I have better odds of being invited to sing at the Superbowl than I do of having a successful meal out with two toddlers. As soon as everyone’s butt hits the seats the clock is running. How fast can we place the order? How disgusting are the high chairs? Don’t order anything with beef — it takes too long to cook. Can we get the kids’ meals first? Tick, tick, tick…where the hell is our food? T-minus four minutes until one or both kids lose it. Fidgets become whines. Whines beget raised voices. Raised voices bloom into wails…and we’re done.
If we really want to stick it out, one parent will pace outside with a disgruntled kid. The other parent will wolf down food and feel guilty that s/he actually gets to eat while the other has cry patrol. Then switch.
We aren’t the type to let our kids’ hissy fits ruin everyone else’s meal. This means that every trip is a game of Beat the Clock. Some days are a surprising success, others end in shame and misery as we drag screaming children to the car, longing for the hot meal unceremoniously dumped in a doggie bag.
An article caught my eye this week about a waitress who gave a family a discount because their children were especially well-behaved. The article talks about the dangers of wait staff weilding such power and judgement over families. I wasn’t that fussed. I know tables with children are a disorganized mess. We often split dishes, bring havoc into the seating area, and leave behind disgusting tabletops and floors. I try to tip extra to make up for it, but I know we’re a pain in the ass. If a waitress wants to give a family a discount because they spared her the stress of unruly short people, that’s okay by me.
I remember the meal when I knew my placid times at restaurants were over. The kids and I met my friend and her baby for an afternoon in the park, followed by lunch at a Mexican place. No sooner had we sat down than Cade started slipping the baby tortilla chips. The poor baby had just started solids, and wasn’t quite ready for chips and salsa. When I pulled him out of sharing range, there was fidgeting, then squirming, then whining. I took him out of the high chair to sit him on my lap, and he took off running down the aisle towards the kitchen. I caught up with him just before he burst through the kitchen doors. He veered left and darted into the bar. Which, of course, left my poor friend to look over Grady while I chased my little maniac around the restaurant (apologies, Sabeans!).
There will be a time when we can all eat out together like civilized people. The four of us will chat about world events and the state of the dollar versus the euro, and then enjoy a pleasant ride home in our flying car. Just like the Jetsons.