Meals Out with (Small) Children
‘Let's go out for lunch!’ I declared the other weekend.
Mr Unmumsy looked nervous. ‘Is that really a good idea?’
‘Probably not. But it might be fun. Let's risk it.’
Bless us. I love our optimism. Three years (and two children) into the parenting adventure and we still have selective memory. I wonder if it's an evolutionary tool? Perhaps, alongside other traumatic childcare memories, we are programmed to gloss over horrific restaurant encounters to ensure we don't all stop at one child. I mean we very nearly were a One and Done household (out of choice) and that would have been fine too, but our gut feeling was always to have another one. In for a penny and all that ...
So when we deliberate over having lunch out, we tend to recall with fondness the time the baby slept in Café Nero, or the time we actually finished a pizza because we had bribed the toddler into submission and induced an Ice Cream Factory sugar coma ... [side note: does anybody else view 'unlimited drinks/ice-cream' as a challenge? I could barely function after my fifth Pepsi re-fill and second bowl of ice-cream topped with budget dolly mixtures, but I felt that somehow Martin Lewis would have been proud of the food per fiver I'd achieved].
But eating out is a bloody mission. Best case scenario: you've packed everything you need in the change bag, the baby is having an actual nap (not on your boob), the café or restaurant is quiet, the food comes out quickly and you have a fully charged iPad or smartphone (loaded with toddler apps, naturally).
Worst case scenario: all small children are awake, you have forgotten the raisin boxes and other appropriate bribes, the iPad has crashed, the restaurant is busy and the toddler needs a poo. This is essentially what happened last time we had lunch out. Small children cannot be expected to sit still. I get that. But Jesus Christ. Entertaining two children under three while sat around a table in the middle of a busy pub should be added as the final fucking challenge on The Cube. I engaged in no actual conversation with my husband outside of 'I'll have him for a bit so you can finish your sandwich,' 'He's been sick on your shoulder,' 'Can you take him for a poo this time?' and 'Where's the bloody Angry Birds app gone?' To top it off, we paid £40 for the privilege.
But I just know the next time we toy with the idea of lunch out we will forget the spilled drinks, the shouting, the burnt fingers, the protest planking over not being allowed to eat ketchup (on its own, with a sharp knife).
And I think this amnesia is probably for the best.
I don't want us to become a family who doesn't even try. If nothing else the legacy of the table covered in crayon, sick and two thirds of our uneaten meal shows we tried. A+ for effort. And a baby and toddler meltdown outside of the house is still preferable to one inside of it, in my opinion. Not just because the public arena prevents me from shouting, ‘For God's sake will you PACK IT IN! Right, no more treats ever again!’ (as I find a treat and put Scooby Doo on) but also because these moments are the things we will laugh about in years to come. And, if truth be told, they are the things I will blog about.