Today The other day we went out for lunch for my Mister’s birthday. Gone are the late nights of dancing and drinking cocktails with funny names and little fruity garnishes, as too are the boozy afternoons sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio in the cool shade in the gardens of posh restaurants. Now we select an eatery based on the quality of children’s entertainment first, then the quality of food. Usually, actually almost never, you can’t have both. And very often it’s neither.
This year the restaurant got off to a winning start by messing up our booking for 12 people. How does one mess up a booking? You don’t write it down. Anyhoo. We made a plan and moved some furniture around to accommodate ourselves and we got on with it. Because that’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? We make do. At our table every person, barring one single female friend and one single brother-in-law, had children – either their own or borrowed (one couple was babysitting a sister’s baba).
I always feel sorry for people at restaurants who don’t have children. Yes, you read me right. I feel sorry for people who don’t have all manner of activities spread over the table, wine glasses lined up almost forgotten and out of reach in the middle of the table, a variety of half-sucked, semi-chewed dishes adorning the table, and the shrill sounds of ‘Mommy! Icy cream!’ echoing through the air. Why do I feel sorry for them? Because you have to put up with our children doing all of this.
As parents, we’re used to:
- having spaghetti bolognaise spilled all over our white button-down shirts and once-pretty skirts
- the table being sticky, wet and decorated with soggy tissues, questionably stained wet-wipes and long forgotten Barney juice boxes
- being climbed on as if we were human-shaped, flesh-coloured jungle gyms (or, as Holly likes to yell: CASTLES – as in jumping castle)
- having conversations that sound like this:
Parent: So, how’s your sister doing? PUT THAT KNIFE DOWN BEFORE YOU STAB
YOURSELF. Give me my wine. What were you saying?
Friend: (ever so slightly taken aback) Uhm… which sister?
Parent: The one who was seeing that guy she met at th… I SAID NO! YOU ARE NOT HAVING
OYSTERS FOR LUNCH. YOU WON”T EAT THEM.
Friend: My sister, the only one, is married. To another woman.
Parent: Oh! When did they get marrieee… GET YOU DIRTY FEET OFF THE TABLE! YOU’RE
NOT AT HOME!
Friend: Four years ago.
Parent: Right. Now I remember. And you? How’s James? OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE! PUT
YOUR PANTS BACK ON!
Friend: My husband left me a year ago to become a rodeo clown. I thought you kn…
Parent: I’ll be right back – she’s trying to lick that cat again!
Does any of this look familiar? This is why I feel sorry for my friends who’ve come to enjoy a ‘peaceful’, ‘relaxing’ lunch. We know that there’s no such thing as a peaceful lunch when there are children around. Each family, encamped at their overflowing tables, is just trying to keep their own little Mordor contained within in allotted restaurant space. Children, in varying stages of undress are running in all directions screaming, their parents looking on blankly with glazed-over eyes.
If you recognise yourself in this picture as the parent of a toddler or young child, I raise my glass to you in camaraderie, strength and acknowledgement of the hours of lost sleep you’ve suffered. And I say cheers to the joyous, ongoing celebration that we’re blessed to have these amazing creatures called children in our lives. If you’re one of the friends of parents – I apologise on our behalf for the wet sleeve of your gorgeous new top from Zara, the tomato sauce stain on your still-blue jeans, and the hours of lost conversation