You don’t do anything spontaneous any more. Eating habits are based around naptimes, and second hand fishfingers are an acceptable snack (even if they’ve been on the floor). You can’t remember what cocktails you like any more, but you’ve got a fine line in drinkable plonk for under £6 in your weekly shop.
And one day you brave it. You enter a restaurant, with your kids, perhaps with other families. You’ve booked, of course, because you need to secure the highchairs. Let’s be honest, you’re in Pizza Express or Jamie’s Italian. Dedicated kids’ menus, and very acceptable wine lists.
Let me give you some hints on how to get the best of the situation.
1. Key to everything: ignore all judgy looks. They probably aren’t judging you anyway, just feeling your pain.
2. Eat early. 12pm. Then you can still be home for naptime, and the restaurant will be quiet (until your kids arrive).
3. If you walk in and there are tablecloths, you’ve come to the wrong joint.
4. When you get there, don’t let the waiter skedaddle after seating you. No way, get in there quick. Order wine (for you) and chips/doughballs (for the kids). When they arrive, remember (1) above. And take some stickers or colouring books to keep their bums on seats before food arrives.
5. Don’t be fussy – you’ve not got time to slowly peruse the wine list. Red, white or pink is about as fussy as you can be right now.
6. Eat fast. And if they eat faster and get annoying, order ice-cream (referring to point 1 above again)/a babycino and the bill at the same time.
7. Always take cash so you don’t have to wait for the one old credit card machine to wend its way to you.
8. Someone will pee on the floor/ throw spaghetti at the waitress/ refuse to eat anything at all. Smile, and reach for the wine. You are teaching your kids how to behave out and about, but some days they won’t be on your side. You might as well enjoy your food whilst you can.
9. Don’t be afraid to walk out. If the kids are kicking off and you aren’t having a good time, there is no use throwing good money after bad. But don’t forget to pay (voice of experience).
10. Clean up. Or at least show willing. Only a parent should have to pick up half chewed pizza.
11. Tip. Tip well. Tip very very well.