It’s on like Donkey Kong.  You, your partner, and your kids are going to trip the light fantastic, kick up your heals, and eat dinner out with friends.  This will be the greatest meal of all time.  It’s going to be a breeze – a fab night out with good friends, good food and a beautiful family.  You’ve done your research, picked a hip modern place that serves must-eat nuevo cuisine (while boasting family friendliness on their website), kids are clean, dressed and hungry.  Let’s do this.

 Rise up parents. We too can have a life.  Say no to bland pasta sauces and tiny bits of cut up carrot for dinner.  We will take back dinner. We will eat what we want and some other random can wash our dishes!

 

5.52 PM – Arriving at the restaurant

Yes it’s still afternoon.  Yes your partner is dressed in his work gear.  Yes you’re not even close to hungry.  Who cares right, you’re out on the town in a suburb that’s not your own, and it’s going to be awesome!  When it opens.  Well, it’s open but the wait staff look like confused deer in headlights at your early arrival time.  All good.  Mr 4 and Miss 5 are on their patient best behaviour – you can stand in the doorway of a restaurant for 8 more minutes.

5.56 PM – Nope, they can’t

Four minutes have passed and the children are losing their minds with boredom.  Mr 4 is sitting on the ground rubbing his hands on an urban pavement and Ms 5 is reaching into her undies to rearrange her uncomfy tights (that you insisted she wear in compliance with your perfect night out vision).  The wait stuff hustle you in lest the scene puts more desirable customers away.

6.11pm – An eternity has passed

Your childless friends are 11 minutes late.  No big deal right. You’re cool.  You get it.  They probably had something fantastically exciting to do on the way – like visit a world class winery, learn to flyboard or have a quick drink with that hot guy from that show.  That’s what childless people do all day – according to their Facebook pages anyway.  Only, every second after the arranged meeting time is a world of pain.  You’ve heard “when will they be here” approximately 147 times.  You’ve received 47 disapproving glances from a 19 year old waiter as your child got up and ran around the carefully lit, elegant yet urban chic table setting.

6.14pm Where in the 7 circles of hell are they?

Everyone at the table is losing their cool – mostly you because you know that come 7pm your kids will turn into pumpkins, Cindarella style.  Ratty, shouty, teary, manic little pumpkins.  Maybe they’ve been in an accident.  Maybe they’re trapped in an elevator.  Should we call the police.  The waiter brings wine.  You drink wine.

6.15pm You order more wine

Good wine.

6.19pm You order a bottle of wine

You ask the wait staff about the “family friendly” features mentioned on the website.  He looks at you in a way that makes you wonder if you’ve asked in your recently acquired second language: Upsy Daisyese.  Nope.  No idea what you’re on about.  Wait.  I know.  Waiter disappears and comes back with three biros and a colouring in picture of a wine bottle and the restaurant name.  That’ll do.

6.21pm We’re all here and ready to order!

Your friends apologise for their tardiness. They were delayed booking their tour of Italy’s wine country and the travel agent needed confirmation immediately on a 16th century Tuscan villa for two nights… or something.  They’re delighted by the “energy and life force” of your children and you take a deep sip of wine as you agree.  You’re ready to get this show on the road.  You impatiently prompt your friends to choose their meals.  Every dish conjures up images of their trek through Napal/Bolivia/Western Somewhere….  Just pick something for the love of all things holy.  Right.  Choices are made.  Let’s do this.  The waiter that’s been glaring disapprovingly is nowhere to be seen.  Gone.  Vanished. *sigh*

6.27 Ordering

I want Weetbix.  They don’t have Weetbix. You said you’d have the garlic bread and steamed vegetables?  You do not HATE garlic bread.  In the last six minutes you decided that you do?  They have soft shell crabs – you’ll love them.  No darling, they don’t do chips here.  How about Spanish Olives and grilled baby octopus?  No?  “Can you do her a sandwich?”  Sure, cheese and ham – $16.  Whatever, sure.  Now colour your wine bottle darling.  While mummy talks.  You’re feeling a bit more relaxed and it would appear you need more wine.  Your husband is giving you “those looks” that means maybe you don’t need more wine.  Who knows? Wine knows.  You’ll ask the wine when it comes.

6.57 Witching hour is 3 minutes away and there’s not a sandwich in sight

You’ve been the only diners in the restaurant for the last half hour and yet your food is nowhere to be seen.  Now as other diners arrive, the chances of eating seem to be slipping away.  You notice (or maybe the wine noticed, it’s hard to tell) that your childless friends haven’t much to say in the wake of eating out with kids.  They’re just a bit gobsmacked by how it’s all going and there’s too many awkward pauses.  When they do talk, it’s about how their new Shitsu puppy is just like having kids.  They totally get it.  Did you just say that “HA!” out loud?  Oops maybe you did the whole restaurant is looking at your.  Shhh wine.  Keep it together.

7.23 You are crawling across a desert whispering foooooodddd

You’re a “6.30 diner” these days.  It’s 7.23 and the crusts cut from Mr 4’s vegemite sandwich back at midday are not sustaining you now.  At least the table is quiet.  Ms 5 is asleep on her chair and Mr 4 is manically moving from table to table serenading hipsters with his gift for armpit farts.  Finally, like the moment you first look into your baby’s eyes… the waiter arrives with Prosciutto and Danish blue sandwiches.  “Mum, it’s rotten”.  Just eat the crusts.  Finally your food arrives. The big moment.  Ms 5 needs to pee.  Now. Right now.  Mr 4 has pulled his band aid off at the table and needs a new one RIGHT NOW.  After an awkward moment in a tiny bathroom where 47 women are reapplying make up, you’re ready to eat.  The excitement. The anticipation.  Parts of your tongue will reawaken from a five year hiatus in the world of white bread and fish fingers.  Food, glorious food.  Holy smoke, was Spanish food ALWAYS this salty?  Jeepers.  All those years of blanding down dinner for the kids, or eating out with grandma and grandpa at low sodium establishments have not prepared you for this horrible onslaught.

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Then the unmentionable incident happens… the whole booger thing, with the horrified friends, and the mortified waiter… not enough time has passed to talk about this yet.  There will need to be some therapy before you can even think about it without cringing.

It’s late. It’s nearly 7.30.  Kids need to get to bed.  Eat up everyone.  Now.

7.48 You’re finished, put on your coat, bill please

You’re trying out your “eat faster dammit” telepathy on your dear husband.  He’s chit chatting casually like a person not about to try to put two overtired insane people to bed.  Oh yeah, he’s not.  Computer talk.  Yes. That’s worth sticking around for.  Oh, you have the latest blah blah. How amazing do the graphics look in blah blah.  Amazing.  The definition of amazing needs addressing right now.  The waiter is finally ON IT when it comes to delivering the (OMG how much?  We could eat at the local tav six times for that – if we went for Steak Tuesday anyway) bill.  You pull out a credit card, leaving the 2 sad $50 notes in your wallet.  Totally didn’t think this through.

“Wait, are you leaving?”  The night is young.  Your dining companions are young despite being the same age as you.  They have big plans and are shocked that we’re pulling out at 7.48.  They thought we might check out the night markets and maybe take the kids to see the… stop right there.  No, we’re out.  They’re a bit taken aback but are excited to learn that some dubstep (like what even) artist is on tonight and they’re ready to make it a big one.  CANNOT IMAGINE ANYTHING WORSE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.  Hugs and kisses for the adults, scruffed hair and awkward high fives for the kids (you exchange that look with your daughter who doesn’t take such condescending affections lightly).

Home James.  Home RIGHT now.

7.51 – 8.32 – Pondering on the journey home

As you head out on the long and painful journey through the loft apartment dotted hip urban lifescapes, onto the freeway back to the outer burbs (who can afford to live close with kids – tell me one person, seriously) you ponder the meaning of life, the universe and wine.  This was not the night you’d planned.  Eating out with kids in a hip urban space was a great idea in theory – the website promised a warm and welcoming dining environment for families… which will be promptly changed tomorrow for sure!  Tuscany sounds so delightful, until you imagine your 4 year old in a centuries old villa.  But your four year old deep in imaginary play is pretty delightful too.  Tuscany isn’t going anywhere.  The wine is.  You need to pee more than a woman pregnant with twins.  Where did it all go wrong?  The restaurant promised a family friendly environment.  The friends promised a glimpse into carefree life.  The children promised to keep their boogers in their nose (nope – let’s not revisit that).

But this isn’t the norm.  You remember dozens of amazing dining out experiences with your children.  You remember the delight of finding a local restaurant that does awesome food and has a playground.  You remember meeting up with friends for a Sunday afternoon of relaxation and good times at the local sports club.  Your kids loved every minute. You loved every minute.  OMG remember that chicken Caesars – that was THE BOMB.  You could go one now.  Get the salty taste out of your mouth.   And when Mr 4 went in search of boogers, it was no biggy, a quick stop that and go wash your hands…. not “the scene”.  Oh lordy the scene.  Nevermind.  Eating out with your “parent friends” and their kids is one of your favourite pass times. You still love your childless friends (and really wish you could care about their struggles with a dog) but they’re not the “eat out with families” types.   Call in the nannas for babysitting duty next time you fancy overpriced octopus and lovely, lovely wine.  In the mean time, a fabulously prepared piece of salmon and some good times are calling from a REAL family friendly restaurant near you.  Life is sweet.

*insert armpit fart from the back*