Thursday 16 July 2015

Dining out with Demons

Location: Oxford, Oxford, UK
Published in the Jun/July edition of Vale Life Magazine

The chocolate's at the bottom of the bowl, right?
With two boys now nearing ages two and four, dining out is starting to become... let's say challenging. Before the boys were born we would happily indulge in a meal out whenever it took our fancy, at whatever time of day we fancied, in whatever restaurant we fancied. No worrying about fitting meals in around nap times, no fretting about children’s menus and the availability of highchairs.

Even when the kids were little, we could just leave them sat next to us in their car seat and they'd happily sleep all the way through the meal.

Not these days. These days dining out can be sheer and utter hell.

It's not that the boys are badly behaved, they're just typical, run-of-the-mill, kids. And most restaurants are adept at managing tables with children. I wrote once before about how impressed I’d been with the child friendliness of local restaurants, however all changed when I stepped foot in a particular, recently reopened, Oxford pub.

Visiting with a group of mums and kids, we experienced quite possibly the worst customer service I’ve encountered yet. An absurdly rude owner, parent to four as he told us (*slow clap*), questioned our ability to “control our children” after an exhaustive wait for food led to them become rather restless. And that’s only one of a long list of issues there.

The whole experience left me furious, the man an utter arse. But that’s not to say I don’t get that kids in restaurants can be annoying. To be frank, I find dining out with them pretty frustrating myself.  Let me be clear, I love my kids to bits, but God do I miss those uncomplicated pre-child meals. I miss the peace and quiet. I miss not having a giant bag stuffed full to the brim with nappies, distracting toys, baby wipes, nappy creme and multiple changes of clothing. I miss eating food with a knife AND fork, instead of stabbing at bits of food with one hand whilst wrangling a child with the other. 

But what should we do once we’ve made the decision to bring another little human into the world - never dine out with them? I’m no fan of unsupervised children running around in restaurants, or staying at the table while they cry, that’s got ‘take it outside’ written all over it, but sod avoiding restaurants altogether. It might be tough work but I think it’s far more productive teaching kids early about table manners and how (or not) to behave in public. That, plus the fact we’d all go stir crazy if we were stuck at home for EVERY SINGLE MEAL.

So next time you find yourself twitching at the noise coming from the ‘brats’ at the table in the corner, feel for the parents who are sitting right in the middle of it. Unless they’re taking no notice while the kids whoop around the place, in which case you have my full backing to evil glare.
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