Last night my husband and I had the audacity to interrupt a "pajama day" to go out for dinner. To my surprise, we encountered only minimal complaints before the girls found it in their hearts to get dressed in real clothes so we could go out for dinner. (I was informed, however, that by making them change into "real clothes" at 5pm I made this NOT a pajama day. I guess I owe them one.) After getting all gussied up-- my husband and I were seriously underdressed-- we piled into the car and headed for the Fish Shack.
Now dining out with my girls presents some interesting problems sometimes and considerable stress for me. YOU may feel you're getting the night off when you eat out. I, however, usually end up wondering was it all worth it before my drink arrives at the table. I have a mental checklist that I usually go through before we ever even leave. I need to be as prepared as possible for dining in a place that doesn't know all the "rules of mealtime" imposed by my children. My checklist goes something like this...
Is there something entertaining in my purse? (cell phone, pencil & paper, playdoh, etc.)... check
Have I checked the menu to see if there is something they will eat?... check
Do they serve chocolate milk?... check
Is this place loud?... hmmm, probably. If so, do they have a tv or an easy exit?... check
Will the food be horrible if I have to get it to go before getting to eat any of it?... hmmm, let's hope not.
It had been quite some time since our last visit to the Fish Shack, so I was really surprised to find it so crowded at 5:30pm. We go inside to the hostess table-- where my little darlings' outfits earned a second look from our greeter-- and I am told there is a 20 minute wait for a table. I smile at the hostess and give her our name, but inside I am going into panic mode. We have to wait 20 minutes-- or more-- for a table?! It's really noisy in here... hope that's not going to be a problem. And there are so many things to touch and break and relocate and see... oh crap. I tell my husband how long the wait is and we find a little nook to stand in until we are buzzed.
And then it begins...
At first, Birdie and Princess start flitting from one display case to another, looking at all the model ships around the restaurant. The ships are contained on shelves that are covered with a sheet of plexiglass so that little people (and big people) can look but not touch. This is quite a load off my shoulders until I realize that my little angels are leaning against the shelf and the shelf is moving... time to move on.
I corral them away from the shelves and we try just standing for a bit. This is when my Princess notices all the things hanging from the ceiling. I am thrilled that she has held it together long enough to notice these things-- the fishing nets, buoys, lobster traps, and metal crabs and lobsters. Just a year ago, the noise alone in this place would have resulted in tears-- wailing, even-- that may have meant we'd be eating carryout. I am less thrilled when the noticing of these things becomes a problem. "Mom, are the lobsters on the wall looking at me?" Now I know she knows these things aren't real and she is just feeling overwhelmed so I assure her that she knows this can't be true. She asks this many, many more times until I finally have to draw a line in the sand. I tell her to ask once more and then the topic is closed. Afterward, she starts pointing out all the "unsafe" tables she can't sit under-- they have critters hanging over them. She has her sister wanting to address management about these safety issues by the time we get buzzed to be seated. Please please PLEASE be a table without critters overhead. Whew-- dodged a bullet by getting the least interesting seat in the house. Yay!
When the server comes, I feel the overwhelming need to apologize in advance for whatever may transpire during his shift serving us tonight. I refrain. He's a big boy... and if it's too bad, I'll tip big and thank him profusely later for being wonderful-- even if he's not.
The second scariest moment of the night occurs right after Hal arrives and announces he'll be our server. Right then I realize that when we checked the menu for food, we forgot to check for drinks! (When chocolate milk is not available at a restaurant, Princess and I have to have a discussion about what might be an acceptable replacement for her favorite restaurant beverage.) I realize as the words "May I start you off with something to drink?" comes out of Hal's mouth, that I have no idea how this will end. This is the point in the dining experience that often makes or breaks the evening. Birdie volunteers "plain milk" and her sister quickly follows with "chocolate please!" Hal says "no problem!" and in that moment, he is my hero. I know he doesn't deserve this adoration since he didn't supply the chocolate milk, but nonetheless I love him. I begin to relax because I realize right then that I might get to eat most of my dinner in peace.
The rest of the evening was relatively uneventful, except for the brief period of time that the Princess's word search was conspiring against her and "hiding the words in impossible places-- like not in the puzzle!" The arrival of our food solved this problem though, and soon the word search was back to just being a puzzle, rather than an evil villain on paper. On a scale of one to ten, this little drama doesn't warrant getting rated at all-- no screaming was involved, only an angry voice. The other diners in the restaurant don't realize it, but Hal's impeccable timing deserves their love and adoration as well. He'll just have to settle for my tip, though.
I look back to previous dining experiences and I am really pleased. No food was thrown. No tears of frustration or stomping feet. No yelling "SHUT UP!!!!!!!" at the top of their little voices. No advising people we don't know about using better manners. Tonight's dining experience can be entered in the win column with a gold star! Whether this is because my angels are becoming more adaptable, or because I am better prepared, or because the stars are aligned properly will most likely remain a mystery. I am getting used to not having all the answers, though, so I don't care-- a win is a win! I am a happy mama.