This week I am getting those little things about parenthood that annoy me off my chest. I have already talked about the arrival of lighter nights, crappy toys on magazines and those who see children (and their parents) as public property. I am calling it ‘rant week’ but I hope that it is a little bit more than that since it is also highlighting how I have changed since becoming a parent, since none of these would have even been on my radar six years ago.
Today I am going to talk about something that I used to do a lot but nowadays not so much, that is eat out. Karen and I used to regularly go to restaurants before we had children, and quite frequently when Jake was very young. Over time, however, we find that we go less and less, more often than not with the children.
I have to say that eating out as a family is not something that I particularly enjoy doing. I find that the children get bored easily, even if we bring plenty of books and toys, and I do not really enjoy the restaurant experience when my food invariably goes cold for some reason or another.
However, this is not the reason for today’s rant. Rather it is so-called child-friendly restaurants that really do not seem to understand their customers. The thing that they seem to get wrong most often is when to bring the food. I have lost count of the number of times that Karen and I have found ourselves with our main course when the children’s, far more simple, meals are still being prepared in the kitchen. So there we are sitting there with a couple of hungry boys who have set their hearts on what they ordered only to be confounded by the restaurant and left with second choice offers of yucky food such as grilled sea bass or off cuts from a lamb shank with some exotic sauce (usually referred to as a ‘jus’) from Mummy’s and Daddy’s plates. Of such things are a tranquil mealtime not made.
So we have learned from experience that we need to ask that, if at all possible, the boys’ food comes first; in fact as quickly as possible since we are invariably in a restaurant these days because they are extremely hungry, and on one memorable occasion Jakes order was lost altogether – not great. I think that if we have gone somewhere claiming to be child-friendly this should be part of the service. It really is no good providing a selection of high chairs and a small packet of crayons for each child if they then get the basics wrong. For me it only adds to the stress of eating out, and does not encourage me to go again if they do not meet what I think are modest expectations.
Eating out is a good example to how life changes with children. We look for completely different things in an eatery now we have small mouths to feed. Karen and I still look for good food, but we also look for a place that it going to help us with the experience, and not heighten my already well-developed skepticism of whether we should be going there in the first place.