Shortly after the Navigator’s diagnosis on the Autism spectrum, my husband and I decided to go to dinner in celebration of Valentine’s Day. 

It had been a long time since we had a quiet dinner just the two of us, so we made arrangements for the Navigator to visit his grandparents. All was set for a nice romantic dinner.

Then the Navigator got sick.

Not seriously sick, just some coughing and stuff in his nose. We decided to not risk his grandparents getting sick and took him with us. 

When we were planning our wedding, over a decade ago, I came across a wedding-planning website which utilized message boards for ideas, support, information exchange, etc.

One of the things that stood out to me was how many brides wanted to exclude children from their weddings. The concern expressed was that the children would somehow take away from the wedding with their naturally inherent child-ness.

I was always confused by this.

First, how can a minute of a baby crying or a toddler loudly asking what was going on or when the bride and groom were going to kiss, truly take away from the beauty and specialness of the moment?

Second, how can a child learn how to behave at an important event like a wedding if they don’t get a chance to attend one?

Eating a nice restaurant is another situation children need practice with and for my child who sometimes struggled in social settings, we needed more practice.

When we arrived at the restaurant, Dad got out to get us a table while I parked the car. When my son and I entered the restaurant, we were led to our table. I saw open tables before us, heard the noisy sound of the Valentine dinner crowd, and the singing of a live entertainer with an amplified keyboard.

I was inaudibly muttering to the hostess’ back “keep going, keep going, keep going” as we wove our way through.

She kept going. She lead us to a table in a corner, out of the flow of traffic, away from the singer. It was the perfect spot. Our son chose a seat with his back to the crowd, facing a wall. I turned to my husband and murmured “this is the perfect location!”

He smiled. “I know, I asked for it.” Way to go Dad!

Sheltered from the noise and activity, the Navigator was amazing. He sat still, colored on the children’s menu he was given (dinosaurs of course!).

He ordered sparkling apple cider and did not drink it all down before his meal. When his meal arrived, an enormous steak, I cut it for him a little at a time and he ate it very nicely!

Yes, there was one moment when the fork and a piece of steak flew off the plate, landing three feet away (no one is really quite sure how it happened).

Accidents are inevitable and what you do next is key. He calmly got up, picked them up, sat down after putting them on Dad’s empty plate, got a new fork, and continued eating. Beautiful!

Practice makes all the difference!

Valentine's dinner web


  1. The no children at weddings has always baffled me as well. They only make the moment more beautiful because they symbolize the future in my eyes. I’m so glad things went well for your fancy dinner. My Daughter is pretty well mannered and I think I cold trust her. But my Son is another story, it’s gonna be awhile before we go out with him.

  2. I have to admit that it always makes me nervous when I see people bring children into restaurants. Not because I think kids are inherently badly behaved, rather because I have little faith that their parents are willing to “teach” them how to behave in public! I agree with you completely that parents must give their children the opportunity to “practice” appropriate behavior. Failing to do so only creates situations where inappropriate behavior robs others of the restaurant experience they planned on having! Have you guys had another restaurant experience since then?

  3. We really have not taken him out since then – we’ll have to try again and see how well it goes. Since it is not a linear process, we are usually ready for anything!  

  4. It is a hit or miss with my little so far with restaurants. We try so hard to get a table away from the noise, since he has sensory issues. We took him out for dinner and thank goodness could eat outside on their patio seating and he was content with his pizza and strawberries. Not to say we have haven’t had the meltdown restaurant experiences either, we usually end up getting the food to go at that point. But you got to try. Right? I am so glad you had a wonderful time!


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