Saturday, August 02, 2008

Summer Saturday

We revisited the Central Park Carnival (a/k/a Victorian Gardens) this morning. The kids love this assorted collection of rides, located in Wollman Rink. We got there just after it opened, and rode as many as possible before the rain hit.

Truth be told, I didn't mind an occasional water break on the bench. Ride after ride, spinning around through the air was starting to take its toll on me. I was definitely dizzy. The kids did not seem affected. I was once like that too. I loved the amusement parks and couldn't get enough of the big rides, the roller coasters, the spinning ones, the rocking back and forth ones, the ones that provided that momentary defiance of gravity. My favorite used to be "The Pirate," a large, boat-like contraption that just rocked back and forth mindlessly. If you sat on either extreme end, you experienced the best lift off.

Just thinking about going on one of those now makes me queasy. I got this way shortly after having kids. Something about pregnancy messes up your entire internal equilibrium, and you never fully recover. Maybe it's just Nature's way of telling me I need to keep my feet on the ground right now and keep an eye on the kids.

Later, we braved the wilds of strip mall-ville, to dine at one of the few culinary establishments where our children are welcome - TGI Fridays!

Le Sigh.

I put aside the fond memories I had of my fantastic meal at Fiamma, last week with Jeff, and focused on ordering from a menu based on cartoon illustrations.

Jeff did his own share of drawing.

A man of many talents.

I know people have mixed feelings about taking kids out to restaurants. When Jordan was brand new, Jeff and I took him out a few times to restaurants that were more "fancy." But he was also being carried around in a car seat and typically slept through the meal. No worries there.

Once he got older and more mobile (and don't forget vocal) dining out in polite company was more of a challenge. It continues to be, with the added component of Miss Mina - who imitates everything that her big brother does.

My take on it is that kids need to be put in learning situations like eating out, so they can see first hand how one behaves. I don't advocate taking them to formal restaurants, of course. Nobody is paying the prices at Daniel (one of the best meals I have ever had) so they can have toddlers running around or screaming at the table. Fine dining establishments are as much about the entire atmosphere and experience as the food. One day, it will be nice to bring our kids to a "real" restaurant. Preferably when they are old enough to order for themselves and actually have grown to like food. But getting them to that point doesn't happen overnight.

For now, we take them to a diner sometimes, or a family restaurant like TGI Fridays or the Cheesecake Factory. We bring things at the table to entertain them while we wait for food, we correct them when they make noise, we work on using utensils and being patient. It's a welcome break from the monotony of eating at home every night. But let's be honest, it's not exactly fun or relaxing for us. It's work; but I think the work will pay off one day.

That's one of the things that's hard about parenthood. You don't really get the instant gratification of knowing you're doing it right. Am I a good parent? Are my kids turning out ok? It takes a lifetime to see how they ultimately turn out; and you sort of have to wait and see if they grow up to be the decent human beings you aspire towards.

Tonight, they were very good.

I wish I could say the same for the food.

The kids didn't seem to mind. That's the important thing.

Look out Daniel Boulud. One of these days, we may just show up on your doorstep. I promise, by that point, they will be true gastronomes.
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