Feeding the Flock: Table for… HOW MANY?!?

We rarely feed the entire flock at restaurants; the cost is prohibitive, seating is tricky, and then there’s the stress of iffy manners from the kids.  We will, however, pick up fast food to go.

When we pick up pizza, people assume we’re having a “big party”.

One of our kids’ favorite “meals” is bean and cheese tacos.  The intercom always asks multiple times, “How many bean and cheese tacos?!?”  It doesn’t matter how many different ways we say it; two dozen, or 24 tacos… they end up asking us again at the window.  Once we get the numbers straight, we are always directed to the “This is going to take a while” parking spot.  Sometimes, we order just the beans (if we have tortillas and cheese at home), but even then, the intercom assumes there is something that must be clarified at the window.  Feeding the flock is the same at the Mc Donald’s Drive Thru; “You want how many cheeseburgers?!?”.

We let the kids eat on the picnic table outside if we can.  If nothing else, it saves me from witnessing their (lack of) manners, and it also saves me from having to sweep.

Children CAN be well-mannered at Restaurants (not mine… but some can)

Two years ago, my husband and I were at a fancy restaurant for our anniversary.  We were impressed that the family next to us had three amazingly well-behaved children.  I would say they were 5-9 years old, but they acted like adults; even better than a lot of adults.  In addition to having impeccable manners, the kids ordered off the adult menu (elk, if you can believe it)!.  Most impressively to my eyes, the children listened attentively and waited for even the youngest of them (the five-year-old) to stop talking before returning a comment themselves. I don’t know how that family raised such well-mannered children, but I still envy them.

I resolved to teach my children the value of acting their age (baby steps) when we go out in public.

Maybe expecting them to act like adults is a little much to expect at home, but surely in public they can pretend to be well-behaved.  Turns out, I have failed in my teaching the kids to have manners at the table.  Meals together at our table have a few rules, such as “No toys/books/phones on the table”, and I do insist on chewing with closed mouths.  Somehow, I’ve never evolved lessons in Manners past the “just don’t choke on your food” stage.

Feeding the flock at a Restaurant

Last week we took the kids on vacation, and ate out at IHOP.  The nine-year-old melted under the table because food wasn’t fast enough, and the younger two had to be taken outside to use up some energy.  The girls talked and giggled like they were the only ones in the building, and no amount of chiding kept straws and trash from being flicked across the table.

We felt as if all eyes were on us.  It didn’t help that the staff had to put two tables together in the middle of the area to accommodate us all.

When the food finally did arrive, it was a minute by minute chore to tell each child not to stuff the entire pancake into their mouths.  Apparently, what you tell one child doesn’t mean that any other child has to follow the same rule; and the rule expires, so you have to restate it every few minutes.  Combined with “don’t talk with your mouth full”, “elbows off the table”, and “stop saying ‘shut up'”, every other second, I did a lot more talking than eating.

Moral of the Story:

Teach kids the importance of manners while they are still young.  I haven’t stressed good table manners at home because we so rarely go out to eat with our entire family.  I was wrong to let it go.  Obviously, it didn’t feel like a battle that needed to be won until I expected good manners last week.  Feeding the flock is hard enough at home, but it’s a lot more stressful in public.

feeding the flock
Teach Table Manners Early



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