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Monday, August 11th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s possible, I assure you. Like finding a perfectly symmetrical, scar-less pumpkin the day before Halloween, or an ESPN article that doesn’t mention Johnny Manziel or LeBron James, having a successful, painless dinner at a restaurant with your kids could happen. Clearly, it doesn’t always happen but it’s attainable. Being honest, it happens about as frequently as a flawless pumpkin or a LeBron-less ESPN tweet. If you have any children (or follow ESPN on social media), you know exactly what I mean.
If you have older children, you’ve already been through “the dining experience” more times than you could likely count. But if you’re a newer parent with children aged 2-3, here are some tips I’ve found most useful when attempting to eat a meal without losing my mind or getting banned by the owner. I call them “The 5 Ps.”
The biggest mistake any parent can make when taking their small children out in public (especially to a restaurant) is not being able to come correct. By this, I mean you should have prepared diapers (if needed), a backup outfit, and the most crucial item: the entertainment. A coloring book, a doll, or an Etch-a-Sketch — anything that will occupy your child’s mind and deter him from destruction. If you’re counting on the restaurant to supply the crayons, it’s a risky bet as you’ll often be left, quite literally, empty-handed.
Whoever coined the phrase “time is of the essence” was clearly either a parent of young kids or a war general (or both). Because being tactical with your time is most important when leading troops into battle or feeding your children. And frankly, both acts can feel quite similar. In short, don’t bring your children out to a late dinner. Early on in my parenthood, I made the monumental mistake of arriving at a restaurant at a time we would normally eat dinner, forgetting that we’d need to be given a table, then order and wait for our food. And the place didn’t have crayons! Bottom line is: get to the restaurant at least half an hour before the time you actually plan to eat.
This is the trickiest maneuver to pull off successfully. Mostly because it depends on your child’s appetite and demeanor at the exact second you sit down to eat on a particular night. Has she not eaten a morsel since lunch? Has she eaten a granola bar as recently as half an hour ago? Is she being an irritable little jerk? These are all questions you have to ask yourself when ordering your meals. If your child looks like she can hold out to eat, give her a toy/book to play with first, have your meals come out together, and then eat at the same time. If your kid looks like a character from Dawn of the Dead, give her something small to eat to hold her over or have her food come out first.
A necessary virtue in any aspect of parenting, but yours will truly be tested when you’re surrounded by angry, unsympathetic patrons who are simply looking for a peaceful night out at Fuddruckers. Your child is undoubtedly going to do something to annoy them (and you). Take a breath, gather yourself, and try your absolute best not to lose it. Having patience doesn’t mean allowing your 2-year-old to knock down his juice cup on his little sister without consequence. It just means you can’t fly off the handle because two peas fell on the floor. Pick your battles. This leads right into the fifth and final P…
Goes hand in hand with patience. You can’t really have one without the other. Poise is the difference between flipping the table over and storming out the front door like Teresa Giudice vs. calmly carrying your unruly kid to a neutral zone and coolly, yet forcefully, threatening the disposal of the entire collection of whatever they love. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve lost it many, many times with my children in public. But I’ve found that, aside from the release of letting off steam, losing my cool only yields negative results. However, staying poised amidst chaos is a virtue worth its weight in gold, and it will make you the envy of every parent around you who are slamming their fists on the table in disgust.
I know what you’re thinking: But Joe, I have definitely tried all of these tips and I still want to smash my face into a wall every time I set foot in an Outback. Trust me, I understand. It’s not an exact science. And like anything related to your kids, there is no handbook/guide that guarantees a disaster-less night. But if you think ahead, come correct, and maintain whatever composure you have left, there’s actually an outside chance you could (gasp) enjoy a meal with your kids. Just maybe.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to post a comment below or read more of my ramblings here.
Image: Restaurant table photo via Shutterstock.com
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5 P's, applebees, dawn of the dead, ESPN, fuddruckers, Halloween, johnny manziel, kids restaurants, lebron james, outback, parenthood, parenting, parenting style, restaurants, RHONJ, teresa giudice | Categories:
Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Monday, November 4th, 2013
My tween daughter had a lot of plans for Halloween: what she was going to wear, which friends were coming over, how much candy she’d collect, how she would also hand out treats, and how she’d simultaneously cohost a party with her aunt.
She takes after me, a master multitasker. And she did an admirable job, getting in an hour of trick-or-treating, an hour of passing out candy, and two hours of partying before collapsing in bed. But then she started sobbing, because it didn’t all go perfectly.
“I forgot to put on my bat necklace!” was her first complaint. And then, “I forgot the spider ring too! And Alma never came over! And neither did Emma!”
At first I did the Mom thing of trying to negate every little thing she brought up. “No one would have noticed the jewelry. Look at the text that Alma’s mom sent, saying they were too exhausted to come. And you KNEW Emma couldn’t come.” Etc.
But there’s no stopping a tween tantrum, as I should know by now. So then I did another Mom thing, which is to get angry, and start being a little too honest.
“Grace, you can’t expect every event to be perfect. Lower your expectations! If you think it’s going to be just okay, and then it’s better than okay, you’ll be happy. But if you need things to be amazing, and then they’re just good, you’ll always be disappointed.” And then I sung her to sleep.
Downstairs, as the party wound down, I recounted the story to one of my best friends, who doesn’t have kids. “You told your daughter to aim low?!” she asked in sort-of mock horror, holding her head in her hands.
I thought about it. Yes. I think that is what I did. “But you know, girls get worked up about things being perfect. Like expecting Prom to be some magical evening, which it never is,” I argued lamely. We are far from Gracie going to Prom.
At work the next day I checked in with a Mom colleague to get some perspective. Her daughter is only 1, but she’s thoughtful about raising a girl. “It’s not like you’re asking her to lower her life goals!” she reassured me.
That is it, of course. I want Grace to continue to say she hopes to go to Yale. I want her to continue to list about six professions she thinks she will hold at once as an adult. I want her to aim high for everything…except the little things. Halloween is supposed to just be fun. Teaching my kids to live in the moment and ride over little disappointments while also making life goals and recognizing the big stuff remains my toughest parenting challenge. When Grace was a toddler I would say, “that is not to cry” when something small upset her. Finding the right words now that she is 11 is more difficult. But I guess I’ll start with “lower your expectations sometimes.”
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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Halloween is one of my favorite holiday seasons. I take any opportunity to gorge on sugar and dress up like my favorite Mean Girls characters gleefully. But I also love this time of year because it gives me an excuse to stand on the soap box for one of my most valued causes: Fair trade.
Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween candy, and it’s my hope that more of that money will be purchased for treats of the fair trade variety. Fair trade is a system of exchange for goods that have been produced with ethical standards. That means when you purchase fair trade products, your money is going toward the sustainability of communities that rely on just wages. This is crucial for workers in developing countries that produce cocoa, sugar and other food staples. And, what has always held the most weight for me, child labor is prohibited under fair trade practices, meaning that kids have the freedom to enjoy their childhoods, while adults can provide for their families.
As a child, knowing that kids my age could be harvesting the cocoa beans that went into some of my favorite chocolate treats broke my heart. That’s why to this day I’m strict about my chocolate intake, which is largely comprised of fair trade treats. I even wrote my college entrance essay about the importance of fair trade in my life and my personal campaign against child labor.
Depending on the age of your child, you can go as in depth as you want in explaining fair trade. But at the heart of it is a simple concept: giving people what they deserve for the work that they do. It’s a notion that encourages compassion toward others and doesn’t have to get political in terms of global economics or market competition. You and your family don’t have to make major lifestyle changes, either. Just incorporating a few products into your daily life is an altruistic initiative, from cleaning your home with fair trade supplies to wearing fair trade fashions. If you’re unsure if your goods are fair trade certified, just look for the logo on the packaging to confirm its authenticity.
I know for many parents, Halloween is more of a hassle than a celebration, often culminating in stomachaches and hyperactive children. That’s why I love introducing people to fair trade, which opens up a kinder, gentler side of Halloween. At least when you turn off the porch light and send your kids to bed, you can feel good about giving your trick-or-treaters and your own witches and monsters candy with a conscience. Now that’s sweet.
Here are some of my favorite fair trade certified treats:
-Equal Exchange Chocolate Bars
-Ben & Jerry’s various fair trade flavors
-Lake Champlain Organic Fair Trade Hot Chocolate
-Divine Chocolate Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces
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