I’ve become “that” Dad.
You know the one I’m talking about. The one that we all swore we’d never become.
How did this happen? I took a vow… and there may have been blood involved. It’s all a little hazy now. What’s it been, 15 years or more!?
From 19 to 21 years old, I supported myself, and my bad habits, as a waiter earning tips. Most nights I could easily make enough to cover my bills and have a little fun. But every now and again, without fell, a family of four would walk through the door, order four waters, one adult meal to be shared, and one child’s meal to be shared.
If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you’ll easily empathize.
Today, as a Dad of two young children, I’ve discovered there are great lessons to be taught during the occasional shared dinner at a restaurant. The sit down kind with actual menus. No slides. No cheap toys marketing the latest children’s movie at a theater near you.
Lesson #1 : Social Behavior
I would get a great laugh out of witnessing someone swinging from the ceiling or climbing the walls at a restaurant, though I would not be happy if it were my child. Yeah, that’s a tad hypocritical, but you’re thinking the same thing.
It’s important that our children know how to behave when they sit down for a meal. To learn acceptable social behavior, you have to be in a social environment (sometimes you have to state the obvious).
The fact is, your expectations at home are probably different than what you would tolerate in public. This is why it’s good for our young children to witness how others sit at a table for dinner in public. Sometimes it provides great learning opportunities of how not to behave… you know the type I’m talking about.
Lesson #2 : Fiscal Responsibility
Fiscal is just a fancy word for money. Bottom line – pun completely intended – our society has lost any sense of fiscal responsibility. American’s have become so numb to personal cash management that we don’t even look at our receipts after making a purchase.
When’s the last time you really looked at the amount you pay for a family of four at a fast food joint? According to a study conducted by Time.com, “supper for a family of four at McDonald’s runs in the neighborhood of $23 to $28.” WOW!
I’ve got a confession to make. Our family of four only orders 3 meals at McDonald’s. My wife orders a small fry and drink and eats the kids leftovers. Even so, we’re still paying almost $20 every trip to the golden arches.
Let’s compare this to our recent trip to a well known Italian restaurant. Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad split with my wife + 1 Kids Grilled Chicken and Broccoli over Pasta split between a 6 and 4 year old = full bellies for $17 (not including tip).
Not only was the price of a full meal in line with that of an assembly line cheeseburger, but we were also able to eat healthier, which brings us to Lesson #3.
Lesson #3 : Physical Responsibility
Have you been to McDonald’s lately? Take a look to the new addition to the menu board. Maybe it’s not so new because I always order the same thing but have only recently just noticed it, but they’ve added the calories next to their menu items.
When I first saw this, my first reaction went something like this, “That’s disgusting! I’m pretty sure I just gained a few extra pounds just reading that.”
What I don’t understand is how the portions are getting smaller, and the calories are getting larger. My son’s Happy Meal cheeseburger is the same size as my quarter pounder with cheese. Tell me how that makes sense.
By splitting meals, you can control your portion size. In reality, we’ve become so obsessed with excess, the portions that most restaurants serve are way too large anyhow. When your children see that you’re not gorging yourself with piles of food, they typically follow suit and pick up the good eating habits you model.
So, I’m proud to say, “I’m that Dad,” and I’ve found teachable moments in dining out with my family.
And my tipping habit? Well, I believe you tip on service, not strictly on the final bill.
What are your dining out habits? Do you find the three lessons outlined above are valuable? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.