Thursday, August 6, 2009

Any one with children can tell you precisely how difficult it is to take them to a restaurant. Before you have kids it’s different. Some people, if there are kids dining nearby, turn a blind eye. Some roll their eyes and act disgusted in general. Then you have things and kids change. You can no longer order margaritas to go with your steak. Because the kids might think it’s juice, insist on having some, get told no and a tantrum ensues. Also due to the fact that you can’t order steak anymore because you have to order chicken fingers or something else that your child won’t spit out half-chewed.

If you aren’t watchful, when you redirect your gaze, you will turn back to find a naked salad because your child has managed to suck the dressing off of all the lettuce and thoughtfully replace that lettuce. You really have to pay close attention. If you don’t, you may end up battling for control of the fork that your kid swiped from your plate, inevitably getting stabbed in the arm.

Regardless of all the pitfalls of taking kids out to eat, it could be worse. It could be near bedtime and they could be tired. Then it really gets fun. That’s what happened the last time my family went out.

We went to eat at your ordinary bucolic steakhouse. While we were waiting we realized that it was about 15 minutes until Connor (16 months) was to go to bed. I wanted to leave but Dave insisted that we stay and eat. He did regret saying this, mind you.

Once we were seated, Connor began voicing his dissatisfaction with the high chair. While I would have liked to have heard “Mother, I am not comfortable sitting on this stool being restrained by a seat belt. I would like to run and frolic”, that’s not what came out. What came out was not English, but whatever he said he definitely meant it. He then proceeded to try to snatch the tablecloth off the table.

Desperate for a distraction, I opened the child’s menu/coloring book. I pulled out the crayons and handed one to him. At this point I disregard the fact that Connor has never come in contact with a crayon before. I place the red crayon in his hand and curl his chubby little digits around it, moving it back and forth on the paper, scribbling. And true to form, he promptly took a chunk out of it and proceeded to chew. Dave stuck a finger in Connor’s mouth and raked out the wax.

Drinks were ordered, drinks arrived followed by bread. Dave is touchy about Connor drinking from his glass, even though he has mastered the straw. The issue here is a little phenomenon we refer to as baby backwash. This is not normal backwash. With children this can contain entire bites of food and, in Connor’s case, usually does. This makes Dave squeamish apparently. It doesn’t bother me so I have to share my drink. Not to say that I enjoy getting grains of rice mixed in with my tea, but I won’t make a big deal of it.

I pulled off little bites from the bread and rubbed them on the accompanying ramekin of butter. Connor’s mouth was open before it had even gotten to him, bits of red crayon still stuck in his teeth. After putting the bread in his mouth, I perused the crayon wrapper looking for the magic words ‘non-toxic’, which I found.

It was about this time that Sully, previously quiet and docile in his car seat, decided that he wanted to be held. Right then. Dave picked him up as he started to cry. Connor then began to get upset. He no longer wanted anything to do with bread or tasty crayons, and began to come unhinged. We had already ordered but the food had not yet come. Dave, Sully in hand, trekked back to the kitchen to find our waitress to tell her to box up the food. On the way, he passed the guy carrying our food. So we had to try to keep everybody happy as we waited for the boxes.

Half an hour past his bedtime, Connor was freaking out. Then Dave started to lose it. I told him to load up the babies and I would take care of everything else. So Dave, with Sully and Connor in hand, exited the building, somewhat relieved. The boxes and check came at the same time. I sent the payment with her before she could even leave the table. I scraped all the food into the boxes, eradicating the plating and sighing. Oh, to eat a whole meal in a restaurant with no crayon appetizers or baby backwash.

The things we take for granted.

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