Going out to eat used to be a special treat for my husband and I… a date. a get-away. a moment to connect without having to do the dishes.
and then we had children.
Going out to eat with a 2 and a half year old and a soon to be 1 year old is anything but relaxing or easy. It is a rarity for us to go out to eat and often times I wonder why don’t we go out? The logical answer is that we are trying to save up some money and we live in a small town with limited choices… but the reality is, we do not go out because when we do, it goes like this:
Upon arrival, we have to be seated in booth where we can trap our daughter and we need a high chair for our son. Our daughter then externally deals with her internal struggle about sitting with mom or in a high chair like her brother. We also have to shuffle around our bag of distractions and our mammoth amount of layers to help us survive the sub-zero temperatures that we live in.
After we have our seating arrangements taken care of, we begin to look at the menu. Little Man has already licked the menu twice and thrown it on the floor. Now, he is after the knife and fork that is rolled up innocently into a napkin. Little Miss is standing on the booth and attempting to open each sugar packet. We redirect her to a conversation on what she should get to eat. This begins a lengthy discussion on the difference between grilled cheese and the other options. It normally ends with us deciding on grilled cheese, as this is likely to make the least amount of mess.
As soon as the waitress comes over Little Miss asks for milk, to which the waitstaff always brings chocolate milk and Little Miss gives a look of disgust to this other milk. We then have to ask for “white milk please.” The milk always comes with a straw, which Little Miss has not fully mastered when she is sitting lower than the table, so by the time we have had a chance to decide what we are going to order, she is covered in milk and Little Man has eaten half of the paper placement. <we go to high-end restaurants>
Drinks have been received and spilled. Orders have been placed. Now the hard work begins: keeping the littles occupied until food comes. We frantically pull out each toy from our gigantic bag of distractions, eager to make each one the most exciting thing our children have ever seen. This is always a fail. It is about this time that Little Miss kicks off her boots and begins to shake salt onto the table. We cannot remember the last time we went out when Little Miss kept her boots on for the entire meal. We have fought the fight and lost the battle. Realistically, these winter boots hardly stay on at all.
Little Man begins screaming like a fierce dinosaur chasing innocent prey. We frantically search for anything we can safely put in his mouth to calm the screaming. He is not screaming out of anger. He just enjoys making sounds. Loud, screeching, gastly sounds.
Enter the adorable couple who horrifyingly sees that the hostess is leading them directly into our doom and they politely (urgently) ask to be seated elsewhere. Well played, adorable couple. Well played.
“Poop! Poop!” Little Miss screams while holding her bottom. Thus begins the fun game of “so bored, I should explore the potty.” My husband and I take turns taking her to the bathroom. Often times she runs ahead of us, boots still under the table, grabbing her bottom, screaming “poop!” Very appetizing to all who are around. We have the struggle of deciding whether to keep taking her to the bathroom or risk the chance she might actually poop her pants. Often times the thought of her pooping her pants in public is enough to keep taking her back to the bathroom. (We do live in a small town.)
Finally, our food arrives. We scramble to cut up the grilled cheese so that we can stop the dinosaur screeches and calm the “poop” talk. Little Man eats like a champ and I can hardly keep up cutting. Little Miss takes one bite and then decides if she is going to eat it or not. This is hit or miss for us. Sometimes, she eats beautifully, other times she takes one bite, screams “yucky!” and then points to everyone who is “eat too?”
My husband and I try to eat our meal, while it is still hot, because we are paying for it. Sometimes, when both children are eating amazingly, this is a success. Other times, when children aren’t eating amazingly (looking at you Little Miss), one of us ends up with a toddler on our lap, trying to distract, while the other eats and then we switch. Again, we pay for this.
Once we finish eating, we have to wait for the waitress to bring our bill or to take our payment. During this wait period the dinosaur screams start up again and Little Miss now stands up in the booth and is trying to touch the people who unfortunately were seated behind us. One of us tries to keep the children reigned in, while the other picks up the pieces of grilled cheese and other food objects from the floor.
We hastily pack up our items, our children, and leave an extra tip for our mess. We make our way out of the restaurant, one caring the baby, the other caring the thrashing toddler and having a conversation on the importance of listening and being kind.
Everyone is buckled and we pull out of the restaurant. We take a deep breath, look at each other and say, we pay for this?
So maybe there is a reason we do not go out much.
We can just make grilled cheese at home.