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Going out to eat with kids gets easier—even if it doesn't seem like it right now

Recently, I took my two children, ages 5 and 6, to eat lunch at a sit-down restaurant. The kids were happy because they got to eat pancakes for lunch, and I was happy to have a break from my kitchen.

While we waited for our food, we planned an outdoor adventure for the rest of the afternoon and colored the paper placemats provided by the restaurant. There were a few moments of frustration over who won tic-tac-toe and who had the blue crayon, but overall is was a pleasant lunch.

When our meal was over, I asked the waitress for our check, but she told me that it was already paid for.

“What? Really? Who?" I stuttered. I was shocked. Before this, no one had ever randomly paid for my meal.

“They didn't want to say," she said but then nodded toward an older couple in a booth behind us.

Of course, I had to approach the couple and thank them. When I asked if they had covered my bill, the man responded with a sly smile, “Oh, I wouldn't do something like that... But, if I did, it would be because your children are so well-behaved."

And I thought I was shocked before!

My children? Well-behaved in a restaurant? Immediately my mind flashed to dozens of other restaurant experiences, ones mostly ending (or beginning!) in tantrums and tears and spilled sodas and thrown food.

I simply smiled, thanked the couple again, and then returned to my table. I encouraged my children to go over and thank the couple because they treated us to lunch. My children were full of questions, but waved to them and called, "Have a nice day" in their sing-songy voices.

Walking out of the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. The fact that they paid for our meal was so generous and unexpected; however, their kind words meant even more.

I felt like I had won some sort of mom award. Someone actually thought my children were well behaved in a restaurant. My children. The same ones that used to throw french fries and refuse to come out from under the table. Amazing.

In the car, the kids and I plotted ways we could spread kindness to someone else. They spouted out some ridiculous ideas like, "buy Daddy a boat" and "buy someone Disney tickets!"

However, I already knew how I wanted to pay it forward. I won't pass this along to the mom with the well-behaved children. No, I'm going to pass this along to the mom struggling in the restaurant. You know, the one trying to feed her crying baby and grab the ketchup bottle out of her toddler's grasp?

You see, I've been there. I know that a little support can go a long way. But, since I can't treat every mom to lunch, I hope this at least gives many a glimmer of hope.

So, listen up...

... Mothers dodging spoons thrown from restaurant highchairs.

... Mothers attempting to fit an infant carrier into a too narrow booth while her toddler knocks down all of the sugar packets.

... Mothers using every available napkin to mop up yet another spill.

... Mothers kneeling on hands and knees looking for the green crayon that rolled under the table and is desperately needed to complete the coloring page RIGHT NOW!

... Mothers avoiding eye contact of every other patron as her child throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the restaurant.

... Mothers forced to just stay, "I'll take that to go" as soon as the food arrives because her baby just had a blowout and the diaper bag seems to be missing an extra outfit.

... Mothers gently tugging on arms and using threats of no screen time to the child who refuses to come out from under the table.

It will get easier one day. Stay strong. Keep going out.

Although it may seem pointless, continue trying to teach your children manners while dining out. Continue to resist relying too heavily on your cell phone or tablet for entertainment. One day you will want to have a conversation over a meal and this does not happen overnight. Like all good things, it will take time.

But, it will happen.

Maybe not right away. And, it probably won't be perfect for a long time. Although that kind couple may not have noticed, we still struggle in restaurants. My son may not pull all of the napkins out of the dispenser anymore, but he continues to avoid eating with utensils at all costs and spends most of our restaurant time picking the breading off of his chicken strips.

The changes in behavior will be gradual, and you may not even notice until someone actually notices for you—a compliment from the server, an absence of glares from other patrons or someone treating you to lunch.

When this happens, you will think you won the game of motherhood. Although you will not be handed a trophy, bask in the glory of the moment and accept the compliments with a smile. You deserve it.

Original story by Sarah Clouser for Moms & Stories.

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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