Dining with children, Family time, Meal Time Games

How to Waltz Through Valentine’s Dinner With Children

Ever take up ballroom dancing? Waltz is all about timing. It is a ballroom dance in triple time with a strong accent on the first beat. POM-pom-pom, POM-pom-pom, POM-pom-pom…

To waltz through a challenging moment requires the ability to suspend time; more specifically, the ability to suspend emotion and expectations in order to proceed in a self-assured manner. Easier said than done, but easily done with a bit of preparation.

The baby sitter is in love and her/his Valentine’s dinner has been the only thing on their mind for weeks. She is walking around in a cloud and barely remembered to return your call… to inform you that she is not available.

You had hoped for a lovers’ dinner, but it appears you may be dancing to a slightly different tune this time. Tune. Dancing. Waltz. Rhythm. Or perhaps you planned on including the children all along, but are not too certain about how romantic that will be.

Valentine’s Day is not only about romance; it is a celebration of common paths and shared goals. It is a moment on the dance floor, when dancing companions move in perfect unison. It is that instant when you take note of that oneness and nothing else matters. It is a celebration of rhythm.

You may be familiar with the music of 2001, a Space Odyssey. That was composer Richard Strauss’ masterpiece, On the Beautiful Blue Danube. Remember how the music alone seemed to suspend time? Let’s get in the mood of the moment… for a moment.

At a formal dance, proper decorum is in order. One partner approaches the other to politely ask, “May I have this dance?” When planning to include young children in a dinner outing for Valentine’s Day, make it a flamboyant affair for them too. For instance, you could invite them to pick their most extravagant outfit and so they get to shine for that one night. Throw rules about color coordination and style out the door. Flamboyance is the order of the day. It makes it into something exciting for them to look forward to and they will feel very special once they sit amongst other dinner guests. That is romantic.

On the day of the dinner, spend the afternoon baking heart-shaped cookies with the kids. If it’s a messy affair all the better. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to loosen up and be childlike and yes, messy. Save most of the cookies for after dinner. The underlying message: Be good at dinner and cookies await back home. Incentive makes for a harmonious tune.

At dinner, bring crayons and blank cards. Kids must draw mom and dad a valentine before dinner is over. Also, you might consider having simple gifts on hand for them. The novelty of the first few moments at the restaurant table can capture their attention. However, novelty wears off. This is a special occasion, and the perfect one for positive reinforcement whenever you notice they are on their best behavior. Reveal the treats/gifts now, with profuse expression of gratitude for their kind behavior.

Give them reason to feel included. Get them each a Shirley Temple so they can pretend to have a real toast for the occasion. Invite each child to make a toast, saying something nice to or about a sibling or parent. This is an occasion to express (and teach) appreciation and love.

Here is another twist that could turn out to be quite enjoyable: Plan to share the V-day dinner with another couple with children. There is strength in numbers and more parents around the table can lighten the mood should the children be a bit less peaceful than you had hoped. In fact, this could be the beginning of a tradition to which you can look forward as you meet with the same couple each year, watching your respective children grow on this occasion as time passes.

When all else fails, take a deep breath and remember that these beautiful little creatures and occasional adorable monsters are here and full of life and spark because of your love… We’ll toast to that!

Last resort: Teach them the melody to Strauss’ Waltz. If things get out of hand, suspend time by inviting them to whisper the melody.

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