How to eat out, with 3 children, 1 husband

Phone to make a booking at the mediocre – but child friendly – establishment we often frequent for a Sunday carvery, on the premise of entertaining the children in the small children’s play area filled with half books (literally torn in half) and the odd half jigsaw and incomplete play-set. This often keeps them confused for long enough, while they attempt to match things into some sort of order, until their lunch is ready. Ask to book a table for midday, get told ‘Midday is not a time, unless you’re prepared to say what time I can’t help you.’ Go all ‘teacher’ and start spouting the definition of ‘midday’ to make a point, offer to look elsewhere if the vocabulary being used is too complex.

Get hung up on.

Enjoy husband’s second phone call to said pub reiterating the sensible usage of ‘midday’ and enjoy his incredibly middle aged rant about ‘respect’, ‘customer care’ and repeated use of ‘not on, really not on!’

Re-book at nicer restaurant, again using term ‘midday’, high-five each other that this time it was understood and therefore vindicating both of us.

Get 3 children into waterproofs, it is lashing it down.

Re-dress child 3 after she tips a cup of apple juice inside her waterproof coat.

Call at the nearby DIY superstore to find a storage box for the garden. Fail.

Spend time chasing all 3 children away from the toy aisle, to randomly discover husband admiring the swinging hammocks. Watch in horror, as husband gets in said ‘show hammock’ and the thing collapses to the floor.

Arrive at pub for lunch, to discover with delight – the ducks are out today. Walk past all 27 ducks giving each one a different name at the request of child 2. Rename a few when suggested that I ‘didn’t try very hard’.

Arrive in the near empty restaurant (well, it’s only midday after all…) to discover with great joy – we had been placed in the conservatory for our meal. Floor to ceiling windows, a tap-studio floor and more echo than an Enya concert – great.

See off a pleasant middle aged couple who were contemplating eating in the conservatory with one round of ‘chase the ducks (who were outside) from inside the conservatory’ issue 3 ‘You deserved that’ warnings for various bumped limbs and remind everyone (including husband) that ‘over-tired and showing off behaviour does not lead to pudding!’

Read the menu aloud skipping anything I do not want the children to eat. Get told off by child 1 (who can read), and immediately makes sure he orders one of the items I omitted on the first read.

Order at the bar leaving all 3 children in the conservatory.

Return to a raspberry-blowing/napkin throwing competition.

Discuss the strategy for getting our meals from the carvery – the children ordered off the menu so we would take it in turns to head up for our own food.

Leave husband cutting up a huge bowl of spaghetti and a plate of sausages whilst keeping his knee up next to child 3’s chair to stop her falling off during the next over enthusiastic ‘shout out’ to the ducks who waddle past the many windows at least twice a minute.

Enjoy going upstairs to collect my food from the carvery, chat to the chef (dropping the term ‘midday’ into the conversation 3 times to see if he flinches – he doesn’t’) briefly wonder what it would be like to sit at one of the many free tables in the upstairs room and eat my lunch there leaving my husband with the children…

Return downstairs to screaming. Child 3 does not like her pasta and does not want to sit in her chair. Switch her to a baby highchair so she can play with the harness for a few minutes.

Take child 2 to the toilet after she announces to a new couple of unsuspecting diners that she needs a wee and ‘probably 2 small poos’. Pass the couple with an apologetic nod and a quiet ‘enjoy your meal’

Start a ‘who can be quiet the longest’ competition, lose the first round after noticing child 3 is walking along the conservatory windowsill like some bizarre, unbalanced circus act.

Bemoan the fact that we forgot to bring crayons.

Take all 3 children to the toilet for a second visit after child 1 ’will definitely wee everywhere’ if we don’t go instantly. Child 2 is wearing pasta sauce and child 3’s nappy is hanging by her knees after her siblings’ fruit shoots had mysteriously been finished.

Discuss why it’s important not to open the cubicle door before mummy has pulled her trousers up again.

Do the toned down bollocking when this is ignored and the poor woman from the aforementioned table (who now had intimate knowledge of my daughter’s bowel movements), sees far too much of my pants.

Return to the table to see my husband calmly enjoying the last mouthful of still-warm food on his own, with both hands and a smile on his face.

Swear about it under my breath.

Gather the waterproofs and wellies, apologise to everyone in earshot and leave, saying goodbye to all 27 ducks on the way out.

Get into the car – look at husband. Both do an exhausted sigh and promise not to do it again for at least a month.

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