My family and I usually cook at home as opposed to going out to eat, but that doesn’t mean the kids don’t ask about having dinner in a restaurant! Of course I remember what it was like to be their age–anything tastes better than Mum’s cooking, right?–but I try to provide a healthy, balanced and…edible diet as much as possible before taking the kids for the ultimate treat of dining out. I want to spoil my kids, trust me–I just love them too much to actually do it.!
Last night, Brian and I caved and took ourselves as well as Sam and April to an eatery very much their cup of tea: the Rainforest Cafe in the Yorkdale Mall. It’s certainly not the first place I want to blow my money on mediocre food (although I like their solar panels) but it’s set up for little ones and they’re able to burn a bunch of energy playing in the ‘rainforest’ before it’s time to sit down and get nourished. Before we’d arrived, I had Sam and April promise to be on their best behaviour, to play nicely together and to expect only one chocolate milk. Sam was a little too quick to acquiesce– I had a feeling he’d opened his mouth and spoken empty words–and that I’d have to have the ‘Pinocchio’ discussion with him a bit later.
It wasn’t long before my son was driving me batty. There was a small group of ‘big boys’ (and by ‘big boys’ I mean 8-year-olds as opposed to 6-year-old Sam) and he clearly didn’t think he looked very cool with his three-year-old sister trailing after him. So, he left her alone as soon as they were out of my vision. I heard her crying within minutes and ran off to rescue her, standing alone under some giant fake leaves with tears and snot dripping down her face and a score of concerned–no, smug–mothers watching her from their perches. I picked her up just as Sam was ripping by in full pursuit of one of the big boys; I grabbed him with my free arm.
“OK, playtime’s over, Sam,” I said. “You were supposed to keep your sister safe.”
“Can I have chocolate milk and pizza?” was his reply.
I should have said no, but by that point I was already feeling a little nutso and was willing to give him what he wanted until it was time to go–so we ordered the pizza, two chocolate milks and two much-needed pints. Sam gulped his milk down in one go, mischief in his eyes. “Can I have another chocolate milk?” he asked. “Sam, what did your mother tell you?” asked Brian. “Who cares what she said?” said my son. “She’s just old!”
That was it.
“That’s it, Sam,” I said, very calmly, I might add. “No more chocolate milk and no more playing. Green chair when we get home, ten minutes.”
Does it make me a bad person that it was kind of satisfying to watch his face go from cad to sad? I should hope not. A survivor of discipline-by-spanking myself, I’ve found that method savage and ultimately unproductive. This is what capital punishment looks like in our house: a small closet with nothing in it besides an old stove timer and an ugly little green chair. Naughty child must serve their sentence without getting up or sentence is doubled, no exceptions. For a child just getting in touch with their own reserves of daytime energy, no punishment is worse.
I like to think it serves a triple purpose psychologically: 1) it helps children realize that time is precious and 2) it helps children (well, my speed-of-light children at least) to experience a quiet moment of reflection and 3) will eliminate poor home furniture choices (ie. green chairs) in the future.
Oddly enough, our last restaurant experience has left me craving another (childless) one. Has anyone tried the Bier Markt in Toronto? I’m looking for a great Winterlicious experience, and a babysitter!