Dining Out With Children : A Mother's Tale
We took the kids out for dinner last week to a proper restaurant and it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster. I am excited for a future where this can be an option for us as indoor play centres and movies about talking animals are just not cutting it anymore.
Eating out with children is not for the faint hearted (or easily embarrassed) but the promise of wearing make up and having a glass of wine thrills me and obliterates any forebodings.
We jumped the gun once last year and took our then 7, 3 and 2 year olds to an all you can eat Chinese restaurant. The waitress had no experience with kids and gave them all full to the brim glasses that inevitably spilled. She produced the supreme bargaining tool of lollipops WHILE THEY WERE EATING!!
The three of them chased each other all over the restaurant till my husband gave up and grabbed all three scoring a touchdown at the exit while I stood in full view of the astonished diners and skulled my one glass of wine before circumnavigating our enormous double buggy to the exit with a Stepford Wife smile plastered on my face.
The monsters had the cheek to say “that was fun, can we go again?” on the way home. This time we had a family occasion in a local restaurant and I spent all day preparing old school (almost) painting my nails and then smudging them.
I plucked the grey out of my eyebrows which didn’t leave much and my husband asked genuinely why I plucked them only to draw them back on…. Men!
I ironed (I never iron) shirts for the boys and even put gel in their hair... I indulged in a fantasy of the future where my three Trinity (medical) graduates would treat me to a meal somewhere fancy.. Where they would toast and thank me for all the shit (mostly literal) that I had to deal with raising them.
All the other diners would gaze on in admiration whispering “what well mannered boys” and possibly “she looks way too young and attractive to be anyone’s mother”.
I eventually got them all ready and ignored my husband’s comments on why we can’t just get a take away and how he’s not looking forward to this. I spent the walk to the restaurant repeating The Rules over and over: No fighting, no shouting, no whinging, no ice-cream till dinner is finished etc and I got asked “is biting ok?” “Can I say penis...it’s medical….no? Then willy?"
We stood outside for a few minutes while I knelt down to their level and gave a final impassioned speech “please guys... mammy never gets out... come on, be good?” They all nodded solemnly and I got a group hug. Emboldened, I opened the door and the three of them tore in as if it was Supermarket Sweep.
The five year old had his arms out perfecting a zombie walk while chanting “brains, brains”. The 8 year old shouted back that he’d been watching The Walking Dead… we now had an audience and I felt obliged to state that he had never seen the Walking Dead.
My husband chased them down, I looked at the waiter apologetically and ordered wine before we even reached the table. I was like a sheepdog guiding my kids in between tables and far away from any glassware or candles. There then followed the 10 minute coat removing/ bathroom going ceremony before I could look at a menu.
My decision was simple. fish, done. The boys meanwhile were fighting over crayons and everyone wanted the green at once. I used my nice, public mammy voice to try to diffuse the situation, smiling at the table next to me while inwardly praying to St. Jo Frost. When that didn’t work I hissed threats between my teeth that involved no sacred after dinner lollipops and my passive rage did the trick. Wine arrived… did I want to taste it?. Nope just fill my soup bowl of a glass to the top... glug.
The waitress came to take our order and the 8 year old enquired as to the availability of shark, then squid. I tried to steer him back to the kids menu but he had his heart set on calamari... I need a DNA test for this one as I spent the first 20 years of my life avoiding any food that wasn’t bread, chips or roast beef.
The 3 year old tried to order kinder surprises but was placated with sausages and the 5 year old wanted steak. The waitress raised her eyebrows and I told her he’ll eat it... my very own Ron Swanson.
Meals ordered, I tried to engage some light dinner conversation and I was met with talk of bums and snot so I looked to the husband for something more engaging but he was sipping beer and reading the news on his phone. Drinks arrived and inevitably one is spilled and I had to ask for a cloth and 500 tissues.
While cleaning, I saw a young couple eating and chatting unencumbered and had to resist an urge to warn them off kids or gloat and tell them when they are at my stage, I’ll be whooping it up on a cruise.
There was a lovely ten minutes peace as everyone ate and I basked in it, glowing with love for my little family. Then followed more toilet trips and the youngest two wanted to eat their ice-creams under the table. With a spousal glance we realised our dining experience was coming to a close… I could imagine a giant Countdown clock ticking the last minute loudly.
We called for the bill and the magic lollipop container appeared. We left smiling insanely due to the fact that nothing had been broken, food had been eaten and all in all it was a successful evening out. The kids were chatty on the way home and nobody threw each other the wrong glance or “accidentally” tripped the other up… In fact the two older boys held hands on the way home.
I must give Belvedere a call.