Weekends with kids: Benihana, Sesame Place, waking up before 7 a.m.

Weekends with kids are a wee bit different from weekends without kids. I was thinking of that as we were driving back this afternoon (Sunday) from Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. This Sesame Street themed water park has its charms: a reasonable entry-level roller coaster, some nice water slides, a lazy river. However, it's highly unlikely I would be going there if I did not have a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 2-year-old. Someone was whining in the back of the minivan on the drive home, despite having been taken to a water park -- which makes them lucky kids! -- and I mentioned this. My husband agreed that it would probably not have been our first choice for a summer Sunday in the absence of offspring. "We would have gone to Paris," he said.

I don't know if we would have been in Paris or not, but we also probably would not have eaten at Benihana on Friday night. We've been trying to do more semi-grown-up things with the big kids, and eating out is one of those things. Eating out with the 2-year-old is pure torture. But the big kids can sit quietly, sometimes without hitting each other. So we decided to go somewhere where we could watch the chef cook on the grill in front of us, figuring they might find it almost as entertaining as, say, watching YouTube videos on my phone.

It was...ok. I knew the food wasn't going to be Michelin starred, so that is what it is. But I also realized that I really like food. I like trying new things and tastes and that's part of the excitement of going out to eat. My children do not share this perspective. Going out to eat is for them a battle to make sure they will get something from the small list of approved foods. So there they were, filling up on white rice, quite possibly the least tasty thing on their plates, and worse, they were complaining about the other things ("Do I have to try shrimp?" "What is that on the chicken?" Sigh...)

I was also up before 7 a.m. both mornings -- another thing that distinguishes weekends with kids from weekends without kids. One morning was by choice -- a lovely 8 mile long run along the river -- but I heard the baby stirring as I was getting ready, and I know he was shouting as I was leaving (and my husband dealt with it). And part of going early is to get it done before all the kid stuff (like karate at 9:30 a.m.) Saturday night I made the mistake of staying up to 11:30, and then the 6 a.m. shouting was pretty hard to deal with.

To be fair, I did get some good eating in, around the crispy chicken sandwich phenomenon of Sesame Place. Saturday night my husband cooked mussels in a white wine and cream sauce. Then Sunday night we grilled lobster tails, and yellow squash from the garden (which is copious...I welcome recipes). We ate a cucumber salad from our garden too.

And of course, it is possible that either with kids or without kids I would have spent part of Sunday night watching Michael Phelps "race" a great white shark. I really can't blame the kids for that one -- that use of time was all me.

In other news: I'm writing a story about paternity leave. If you or your (male) co-parent took a longish leave (more than the U.S. standard 2 weeks) and are willing to talk about it, please let me know. As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.

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15 Responses to Weekends with kids: Benihana, Sesame Place, waking up before 7 a.m.


  1. beth says:

    Is the US paternity leave standard now 2 weeks? I had no idea. My kids are 6 and 8 and when I had then my husband had 0 days of paternity leave. He could use vacation time but there was nothing labelled paternity leave given to Dads (at his company).

    • @beth – I don’t know if there’s a standard; as with maternity leave, nothing is required. But a number of companies allow for that. Then, as with maternity leave, a few companies are trying to distinguish themselves with a higher number of days.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Our firm officially allows 6 weeks, although I think the norm is to take less time. I know one guy who took the full 6 and will reach out to him with a link to this article.

  3. Amy S says:

    My husband and I were just talking about the food thing. We took our 6 yo and 3 yo to Chicago for a long weekend and despite having so many good options, our food choices were subpar because of poor planning on our part and because we just wanted some place where we could feed them and they would eat without complaining.

    • @Amy S – what I am learning is that there is basically no where we can eat with no complaining. So unless I am going full on McDonalds, maybe I should just go where makes me happy, and they can eat bread.

      • Amy S says:

        that is a good way to look at it!

  4. Martha L. says:

    My husband was lucky enough to be able to take ten weeks with my eldest and eight weeks of paternity leave with my youngest. It was a huge help both financially and also in getting him acclimated to being a parent. We both currently work full-time and we share parenting responsibilities about 55% (me) and 45% (him). If you include the dog in the equation, it would be 50/50.

    • @Martha – I’m not sure what our percentages would be! I do more during the week, and probably 90% of stuff that comes up during the work day (well, that requires a parent – our nanny probably does the bulk of during the work day stuff). But I will plan to do stuff on weekends solo or with friends, and he pretty much never does that.

      • Omdg says:

        You’re making me realize how lucky I am my daughter eats sushi. I did recently get her to try dim sum/Chinese food by telling her it was junk food. She liked it. Win! Sometimes I’ve quashed the whining by getting her orange soda or chocolate milk. Sigh…. one day.

        • Omdg says:

          **sorry this was meant for the previous comment thread

        • @Omdg- sushi! Oh well, a girl can dream. They did drink that Japanese bubble soda at Benihana.

  5. beth says:

    Sometimes worse than the food aspect with my kids and restaurants is all the waiting (before ordering, after ordering and after eating). Mine are (still!) very fidgety and handsy when they have to wait in restaurants. This results in a high degree of knocking things over, spilling and bumping into things. It’s pretty torturous. Figuring out how we are going to do food/meals while traveling was fun in the pre-kids era and is now really difficult.

  6. Catherine says:

    For fidgety kids – my boss introduced me to a game called Zigity which he used to entertain his kids when waiting in restaurants – he keeps the tin in the car so it’s always handy and the kids have to stop playing when the food comes.

    It’s fun for all ages (as the ads say!) and makes the waiting time go fast. I think even the 2 year old would be able to play with a little help from mama.

    https://www.amazon.com/Cranium-102020001-100E-Zigity-Tin/dp/B0006842B4

  7. Jennie says:

    My 2 oldest are foodies and up for adventure. My youngest was sent to humble me into realizing I just got lucky with the other 2. For real, this kid won’t eat mashed potatoes if you call them creamed potatoes.
    However, in an effort to encourage my youngest to try foods I got a subscription to Universal Yums. Yes, its snack foods, No, it’s not exactly the same. My thought was the novelty of trying new candy/snack foods might encourage him in trying other new foods. Three months in and I’m not sure if its the box or not, but we have made strides. While in DC, he had McDonalds while we ate at funky food trucks. BUT, he did try the lamb gyro and said it wasn’t bad.
    I almost passed out.
    Last night he tried a dip I was making for a party. (I lied and called it bacon dip instead of BLT dip) He tried it, liked it, and ate so much I had to make more. Here’s hoping!

    • @Jennie- progress! And I like the idea of flexing that try-new-things muscle with snacks/junk food. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

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