Fear. It is the only word that accurately describes the look a host gives us when my sisters and I go out to eat with our children. I was thinking about this the other night, as I drove home from a glorious, childfree, dinner with Cassie and Brittany. I love, love, love being with Riley, Bode, and Rowan (Cassie’s sweet bundle), but it is essential for my own mental health and well-being to have a meal, adult conversation, and margaritas once in a while with just my sisters.
Our dinner was leisurely and carefree. The only tough decision I had to make was whether I wanted my margarita on the rocks with salt or sugar. And that was a no-brainer, salt of course.
Leisurely is not the word I would use to describe a normal dinner out with my children. Although enjoyable (most of the time), it takes proper preparation, patience, and alcohol.
This is what it typically looks like….
The six of us enter the restaurant like an animal stampede. Cassie is holding Rowan’s carseat and diaper bag. I am holding Bode’s carseat, diaper bag, and Riley’s “going out to eat bag.” Brittany, bless her, is usually running after Riley (or running back to the car, because clearly joining us was a poor decision), as she darts into the restaurant’s dining room screaming, “we sit here?”
Host: “Hi, how many?” she asks, as she watches Riley dart from table to table until Brittany, Cassie, or I can get a firm, guiding hand on her.
Me: Three adults, two car seat-slings, and a high chair.
Riley: <<howling>> “I sit in a big girl chair.”
Me: <<sigh>> “Ok, no high chair.”
Host: “Mmmhmm. Give me a second” as she backs away from us, a little too quickly, in my opinion.
She comes back a few moments later and we follow her into the dining room. Riley reaches for the host’s hand, which makes me smile and shudder all at the same time (it’s a germ|ocd thing). She can be such a sweetpea when she wants to be.
We make it to a table and attempt to settle in. Riley immediately starts unwrapping everyone’s silverware and tossing the contents, including the knives, around the table, while singing to herself, “we don’t play with knives, we play with spoons and forks. We don’t play with knives, we play with spoons and forks.”
The waitress arrives with waters, which are quickly moved to the opposite side of the table from where Riley is seated. I still can’t comprehend why anyone would think that putting a full glass of liquid in front of a toddler is a good idea.
The waitress asks if we would like anything else to drink.
Riley: “ I want milk! With a straw!” She says excitedly.
Me: “What do we say?”
The waitress smiles and nods her head.
The three of us order beers out of total necessity and start scanning the menu. I’ve quickly learned that we only have about an hour before Riley gets completely restless and unable to stay in her seat. The clock is ticking.
I unload my bag of “goodies” onto the table and she starts building me a garage out of Legos, her favorite thing to do, while simultaneously squeezing go-gurt into her mouth. I have to say, the girl has skills, maybe a future architect?
Bode throws his wubanub, “sally,” onto the floor and starts to cry. I start digging through my bag for the bottle that I packed and hand it to him. He lets out a squeal and starts sucking it down, almost as ferociously as I am downing my switchback.
The waitress comes back and we order. I see her eyes scan the table which is now covered in opened sugar packets and their contents, along with a floor that is collecting napkins, a discarded yogurt pouch from Riley, along with the three knives she deemed unfit (parenting win) to play with earlier.
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll clean up before we leave.” I say to her.
She smiles and says “oh, no problem,” when really she is probably thinking, “Yea, you will!”
The next 30 minutes go by in a blur of chaos. The food comes; Riley spills her milk on the floor in a fit of rage, because she is not ready to put her Legos away; and Bode empties his car seat of every toy given to him, and is now crying, because he is tired, and he hates to be tired – I feel ya, buddy.
Riley loudly announces that she doesn’t like the pizza and that she wants mac n cheese, while standing on her chair rubbing her belly and yelling “ I hungry.”
Me: “Riley, I need you to sit on your bottom. Standing on chairs is not a smart choice.”
Me: “Yes, please. We need to listen and eat some dinner or we are going to have to go out to the car for a break.”
She sits down reluctantly, takes one bite of her pizza, and with a full mouth says, “I all done?”
At this point, I am too tired to argue. “Sure,” I say, reminding myself that she did get some nutrition from the yogurt and milk she drank earlier. Riley goes back to playing with her Legos, as I take a few bites of my own pizza and a very long sip of my beer.
We finish up. The waitress brings the check, which Riley immediately colors on, as I get on my hands and knees to clean up the makeshift landfill that has been created under our table. I get everything up off the floor, with the exception of some crushed baby puffs, sugar packets, and spit-up from Bode (the child cannot eat any solid foods without vomiting- yay for us).
We leave a generous tip and get ready to leave. I get Riley into her coat, hat and mittens and ask her to stay put, as I put on my own jacket. We head toward the door ,where we give hugs and part ways.
Five minutes later, both kids are strapped into their car seats and I am oh so ready to get home, pour a glass of wine, and sit in complete silence on the couch.
As I start to put the car into reverse I hear Riley from the back seat.
Riley: <<sucking her thumb>> “Momma?”
Me: “Yes, my love?”
Riley: “ I hungry. I need a snack.”
I immediately face-plant into the steering wheel, because there are no words or at least no nice words to say at this moment. I contemplate launching into a speech about how it is important to eat dinner and that we can’t have snacks whenever we want, but by the time I look into the back seat she is already asleep.
I smile at her cuteness and the pure innocence of a sleeping toddler. I put on the radio; enjoying the rare moment of listening to regular music instead of the children’s songs we usually listen to, and think to myself, life is hard, but good, oh so good.