Kids: Don't Leave Home Without Them
By Barbara Aria
When one of her former college professors recently invited Stacey Greenberg,
34, and her husband to a party - and suggested they bring their two young
children along - Greenberg hesitated. "Her house is filled with
artifacts," says the Memphis mother. "But we brought our kids, and it
was a comedy of errors." Greenberg's 1-year-old kept running up and down
the stairs. Her 3-year-old dropped a folk-art bird. "It broke into a
million pieces," Greenberg recalls. "The whole thing was so stressful,
we just left. I felt like I had failed."
Mishaps like Greenberg's can make you wary of taking kids along on any adult
outings. But these trips can be rewarding for every member of the family, and
actually offer important benefits for your child: Going to grown-up events
makes children feel special, exposes them to new experiences, and teaches them
how to cope and thrive in unfamiliar situations.
First piece of advice: Relax. If you're stressed, your child is likely to
pick up on that and be stressed, too. "We parents worry too much about what
other people think," says Trintje Gnazzo, 34, a Winchester, MA, mother of
two who often takes her toddler and preschooler to grown-up events. "The
less I worry, the more fun we all have." And a little preparation never
hurts. Here's tried-and-true advice from insider experts and real moms on how
to take kids anywhere.
A Recipe for Dining-Out Success
Just because your child favors mac and cheese and chicken fingers doesn't
mean he can't develop an appetite for slightly finer dining.
■ How to pull it off: Places with a fairly high noise level, as opposed to
quiet, white-tablecloth joints, are good bets - they're casual and kids love
the energy, and you'll love that the noise masks any outbursts. Go in the early
evening before the crowds arrive, suggests Sara Andrews, a nursery-school
teacher who moonlights as a waitress at an upscale eatery in Brooklyn. And
bring toys to help keep your child occupied. Cathy White, 37, of El Dorado, CA,
takes a "restaurant survival pack": a pencil box with some nonmessy art
supplies and fun stickers that are reserved just for restaurants. "Because
Maya doesn't use the kit every day, it's fresh to her, so she's immersed while
we wait for our food to be served," White says. Another key to an enjoyable
experience: interaction. Point out interesting things in the restaurant and
discuss with your child which foods you're going to eat. If your child feels
ignored, whining or a tantrum is practically guaranteed.
■ Biggest saboteurs: "Dining out is a sedentary experience, so it can be a
challenge for a toddler who wants to practice his exciting new motor
skills," says Stefanie Powers, a child-development specialist at Zero to
Three, a nonprofit children's research center in Washington, DC. Request a
table near open space so your child can walk around. And order an appetizer
that can be prepared quickly so he doesn't have to wait too long for food. Many
restaurants will whip up a child-friendly dish - buttered pasta, a mini burger
- even if it's not on the menu.