We eat out because sometimes it is nice not to have to cook. Or to lay the table, wash the dishes or chop vegetables. It provides a perfect chance to sit back and relax, maybe with a drink or two, then leave with full bellies after a lovely evening. It gives you a chance to talk to your other half and actually listen to what each other is saying, without the distraction of the TV or emails to answer. If you are wanting to achieve any of the above, then I recommend you don’t eat out with kids.
You see, eating out with kids is a different ball game. It isn’t relaxing. I still find myself laying the table about five times as various bits of cutlery and placemats get moved around. My husband and I still can’t finish a conversation without one of us having to do the toilet trip or climb under the table to retrieve a bit of food or unwanted toy that was brought along in the hopes of distraction.
Everything starts off well…
We have the idea at some point in the afternoon when we realise neither of us can be bothered to cook/wash up etc that evening. “Let’s go out for tea!” we will say excitedly. After some careful planning of where to go that is “child friendly”, we decide what time would be best to eat. Obviously we still want to be back home for the whole bath/bedtime routine so can’t go out too late. We tell the children (Charlie gets excited while Phoebe really isn’t bothered because she is one and as long as she gets fed, is happy.) After making sure we look presentable, not too much effort but enough to make it look like we have our act together, we are ready to go.
Packing The Bag…
Remember the days when you used to grab your keys, purse, phone and go out the door? Hmm I struggle to remember them too. Before we can leave the house now, I pack The Bag. Nappies, wipes, change of clothes, sippy cup (for Phoebe), sharks (for Charlie), crayons, paper, a book etc. You know, all the eating out essentials. It is at this point I have my first wobble and start to think: “Is this really a good idea?”. But no. Everyone is looking forward to it now so we must go out or face tantrums.
Arriving at the venue…
A child friendly pub or restaurant has been selected. On most occasions we will opt for somewhere we have been before. This means we know the menu and the layout of the eatery. We might even have a favourite spot where we always sit. (Usually on a big table in a corner so as not to disturb other people.) But when you get there and walk in, you can’t help but feel all eyes are on you as the couples or groups of friends watch in anticipation. Is that family with the children going to sit next to us?! Trying to ignore the watchful eyes we hastily find somewhere to sit then try to locate a highchair. More wandering around feeling self conscious.
Eating our meal…
By now we have, of course, realised that our idea of a nice tea out isn’t going to be as relaxing as we thought. Please don’t get me wrong. Our two children are actually very well behaved and we love doing things as a family. However, rearranging glasses and knives so they are as far away as possible from the baby and trying to find something our fussy eater will eat, is not relaxing. Phoebe is also now very sociable and will sit, shouting “Hiya!” to anyone in sight. This is often met by a few aww’s or even a “Hiya” back, but as soon as people realise she is then going to sit and repeat it constantly, they turn around and you know you have to try to get her to be a bit quieter.
We pray the food comes quickly, we then eat the food quickly and before you know it, its time to leave. Because when you finish a meal with kids, you can’t sit and mull over the dessert menu. You can’t stay for another drink, (unless there is a play park and you take it in turns with your other half, going outside with the children while the other sits smugly for all of five minutes). Like I say, both our children are well behaved but they get bored/tired/annoying and eventually everyone just wants to go home.
You arrive home and your immediate thoughts are: well that was a waste of money.
But it wasn’t really.
You spent time together as a family. There was excitement, food and a change of scene.
More importantly, you have come home to no dishes and worn out children.
So was it worth it?
I think so.