Kids and restaurants. Does it work? Ever?
Can fine dining + crayons = a relaxed calm family night out?
Wherever you stand on that issue, if you do there are some things that will definitely, definitely happen.
Hopefully, it will not be as bad as it was for the family who faced a defilement charge from a Darwin restaurant against messy kids who left their prawn heads under the table.
I am about to embark on a family holiday overseas. It is going to involve several long-haul plane flights, jet lag and many, many restaurants. I am stuck right now in a form of suspended disbelief. Fooling myself into thinking it is going to be three weeks of sightseeing, new tastes and experiences.
I’m having a laugh, right?
But people try. People dine out with their kids all the time in good restaurants. I hear them, I see them. I trust them.
Kids should learn to sit still. Youngsters have to taste all sorts of flavours. My child has a sophisticated palate. We dine at Rockpool all the time with Amery and Chauncey.
The truth is it’s a guaranteed f**ing disaster and here’s why.
Stage 1: Optimism:
You can do this. Armed and ready. Bags packed.
Sorry to say but the days of a just a sparkly clutch, a lippy and a credit card are long gone. It’s a travel bag filled with clothing changes, extra nappies, wipes, lotions and towels on one arm while on the other is a bag of “distractions.”
If you are really organised, you are the type with one of those portable fold out plastic high-chair thingies that neatly latch on to your upholstered dining chair.
Bad luck if you happen to frequent those super trendy diners with booths, though.
Stage 2: The battle plan.
It’s about briefing the troops. Preparing them for the entrenchment ahead. Arming them with the tools to survive.
“If you get out of your seat, there will be no Ipad for a week. And remember, no spitting food out on your plate.”
Stage 3: Feeding the troops.
Which camp are you in? The restaurants shouldn’t-have-children’s-menus-as they-need-to-expand-their-palates-camp? Or are you with the just-give-them-fish-and-chips-or-spag -bol-to-keep-them-quiet mob?
This is too cute not to share. Babies eating lemons for the first time. Post continues after video:
Stage 4: The wait.
And the wait, and the wait.
If you have actually gone the whole five-hatted route you might be lucky enough to get bread (artisan of course), and more bread, and more bread for your little ones.
There’s a temptation to embody your own mother and tell them not to eat too much or they will have no room for dinner, and then there is the temptation to just shut the f**k up and let them gorge because at least they aren’t moaning about how hungry they are.
TIME is of the essence. Bring it, people.
Stage 5: Distraction.
You are prepared for tonight aren’t you? Armed, ready and equipped with whatever these kidlets might need to get through the meal.
Colouring in books, crayons, even a beading kit.
Makes you long for the days when a Happy Meal and a free toy was acceptable doesn’t it?
Stage 6: Tactical errors.
The realisation that in this establishment, drawing on the table cloth isn’t okay. It’s linen, not paper. Ouch.
The desperate need for an Ipad charger as the battery just died.
Stage 7: Conversation.
Remember the old days of the meal slowly grazed upon, the candlelight flickering, long slow sips of wine……
It was what you went out for wasn’t it? Conversation, relaxation.
Sorry to tell you, that’s over. Finished.
The dinner conversations you get when dining with kids is usually made up of terse instructions to your kids (stop bickering), followed by even more terse instructions to your kids (put the cutlery down, get back in your seat) . Oh and a few games of I-Spy throw in the middle.
“I spy with my little eye something beginning with W. Nooo. Not water. Noooo not waiter. No not willy.”
(Wine for God’s sake. It’s wine what are you? Three years old?)
Stage 8: Nourishment (aka chaos).
It’s about this point you remember why eating at home is so relaxing as you reach across the table all elbows and glasses to cut the piping hot fish into slithers, remove the adornments (it’s got grass on it Mama) and turn the gourmet meal into toddler-friendly food.
Why oh why, can’t the chef just cut it into bite-sized chunks in the kitchen?
This is about the point when your kids begin to lose it. One needs a nappy change. One isn’t hungry anymore, and the third is somewhere under the table tickling Grandpa’s feet.
Stage 9: The clean up.
Surely that’s meant to be the thrill of going out isn’t it? Someone else does it all for you. You relax, sip some fine wine and pay a charming professional to take all the stress away.
Unless you’ve seen my kids eat. There are knives and forks on the floor, napkins half way across the room, drinks spilled across the table, and a bread roll wedged somewhere in an unreachable area of the high chair.
Luckily I packed that extra bag. A few baby wipes working their magic and the wait staff only have one third of the disaster zone to clean.
Stage 10: The wandering battalion.
There comes a point when they just can’t sit still any longer isn’t there? They lost interest in the toys strewn across the now wonderfully decorated tablecloths long ago. I-Spy finished an hour ago, and they’ve shaken all the salt from the stainless steel shaker into their lemonade glass
Just accept it. There is tasty cheddar and Jatz at home. That’s gottta work as a cheese plate and the diners at the tables around you will breathe a sigh of relief.
Do you think fine-dining and kids can ever work?