When my husband and I had one child, we went out to dinner a lot. Our now-4-year-old daughter was always a good eater, loved trying new foods, and enjoyed the people-watching and atmosphere of restaurants, so nine times out of 10, we'd have a pretty enjoyable time on our little evenings out. But adding another child to the mix has completely changed our dining dynamic, making most experiences somewhere in between hectic and flat-out miserable. Take, for example, our dinner out last weekend, chronicled for you minute by minute.
4:30 p.m.: Hubby comes home early from work. Yay! We can make it to dinner before our 14-month-old's evening eating window of 4:50-5:08 p.m. Miss it and he will make life a living hell until he's fed. Start scrambling to get kids ready.
4:40 p.m.: Try to convince 4-year-old that shoes are required at restaurants, as are underwear and shirts that cover her belly. She seems to think her argument against all three is a solid one. Abandon fight to start stocking purse with predinner snacks, iPad, crayons, extra diapers, wipes, and sippy cups.
4:45 p.m.: Somehow husband has managed to convince daughter to get dressed. Pick up toddler, ready to head out, and immediately detect new odor coming from his recently changed diaper. Change diaper (again), and start loading the kids in the car.
4:56 p.m.: Arrive at new location of preschooler's favorite Mexican restaurant, which she has been begging to go to all week. Park car, and she starts melting down. She wanted to go to the old location of her favorite restaurant. Start car, drive to other location, which is thankfully close by.
5:02 p.m.: Find parking a block away from restaurant. Toddler decides that he no longer wants to be held, insists on walking to restaurant, occasionally trying to dart into traffic. Finds it hilarious when dad and mom scream with every new attempt.
5:10 p.m.: Four-year-old and mom make it through the restaurant's front doors. Toddler and husband are still inspecting every rock outside. Breathe a sigh of relief that there are plenty of open tables. Before coats come off, 4-year-old declares she "really, really has to go potty." To the bathroom you go, where she really, really goes potty, then learns about air freshener, which, thankfully, the bathroom has stocked.
5:15 p.m.: Return to table, where husband has parked 14-month-old in a high chair and ordered mom a margarita and everyone guacamole. Nice job, hubby.
5:20 p.m.: Toddler has monopolized the entire plate of chips and guacamole. Luckily, mom believes a margarita makes a perfectly acceptable appetizer. Four-year-old orders her customary meal of a cheese quesadilla with double rice, of which she will only eat the rice. Why are we paying $6 for a meal that would cost 50 cents at home, mom wonders. Oh, the margaritas. Let's order another margarita.
5:30 p.m.: Food arrives just as preschooler decides she needs to go to the potty again. Mom is fairly sure this trip is motivated by her desire to spray air freshener but takes her anyway. Notices on the way that toddler has surrounded his high chair with dozens of chips and most of the guacamole. Apologize to waitress profusely.
5:32 p.m.: Yep, it was all about the air freshener.
5:35 p.m.: Dinner is served. Scarf down a taco just as preschooler decides he's had enough of being stuck in a high chair. Remove all throw-able items from his reach. Bribe him to stay seated a bit longer with his new favorite yogurt raisins while chugging the rest of the margarita and scarfing down another taco.
5:37 p.m.: Yogurt raisins are gone. Last resort: hand over iPad to screaming 14-month-old, knowing that giving him anything that belongs to his sister is good for at least five to 10 minutes of entertainment. Get some odd looks from surrounding tables; not sure if they're judging mom and dad for letting a toddler play with an iPad or are relieved about his new, quieter state. With child number two content, try to convince child number one that rice isn't really a well-rounded meal. She disagrees.
5:47 p.m.: The iPad has lost its luster. Screaming has recommenced. Check, please! Actually, just take the credit card now.
5:52 p.m.: Bill is signed. Remind husband to leave a tip commensurate with the mess left behind (in other words, very large). Begin the process of packing up snacks, sippy cups, and electronic devices and convincing children to put on coats. Apologize again to waitress about the state of table and surrounding floor.
5:55 p.m.: Exit restaurant. When toddler tries to wiggle out of his dad's arms, husband begins sprinting to the car. Thankfully, toddler finds this funny.
6:01 p.m.: Kids are strapped into car seats and we're headed home. Wasn't that fun?