I posted about this on my personal Facebook page and had so many people love the idea I thought it would be sort of dumb not to share it here too. I hope you enjoy this Parenting Win I managed to pull off.
After a full morning out, running various errands with the boys, we started making our way home to get some lunch. When they boys figured out where we were headed, much whining ensued, with pleads that we go out for lunch instead. This was par for the course that morning, and the whining was making my head hurt.
Honestly, lunch out sounded great to me –I don’t mind not having to cook anything or clean up the inevitable mess!– but we’d already eaten out that week, and I wanted to honor the budget we live by. So I had to put my foot down and say “no.”
The whining continued, while I ran through my head what we actually had on hand to fix that they might actually like today.
“But Dadaaaaa, I really like going to restaurants…”
“Yeah, I wan go westawant tooooo…”
It was then that I came up with an idea. It might create a little bit more work for me, but if I pulled it off…
“Okay boys, listen up,” I said, and miraculously, they did, “This is what we’re going to do: We’re going to go to a restaurant. It’s called Our House.”
“Our House Restaurant?” asked Tucker.
“That’s right,” I said. “Our House Restaurant. I think you’ll really like it. The whole place is set up to look exactly like our house.”
The boys giggled, and I knew the hook was in. At the very least, the whining had stopped.
When we got to Our House Restaurant, I jumped into the first of my many roles as I welcomed them at the door.
“At Our House Restaurant, we want you to feel right at home. So please, remove your shoes and put them by the door, and your hats and coats can be hung in the closet.” They played along beautifully. “Now if you will follow me, I will show you to your table. This way, please…”
“This looks just like our house!” observed Tucker.
“Yes, our design team is very thorough. See, we even replicated the toys scattered through the living room.” I sat them down at our kitchen table in their usual seats, and brought them each their Monkey and Bumble Bee water bottles. “Now if you’ll excuse me, your server will be right with you.”
I grabbed my colored markers and a piece of heavy photo paper, and very quickly sketched out an illustrated menu for Our House Restaurant. I have no desire to turn myself into a short-order cook for my kids, so I kept the options very basic, and limited to things I could fix quickly. They got two choices: a cheese quesadilla or a PB&J sandwich, and for sides they could have apple slices and/or cucumbers.
Returning to the table with menu in hand, I took on the role of their server. I called them each “sir” as I presented them their options, from which they both selected PB&J with apple slices.
“Very good, sirs,” I said, laying down a small bowl of pita chips in front of each of them, “I will pass on your order to the chef, and while you wait here is an appetizer for you to enjoy.”
While I quickly threw together their PB&Js and apples, they quietly munched on the pita chips. Then I brought them their lunch and they ate it all, not fighting, or throwing food, or whining, or climbing onto the table. I was actually able to go sit in the living room and enjoy a cup of coffee, undisturbed. When the last time was that they both ate at home so well behaved, I couldn’t remember.
After their plates were clean, I returned to the table and asked if they had saved room for dessert. Well, if COURSE they had, so I retrieved the basket of leftover Halloween candy from its hiding place and let them each select a treat. Again, they enjoyed them quietly. When they were all done they left the table and went to play together for a bit before it would be Coltrane’s nap-time.
They didn’t leave a tip, but I couldn’t complain.
Parenting is often all about figuring out what works for you and your kids on any given day. You have to try all sorts of things. You win some, you lose some. And on this day, I went out on a limb, created some fun, had some fun myself, and somehow managed to have the smoothest lunchtime I can remember. This one goes in the Win column.
I think Our House Restaurant might be expanding its hours to serve breakfast and dinner too. Maybe it’s time to set up a Yelp page…
I'm a proud full-time at-home daddy, a part-time children's book author and illustrator, a parent blogger, and an accidental activist. Canadian-born-and-bred, I now live in Portland, Oregon, with my lovely (and much smarter) wife and our two adorable sons.
I'm proud to be affiliated with the National At-Home Dad Network. Check them out to find a dad's group in your area.