Monday, June 23, 2008

Children’s Menus Are My Friends

I don’t want my baby to grow up. And not just for the normal reasons, like hormones, teenage angst, driver’s license agonies, and dating.

No, my concern is much bigger: I don’t want him to stop ordering off the children’s menu.

Yep, that’s right. I’m that shallow.

I like that he’s still 9 and still content with mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and burgers. That makes me happy—and not just because it only costs $5 (although that is certainly a nice bonus). My main problem is that once he starts ordering off the adult menu, it’s going to be a lot harder controlling the cross-contamination with nuts.

After all these years of navigating kids’ menus, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with where we can eat and what he can order. And the chance of cross-contamination is minimal – when they dump frozen nuggets onto a plate and microwave it, there’s a lot less chance that they will somehow mix with the walnut-vinaigrette dressing on the adult salad.

But now that he’s getting older and more adventurous in his eating habits (“Look, Mom, they have grilled shrimp!”), the possibility of his food coming into contact with nuts will begin to go up dramatically.

When he was really little, the only foods he ate were Cheerios, grapes, and chicken nuggets. Every night for a whole week in Hawaii when he was 2, I cooked chicken nuggets in the hotel microwave, cut them up, put them in a baggie, and took them with us to restaurants. He was happy with his baggie of chicken, and his dad and I dined on lovely restaurant fare in peace.

That was easy.

Now I realize that soon he’s not going to be satisfied with a hot dog from the children’s menu when he knows there’s a sirloin steak on the very next page. I guess I knew that this time would come eventually. It was too much to ask that he would go off to college with a box of baggies and a Costco bag of nuggets.

Last night, we went to a barbeque place for dinner, and I asked the server about the barbeque sauce, the meat, and all the places where nuts might be lurking. My son loves barbequed meat, so I knew I had to be prepared for him to tackle the adult side of the menu.

Then what does he do? Orders a bowl of mac and cheese.

Maybe I’ve got another year or two before my baby grows up, after all.

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