By Tariq Ali
You’ve heard the gloomy news about the economy, and yeah, I get it — we’re going to see a lot of tough spots, financially, and one way to cut down on expenses is to do more home cooking for your kids.
And that’s a perfectly valid way of doing things: as a parent with a child with special needs, we know how important it is for parents to provide a structured environment for children when it comes to mealtimes.
That doesn’t mean you need to restrict dining out to only special occasions, for the following reasons:
It’s a great way to socialize your children
Children are voracious learners, and in many ways, the way this happens is often through play and exposure. It’s really sad how, because we’re so afraid of exposing our children to danger and distress, we cut them off from opportunities to direct their own learning.
In any case, don’t just think that learning socialisation for your kids only needs to happen with kids their age — let them say hello to the service and wait staff around them, and teach them ways to approach people they’re interested with in ways that not only are safe for them, but are also respectful to the other person’s personal space and privacy.
You can also demonstrate to them how to behave, by modeling your behavior with people the way that they would like to behave in future. Is it hard? Oh, yes. But will it be worth it? Definitely.
It gives them an opportunity blow off some steam
Let’s face it: if you’re here, and you have young kids, you’re going to come to the realisation at some point or another: you’re getting old.
It’s okay, breathe. You’re in good company. You’ve still got time.
The thing is, your child is a boundless font of energy, and you’re going to need all the opportunities to vent that energy out somewhere. What better way to do so than to let them explore the world around them? And while letting them stay in structured environments like your home and school is great, you also probably should introduce them to the places that exist around them. And since some of these places are malls, they’ll be doing a lot of running and walking at the same time.
Think of it this way: a tired, happy child who’s been running around for the past couple of hours beats having to try and put a kid to sleep when they’ve been stuck at home or school all day.
It’s a great way to reward children for good behavior
Our kids are at the age where we can have meaningful discussions about what they can get if they do this thing we want to do, like going to school, or eating that scary new food.
While our eldest child has discovered the joys of getting paid (and has come up with impressive feats of saving his money to get what he wants), our second child isn’t only too young to understand the value of money, but desperately wants to go out with Mummy and Daddy, preferably to buy a new toy.
If your kid is like that, congratulations. You have leverage.
I’m not saying that you should make it the only tool of your arsenal, however. I mean, as a parent, you’re going to need to learn a whole host of persuasive tools to get your kids to do what you want think is good for them. But don’t underestimate the value of telling them that they can go to their favourite restaurant/playland if they do the thing you need them to do.
Just remember to follow through with your promises. You don’t want your kids growing up with a mistrust of authority by being trifling and breaking your word once too many times.
You’re giving your partner a break
I mean, I’m sure there are some women who can take in this advice, but I’m mostly aiming this towards the men out there, who honestly, guys? We need to do better. Please do better. Sometimes your partner needs a break from your kids, and guess what?
You can provide it. Please do. Women take a disproportionate amount of the household work, and not only is this work deeply important, it is also often uncompensated, even if they have paying work on top of what is still known as “women’s work”, which includes, surprise, taking care of the housework and raising kids.
So, yes, while you definitely can take up more time and effort with the housework (here’s a good tip: if you feel like you’re doing too much? It probably means you’re doing exactly the right amount. It’s a bias thing, work with it), you can also probably get a load off your spouse’s mind if you take the kids out to your local restaurant and then let them blow off some steam in the playground with their friends.
As an example, just recently I took both children to a local eatery, while my wife stayed at home. I was worried that she’d miss the kids, or need to eat, and so I messaged her quickly on my way back if she needed anything. She replied back, grateful that I had given her the opportunity to perform some very much-needed self-care, and the time away allowed her to recharge and get back to the groove of parenting.
So, yeah. Step up, bro.