Eating is a great pleasure. In fact I would say in our society it is one of the major pleasures many people have – which probably explains the health related problems, but that’s another post!
Before children, Hubby and I used to eat out a lot. It was our treat to ourselves. We don’t smoke, and consume little alcohol, so it was, I suppose our vice. We were never into high-class fine dining, but instead opted for places that gave us good food and good portions at a reasonable price. We both enjoy our food too much to skimp on it!
When the children came along, of course that all changed – but D was only 5 days old the first time he went into a restaurant!!! We had other priorities, and much less cash to spend on the non-essentials of life. Our regular outings became far less frequent, and therefore became a treat. I think doing things less often, makes them far more special, and our trips out were certainly that. We made a point of going out each year on our anniversary, but as M grew into a toddler and his problems became more apparent, especially his separation anxiety, leaving him, even with the Grannies, became a no go. Luckily, with N working from home occasionally, and the beauty of flexi time, we can now, pop out for lunch during the week sometimes, and have grown up time!
Many restaurant chains market themselves as family friendly, but the reality more often than not is they are friendly to well behaved children that sit quietly and do their colouring sheets whilst not making a sound. We therefore reduced and reduced the number of places we feel comfortable taking the boys. Now, I am not saying they are naughty, but they like to be able to move about, and not be frowned upon when they aren’t wearing their halos.
The three restaurants we go to, are all mass-produced chains, but they do it right. The food is reasonably priced, and the kids menus are interesting enough that you can stretch their pallets. We go to Pizza Hut, of course. They are always winning awards for their kids friendly attitude and we have never had a problem, the boys especially love the salad bar – salad for M is a bowl of sweetcorn, and for D is the same but with coleslaw – I haven’t the heart to tell him he’s eating cabbage! They also have really interesting activity books for the children which change regularly so they feel they are doing something new. The second one we go to, the boys affectionately call daddy’s restaurant, because it is across the road from his office – or work house as they call it. It is a All-Inns, and they market themselves as The Family Pub. They have a soft play area, but its only open at weekends so the boys have never used it. What we like there is there is lots of space, so if the boys need to wander, then they aren’t pushing through other people, and with 2 meals for £10 its great value for money!
The third place we love to go, is where we went yesterday, for an early Christmas meal with Hubbys Mum and Brother. His brother, lives in Saudi Arabia at the moment, and so wont be home for Christmas so we had a meal to celebrate the festivities. It is the local Harvester. The food is simple, but good, and again, the salad bar is a great draw for the boys. What is even better is that the refillable drinks, you now fill yourself, so there is somewhere else to walk to when the kids need to wander. The boys think going for salad or drinks for someone at the table is them being helpful rather than it being asked for to stop them getting irritable sitting still. They also have really good kids activity sheets which have a good range of activities to keep them occupied.
One of the first times we went there, M was about 2, and playing up, standing on the seat, and crawling on the floor, and the waitress rudely looked down her nose at me, telling me what a handful he was. I duly complained, and received an apology. We didn’t let that put us of, and go here for every family gathering as we know it works for us.
The boys were very excited about seeing their Uncle yesterday, and had planned who was sitting where, to ensure they were both next to him, but I also have to be by M, on his instruction. The thing is, they don’t see him that often, and while they both love him dearly, M is never fully confident with him, unlike D who has him as his best chum. M though will usually only speak to him is encouraged to do so, and hides behind his fringe rather than look at him. He just isn’t good with letting go at these one-off meetings, but on longer visits will chill enough to let him in.
Yesterday though was lovely to see because after the initial trepidation from M, he seemed to chill totally. He spoke about his school project – he has been learning about space and has totally been into it, and about his dancing and jazzercise. He then told about joining Cubs, and all the things he needed to learn there. It was beautiful to see. He was so busy talking, he didn’t seem to notice that he had eaten all of his meal without encouragement – usually even with food he loves, he has to keep being reminded to tuck in. He even stole the sausage from my plate, and then the one from Hubbys Mum, before he had finished! Having eaten all that, he had a huge ice-cream with toffee sauce, as well as half of my brownie! He only got up to the toilet twice, and everyone had to fill their own drinks! It was lovely to see. D never needs encouraging to eat once his meal has arrived, but did keep wanting to go to the loo several times until it did.
It was great to see M yesterday. I think it is a sign he is growing up. I also see it as the keep talking about the acceptable ways to behave in certain situations is paying off. It may be really hard for both boys to have to think about what they can and can’t do at certain times, more so than any neuro-typical child, but they have to learn how to function in a way society will accept them. I am really proud of the fact that they are taking that on board.
At bedtime last night when we talked about our day, I told them how well they had behaved and how proud we were of them. I think it is really important they know that we don’t just take it as read and we do know the effort they put in.
Well done boys!