Is it just me or is the general attitude of staff one of dread when we enter a restaurant of reasonable standard, with our four kids at the end of our arms? Being a foodie, and an optimist, I embark with a spring in my step. Smiling. Fully intent on relishing the meal ahead.
The waitress greets us with a half-smile-half-scowl and leads us to our awkward table tucked away nicely in the corner.
I try to sit quietly. Open the menu inconspicuously. Kashi starts. Pointing randomly at the menu, “I want that one!”, she shrieks.
Sniggers from the table in the corner. “Beer. I don’t think so.” Mistake.
“Beer! I want beer!”, a new addition to her vocabulary.
Gentle “Shhh’s” follow and Aden approaches. Testing the ground for cola based drinks. As if we’d forgotten last time:
In our attempt at being kind, supportive parents, we not only took him to his mini marathon but also gave him cola as an encouragement to ‘keep going’ the full course. Problem being, he kept going. Even two hours after the race had ended. All around the shops. Right through the town. Weaving in and out. Up and down. Bouncing more enthusiastically than the Easter Bunny.
He’s brought down to a grape juice, after attempting to sneak a cola mix from the waitress. Telling her in menu code. But we spot his cheekiness. Do our research. Stop him in his tracks. Empowered.
We turn our attentions to Lori. She is still sitting with tears in her eyes. Distressed that shark soup is openly available on the menu. Unaware of our up-and-coming discussion about joining Greenpeace, we greet her brightly.
We have no problem with her becoming vegetarian at this very moment. We do laugh a little. She doesn’t like any vegetables. She’ll eat them anyway, even if she doesn’t like any of them. Remember this moment, I say to myself.
What’s that? “Why don’t we pray for chickens?”
The restaurant busies. There are even some childless people at tables near to us now.
“You’re welcome to pray for chickens…”
“Not all sharks are on the verge of extinction. Tuna…?”
“Greenpeace? Oh… ask your father…”
“I need to go to the toilet.” It’s the third time and the waitress has only just brought the drinks. It requires meandering through the whole restaurant. Three year old and attendee. And the craze catches on. One after the other taking little trips. Then returning. And topping themselves up with little sips.
“So you’re sure you want the beef noodle dish? You wouldn’t like the kid’s meal? It’s really quite a lot of food. Maybe the beef is too chewy for you. What about the chicken? Would you like to try a mix of different little starters? You could share them with your sister. No, I shouldn’t choose, you’re the one who has to eat it. You want the beef? Even though it’s chewy? It’s really a lot, you’re sure you can eat it all? You’re really hungry? Ok.”
“You want vegetable soup? But it contains vegetables. You’ll eat it even if you don’t like it? Ok.”
“No, no beer. “
“Sit properly on the chair.”
“You can’t possibly need to go on the toilet again!”
” No, not all sharks are on the verge of extinction. No, I don’t know which ones are not. No, I’d have to look that up.”
“Can you please sit properly? Get your shoes off the chair.”
” Just take your shoes off. That way you won’t damage the chair.”
“Did she actually manage to pee again?”
“You could have put her shoes back on. No wonder she has cold feet. Taking her to the toilet like that.”
“Can’t you just use your pull-up?”
Shortly before the arrival of her food, Lori contemplates her new-found vegetarianism. She will try to “keep it up” for as long as possible, but doesn’t know how long that will be really, as she loves the taste of meat.
Aden’s beef noodles arrive. Of course he doesn’t like them. Too chewy. He tries to ingratiate himself with Joni. Eye on her chicken. She’s possessive over her meal. But only at first. By the end she’s keen on his assistance.
Lori finishes her soup, with no single complaint. Even the wobbly mushroom.
I have a chicken dish. Delicious. Beautifully presented in a basket made from dough. The dough is the only thing Kashi really likes. Though she’s sampled her way through. Mostly with an “Urr” or a “Yuck”, followed by removal of the despised article and disposal in some unlucky corner. I try to be on the ball and clear up as she goes along. More dough is requested and as it’s dry, I carefully place a few strands on her skirt. Her plate is full of undesirables. And to be honest, I’m just pleased that she’s eating something.
She chooses to enlighten me,”Mama, my skirt is all dirty now and it’s all your own fault.”
But Lori has the last word. Tired and cuddly, she snuggles up to me like a cat. I go in for head to head contact, lapping up my daughters affections and stroking her soft hair. “Mum, let’s just hope that neither of us has head lice.”