I used to love going out to dinner. There is just something so invigorating about treating yourself to a meal that you do not cook, filled with ingredients that you do not have in the fridge, and topped off with a dessert that you did not have to prepare. Not to mention the satisfying, albeit over-priced cocktails and the ability to skip out on the cleanup portion of dinner. Heaven.
And then I had kids. To be fair, the terrible public dining age does go away, and before my second child was born, we had many a pleasant meal at a restaurant with our preschooler. And then we started all over again with Sophie. There is a brief honeymoon stage when it is advisable to go out to dinner as frequently as possible- I often sat in a restaurant booth, draped in a conspicuous nursing cover, carefully shoveling in forkfuls of pasta over my baby who was asleep on my boob. But that doesn’t last forever. In fact, once the public dining honeymoon stage has passed, it becomes decidedly un-fun to take your mobile child almost anywhere. Except to their grandparents’ house- after you peel out of the driveway alone.
My husband and I, foolish saps that we are, repeatedly succumb to the delusion that it is fun to take our two daughters on weekend getaways to the mountains. It was nary two months ago that I Live-Tweeted our plunge into Sound Puzzle-Kidz Bop Hell, and yet just weeks later, off we went on a two-day, one-night excursion through Rocky Mountain National Park.
To be fair, we actually had a lot of fun in the car, and there was minimal whining and virtually no hysterical sobbing. When we arrived at our destination, things took a turn for the worst. As in, a U-Turn into the Tenth Level of Hell. Our problems all started with one poor choice: We decided we’d take the girls to our favorite BBQ restaurant.
The problem with taking your kids to eat in public boils down to two words. Expectations and Disappointment. As in, you expect to enjoy your digestive experience with a modicum of dignity, and you are tremendously disappointed when your kids turn your baby-back-rib consumption into a bitter battle with indigestion, thanks to your humiliation-fueled food shoveling.
I have written about this before: it seems I did not learn my lesson from 5 Reasons I Never Want To Eat at a Restaurant With My Children Again. Apparently I am a glutton for punishment. I’ll tell you what I’m not- a glutton for actual food. Because when you eat at a restaurant with your children, expecting to enjoy your food is a rookie, jackass mistake. Unless, as mentioned, you are eating with one hand while cradling a baby who is asleep while latched onto your boob, your meal is not going to be savored slowly. (Who would have though I would one day long for the day when I dropped Chicken Marsala down my Hooter Hider and onto my infant’s head? Those were simpler times.)
The night of our ill-fated mountain dinner, it took approximately 14 prompts from my husband and me to coax our six year old away from her Junie B Jones book and out the door of our hotel room to go to said BBQ joint. She of course ignored our repeated suggestions to use the bathroom. Once we arrived, I was inspired to write this tweet, thanks to the pace of my toddler who was clearly in no hurry to eat ribs and baked beans:
I think toddlers should be called dawdlers instead. If you have somewhere you need to be and have an unrestrained toddler- my condolences.
— Mommy, for real. (@MommyisForReal) July 15, 2013
We sat down, ordered (after thrusting the kids’ menu on top of our sullen daughter’s Junie B book- I suppose there are worse things than dining with a bookworm, no?) and made the mistake of ordering beers for ourselves. When exactly did we think we would be graced with the time to savor alcoholic beverages? I promptly realized I’d forgotten Sophie’s bib in the car, and thought I would generously allow my husband five minutes of uninterrupted beer drinking and take her along with me to retrieve it.
As soon as we set foot outside, my wandering tyrant barreled away from me, began scooping up gravel, and went all “limp baby” on me when I tried to lift her.My husband saw me struggling and brought her back inside while I went to the car. Much. Faster. We did tag-team beer drinking after that; I took my turn with my two kids on the sidewalk first, and when he came outside and asked if I wanted to switch, I nodded gratefully and returned to my beer. No sooner than I had opened up Twitter on my iPhone and took two measly swigs of beer did I spot the three of them returning to the booth. I may have actually muttered, “WTF?” aloud, so thoroughly disgruntled was I.
“Poop!” Sophie announced proudly. Of course. I had just sat down alone, and she needed to poop. I sighed, rummaged around in my purse, and found that there were no pull-ups to be found. My husband gamely volunteered to return to the minivan yet again, fetch a pull-up, and take her to the family restroom in the park. As soon as they left, our food arrived, and I said a silent prayer of thanks to the food gods. I would have at least seven minutes alone to enjoy my ribs and corn bread. And beer! Hallelujah!
“I need to go potty,” my six year old whined. I slammed down my fork. “No!” I snapped. “Daddy and I asked you to go four times before we left, and we are not leaving the table now with all our food here. You’re just going to have to wait!” She sulked miserably and then announced that she hated her pizza. Meanwhile, I was forcing myself to enjoy giant mouthfuls of mashed potatoes, akin to Clark Griswold informing his disheartened family members that they were going to have the “Hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Fuckin’ Kaye!”
The proud pooper and papa returned, and my heroic husband offered to take our oldest to the restroom, perhaps noticing my sticky hands and the fact that I had not yet used the provided moist towelette. Really, it made more sense for him to go. (And yes, he is awesome.) After 45 seconds, Sophie announced that she was “Ah done!” with her mac and cheese. Of course. Of course she was all done. During our final nine minutes at the table, Izzy pouted, fretted, and refused to eat any of the food we offered from our own plates, and I held up the iPhone with one hand for my wee narcissist to watch videos of herself while I gulped beer with my other. I would have loved to have seen a photo of myself in that moment, captioned of course with “Mother of the Year.”
As my husband desperately heaped mounds of our uneaten food into to-go boxes, I began to get the giggles in an unconscious effort to counteract his understandably surly mood. As we stepped outside and Sophie attempted to once again careen towards freedom, I tried to lighten the mood by noting, “I am starting to understand why people put leashes on their todd- OHMYGOD, NO!” Sophie had picked up a cigarette butt and was moving it towards her mouth in slow motion. With the other hand, she threw a rock at her big sister. “Can we go to the park now, Mommy?” Izzy chirped happily. Though I managed to bite my tongue, there were only two words that sprang to mind: Hell. No.
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