I love eating out. I love the experience of deliberating over the menu, conferring with your company to make sure you all order something different so as to enjoy a taste-fest; enjoying the banter between courses, basking in the rare opportunity to criticise or complement someone else’s cooking. I take pleasure in sharing a meal with someone I like, without competition from the TV, or the ringing phone or the neighbours barking dog. FAST FORWARD to two babies later.
We avoid restaurants like the plague. We turn down invitations hastily, we avoid food courts at the shopping malls in case we are hijacked by an instant desire to eat, we look the other way when we see a family with older children seemingly enjoying meal time at a once loved restaurant. To put this into context for you.. trying to have a meal with two small babies in an unfamiliar setting can be likened to sawing your arm off without anaesthetic – messy and painful. It wasn’t always like this, when Liam was about 15 or 16 months old, and Hannah was still a newborn who spent the better part of a 24 hour day asleep, it was still manageable. Liam would still throw food around, spill at least two drinks per meal and break the restaurant issued crayons into a gazillion pieces, but at least there were still two pairs of hands to contain and curb his enthusiasm. The problem really started when Hannah became more of a human and less of a corpse who just laid there all day.
Liam would demand to be taken to the play area (we had long since resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d only frequent restaurants where “people with a taste for life” went) and being the over protective parent that I am, I would insist that either Dad or I would have to accompany him. This left the other parent with Hannah, who would behave as if the baby chair was electrified; she preferred to sit on the table, and cause mass destruction with the cutlery, condiments and anything else in sight. We’d order our drinks and inevitably Liam or Hannah or both would knock at least one down. Liam would pull his nose up at whatever was ordered for him and point his stubby little finger at something else on that blasted kiddies menu. I’d have an internal dilemma – order it to shut him up, or show him who was boss by force feeding him. Neither option was safe, as they’d both end in a tantrum and I’d look like a loser parent. Hannah would dive into everyone’s meal with gusto, regurgitating whatever she had tried, for Mum and Dad to also taste. She’d almost sit in your plate in an effort to try everything on it. Dad and I would wolf down our food at record speed, signalling to the enquiring waiter that no, we had everything under control, there wasn’t anything to be concerned about, and could we have the bill like NOW. We’d leave the restaurant with indigestion, dishevelled, with screaming toddler and filthy gurgling infant in toe, vowing NEVER to do this again. FAST FORWARD to last weekend.
My sister and family visited this weekend and with much trepidation, we decided to eat out. Firstly, I had to ensure that my children were not too tired, not too hungry and slightly medicated (them and me), to pave the way for a semi normal eating out experience. We had avoided restaurants up until this point, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I let Liam go to the play area without adult supervision, must have been the medication? Hannah wasn’t too thrilled to be in her hot seat but settled once the food arrived, and was happy to pick at her own plate, while we enjoyed our meal. Liam gave his meal a thumbs up without any bargaining, pleading or bribery. The husband and I could eat simultaneously, while the kids busied themselves with their own food – a record first! We even had dessert! I am proud to say we survived an entire meal in a public place without much ado.
Another milestone ticked off. I experienced yet another parental heart-tug as I realised that my babies were growing, and for 0.0002 seconds I felt almost sad that my baby days were slowly coming to an end – that feeling was however swift and fleeting. I look forward to reverting to my long leisurely eating out extravaganzas, I look forward to eating at a restaurant that doesn’t have a kiddies menu or doesn’t cater for little people under one metre tall. I look forward to leaving the kids at the movies while Dad and I gaze into each other’s eyes over a focaccia sprinkled with garlic and herbs and drizzled with olive oil.. hmmm.. but for now, I’ll enjoy these small victories, one step at a time!