If you have an infant that you still tote around in the car seat, then please, do us all a favor—stop reading this, grab the fam and go to dinner right now. The clock is ticking, believe me.
I wrote a blog a few months ago about taking your tot out for dinner—general obstacles, strategies and words of advice that could best be summed up with “Don’t fear the reaper.” I would like to take this opportunity to strike that entire philosophy from the record. It’s not that it wasn’t true, it’s just that it’s not true anymore.
Witness the evolution: We went to dinner last Friday. Same time as we’ve grown accustomed, right around 5:00. Dinner doorbusters. Walked in and the waitstaff was still rolling silverware—good sign. Sit where we like, yes please, we’ll take the window table for two plus a high chair. This was going swimmingly.
Bub sat in his big-boy chair, chatting away to himself, reaching for anything in view and throwing toys starboard in fairly rapid succession. About ten minutes later, we lost all exclusivity rights, as another couple came in. A few minutes later, a third. Suddenly, we were feeling self-conscious, and it wasn’t the beet and goat cheese salad. It was Bub.
I’m not sure at exactly what point we crossed the threshold, but things are different now. Different bad. Obviously, him sleeping in his car seat was ideal, but even if he was awake, he was generally calm, or could be readily soothed with his fikey. Worst case was we’d end up gooing and gawing all over him instead of having an actual conversation. This we are now overly familiar with; this has been commonplace for a long time.
Now the car seat is out, the fikey is out, and with them goes pretty much all enjoyment one can take from dining out. While some diners may find Bub’s operatic outbursts endearing (the first time or two), others grit their teeth. I totally get it, I myself (BC me) was probably of the latter faction.
The worst part is they’re right—it is annoying. I’m usually the first one to adopt a ‘Well, we’re paying customers, too!’ attitude, but it wasn’t coming out that night. Instead, my wife and I kind of looked at each other, resigned to our fate. We didn’t put it into words until the following evening, but the truth was this: Eating out is no longer enjoyable.
We’re used to doing things quickly and being on the clock, but this was to a new extreme. All eyes on Bub as he squirmed and pawed and blah-blahed his his way into the spotlight. Any toys, napkins or random objects we handed him turned into a game of fetch for Mommy and Daddy. We ended up alternating eating and holding him, just so one of you can have a semi-peaceful, albeit completely rushed meal. We couldn’t get the check fast enough, and were in and out in less than forty minutes.
This is a tough pill to swallow for several reasons. I love going out to eat—who doesn’t, right? And I love trying new restaurants, new cuisines. I’ve got a list and everything! We loved to travel in our BC years, and I’ve been saying ever since my wife was pregnant that dining out is our new traveling. We get to explore, try new things, etc., just without going too far, without breaking the bank.
So what now? Takeout would be the obvious choice, but takeout is to dining out as the suburbs are to the city. It’s just not the same. Which leaves only one real option—babysitting.
But you know what? This isn’t so bad. It’ll cost more, yes, but it’s a sound investment. We’re not only buying a good meal, we’re buying peace, calm and maybe, just maybe, an actual conversation.