feel important? I don’t mean like setting their own bedtime but more like letting them choose their own clothes – or what they eat. When my husband and I realised this about our kids, it made eating in restaurants so much easier.
Since we have known each other, my husband has always taken me to our favourite pub for lunch. It’s on the coast in Maine where you can watch the ocean smash against the rocks and smell the salt air. Plus, this place has the best burgers on the planet. After we had kids, we stopped going because this pub, as much as I love it, doesn’t have a kid’s menu.
A kid’s menu can be a pretty magical thing. At least, it has been for my kids. Before we even walk into a restaurant, my husband and I remind our kids (a thousand times) that they must stay in their seats and speak with inside voices. Also, no throwing stuff. Or drinking their chocolate milk in under a minute and then asking us to order another one.
But once we are seated and the server hands us the menus, there is a certain level of magic that takes place. Our kids get to choose their dinner. And they get to do it by glancing at a cool looking menu – two things that I sure as heck don’t offer up at home.
Their eyes grow bigger while they try to decide between the grilled cheese or the chicken nuggets. They debate chocolate milk versus lemonade. They pine for the desserts written in loopy font on the chalkboard near our table. Whatever they want off that magical kid’s menu can be theirs.
When the server takes our order, they typically start with the kids. I can’t tell you how big and important it makes my kids feel to be holding a menu in their hands and to be able to order their own food from someone who will return with their hot and crispy curly fries with extra-extra tomato sauce.
My husband and I love this aspect of taking our kids out and we use that to our advantage. We tell them that if they follow our rules of eating in a public space without acting like a circus of monkeys, they can order a dessert – from the fancy dessert menu.
Little kids love power because they often don’t feel like they have any. We tell them how to dress, what to eat, to sit, to be quiet, to listen, the list goes on. And while all kids are, of course, expected to act a certain way in public, it’s when we trust them to make their own choices that they display better behaviour.
Having a choice is a powerful thing.
My husband texted me the other day to say that our favourite pub is going to be offering a kid’s menu this summer and I am beyond excited. I’ll finally get to have my favourite burger in my favourite eatery and my kids will get the experience of ordering their lunch in a fun new place.