I KNOW my kids will grow up far too quickly; and before I know it I’ll once again be eating hot meals, drinking hot cups of tea, and having uninterrupted conversation. But I’d like to take a few minutes to mourn the [temporary] demise of Relaxing Lunch-dates.
Gone are the days of meeting up with girlfriends at a fancy restaurant; catching up on all the latest goss and solving the world’s problems; while enjoying a delicious HOT meal. Instead of being the relaxing affair it once was; it’s now an anxiety inducing, messy, rushed and exhausting MARATHON.
First, one must consider the venue:
I will need a enough space between tables to manoeuvre and park a pram (and possibly my girlfriend’s pram too).
The venue must serve meals suitable for children, eg., hot chips; bread; hot chips and sauce; toasted sandwich; hot chips and nuggets; or packets of butter.
Ideally, the venue will provide toys – because regardless of the number of toys/colouring books and pencils/puzzles I bring from home; other peoples toys are always 100% more fun.
Play equipment is an absolute bonus; as is some sort of fencing to keep the little DARLINGS and their mess contained.
Friendly staff are always good too – ones who resist the urge to glare in my direction every time someone squawks. One’s than can handle seeing the mess unfold and trust that I will do everything in my power to leave the premiss in a somewhat reasonable condition.
I like to consider the comfort of other patrons too – those who are enjoying hot meals and conversation. So if there’s a table shoved waaaaaaaaaaaay down the back; around a corner; perhaps in a sound-proof box – that is absolutely seen as a bonus (for everyone involved).
So with all those things considered, that leaves us with the Mc Donalds play cafe; one of the local pubs; or eating in the car.
And a typical lunch goes something like this:
We arrive; bashing through the doors with an overloaded pram, crying baby and skipping toddler.
Squealed greetings between toddlers. Understanding, sigh-of-relief ‘hello’ between myself and girlfriend/s.
Order food before sitting down – lets get this over and done with. Hot chips for the kids, and something that can be eaten one handed for the mothers.
Find a table and unpack essentials – kids drink bottles, crayons, paper, car keys (for a speedy get-away), packet of wipes, spew rag for baby, phone (in case of emergency/cute photo opportunity), teething toy, four shells and a feather.
Toddlers up-end provided toy basket and begin fighting over a sticky, broken toy.
Food arrives – kids are STARVING. But it’s too hot. One of them burns their tongue. We manage to convince toddlers to play for a few more minutes while their food cools down. I endure the pain and scoff down a couple of mouthfuls of boiling hot food – who knows when/if I’ll have a chance to eat the rest.
Baby is being passed around between adults, but now no one can soothe her – she’s hungry too. I put her on the boob for a drink. Just as my let-down kicks in, she gets distracted by a toddler and pulls away from my boob – allowing milk to spray freely over the table and the person next to me.
I reattach Baby to Boob. The toddler is all of a sudden BUSTING, and is about two seconds away from shitting her pants. I rip the baby (and most of my nipple) from the boob and thrust her in the arms of an understanding girlfriend. Grabbing the toddler by the hand I attempt to lead her to the toilet – she denies the need to defecate (despite quite obviously turtle-necking in the knicker department) – I scoop her up and carry her yelling, thrashing and farting to the cubicles. Everyone in the restaurant gives me the hairy-eyeball.
We argue for 10 minutes about the skiddy in her knickers and its obvious indication of her need to poop. She finally gives in and craps (after I promise her desert), and we high-tail it out of the toilets and back to the table.
I inform the toddler that she can now begin her lunch as it has cooled sufficiently. She is no longer hungry.
Shovel in two more mouthfuls of my own lunch, and swallow without chewing. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Finish feeding the baby, while simultaneously drying the toddler who has spilt her drink all down her front.
Baby is now tired. I stand up and begin rocking her to sleep – leaning over and taking a few more sneaky mouthfuls of cold lunch. Toys are strewn all over the floor and it’ll take approximately three days for the toddlers to pack them up – better start now.
Toddlers pick up one toy each – mothers pack up the rest. The waitress comes to retrieve plates and the toddler almost bursts into tears at the thought of her untouched food being taken away. Waitress leaves empty handed. Toddler eats three chips and the bowl of sauce.
Things are going relatively smoothly – no one has broken anything and everyone has managed to put something in their belly. It’s time to leave before shit hits the fan.
All of our belongings are thrown haphazardly into the pusher; the baby and toddler are strapped in. I take one last mouthful of cold, stodgy food as we are heading towards the door.
As we’re about to part ways, my friend/s and I realise that the only conversation we’ve had has been: “Sit down. Not too loud. Be careful. Don’t put that near your face, please. Play nicely. Please share. Not on the table. Sit in your chair, please. Sit on your bottom. SIT DOWN!” . So we quickly blurt out as much as we possibly can before the kids start throwing themselves about.
We say a hurried goodbye to our friends and begin the task of getting everything and everyone into the car.
The toddler is now STARVING and eats three boxes of sultanas.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the Maccas drive-through.