Whilst on family holidays, we’ve been very lucky to have grandparents with us. Often, the grandparents are happy to let us have a night off by babysitting for us so that we can have a “date night” at a gourmet or starred restaurant.
As the boys are a little older now, we decided to brave it this time round in France – take the boys with us together with my mom to the one Michelin Star restaurant, La Ciboulette, in Annecy for lunch.
The French are very proud of their Michelin star status and many restaurants do not accept reservations with children (especially for dinner). It was very fortunate that La Ciboulette accepted our lunch reservation with full disclosure that had 2 young children in tow!
The French are also very particular about their service and the entire dining experience, and hence, meals at Michelin starred restaurants are formal affairs (even for lunch). So, with that knowledge, we knew that the boys needed to be at their utmost best during this lunch.
We couldn’t just leave it to chance that they will behave well for at least 2 hours. We went in with our plan of attack!
- Pre-meal Prep talk and Incentive
On the way to the restaurant, we gave the boys a serious prep talk. We told them that we were going to a very important restaurant where they were expected to behave like very good boys. We set out expectations as to what “good boys” meant in a series of questions which they needed to answer correctly:
“Is speaking loudly, good boy or bad boy?”
“Is sitting down quietly, good boy or bad boy?”
“Is eating properly, good boy or bad boy?”
“Is banging on the table, good boy or bad boy?”
“Is using quiet voice, good boy or bad boy?”
As we were doing the prep-talk, we happened by a long stretch of luscious lawn that the boys were eyeing excitedly. So we added an incentive – that if they were very good boys during lunch, we promised them that they were able to run on the lawn, chase the birds and play in the playground nearby. With those incentives in mind, they seemed very eager to ensure that our request for being “very good boys” was met!
- Getting an Agreement
After the prep-talk, and in order to ensure that they REALLY understood us, we made them verbally agree that they will behave properly during our very “important” lunch.
- Reminders of Prep-Talk and Agreement
As children often have a very short memory span, we reminded them about our prep-talk and what they agreed right before we walked into the restaurant.
Prep talk given and agreed, boys incentivized and reminded – we were ready for lunch!
- Order something to their taste
This isn’t too hard when it comes to a good French restaurant. Pasta is always a good choice for children but the French don’t just do a pasta with tomato or Bolognese sauce – oh no!
The boys were each served a dish of very generous fresh egg pasta accompanied by a piece of very tender veal loin (we were given a choice of veal or fish). As the boys pretty much consumed their entire dish in delight, it is safe to say they loved it!
- Lavish some praise
Throughout the meal we regularly commented on how good the boys have been as encouragement for them to continue.
There were, however, several occasions where we also had to sternly explain to the boys the consequences for not behaving. This included Jayden announcing he had to poo (in his nappy) and proceeded to squat down and started making pooing sounds! Luckily, the threat of such consequences was enough to set them straight again! Drama adverted! Phew!
- Bring out the post-meal entertainment
Once the boys finished their own meals, we whipped out their entertainment system – our very trusted iPad!!! As we have our portable router with us, they were able to play puzzles or watch children’s clips on YouTube while we adults finished our 4 course meal (in peace). Our only rule is that they needed to keep the sound to a minimal so as not to disturb other guests around us.
Not all parents like to rely on technology in this way. In fact, we had our own reservations and prejudice on this point before we had kids. However, as Jeff and I decided that we would take our boys on most holidays with us, iPads have been in our company ever since. This is not only so that we can enjoy any meal, but also that we can enjoy our meals at nice restaurants without feeling we have to rush or leave as soon as the kids are done.
So, all in all – it was a very successful lunch with little hiccups. We didn’t get any angry stares from other French patrons; there were no disruptions, no noise, no spills, no mess; and our waiters and other guests seemed pleased to be sitting close to our table!! The best part? We also got to enjoy the wonderful 4 course menu prepared for us by the chef!
They did it! The boys followed through with their promises to behave. As they carried out their end of the bargain, they spent a long time on the well maintained lake front lawn running and jumping around, chasing pigeons, picking up sticks, feather and leaves and having a grand old time!
And what does this Michelin star lunch experiment mean for us? This means that there is HOPE that on our next trips, we can again try out other gourmet places with the boys in tow!