Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dining Out sans Enfants

This weekend, friends asked me for a restaurant recommendation. They had delivered their daughter to me so they could have an evening out as a twosome. As their girl clattered out of the car already in full chat mode with my daughter, I tossed out suggestions for great local dining. Finally, before they pulled away I said, “Have a good time. You won’t have to cut anyone else’s food.” Or, I was thinking as I listened to the girls, try to talk over children’s noise.

I love eating out… without my children. Don’t think I do not adore my children or enjoy meals with them, but frankly, whenever my children are with me, I consider myself on duty. There are constant reminders, prompts, rules, and, as a girlfriend of mine calls it, directing traffic. Mealtime is another training opportunity, and I simply cannot relax during those times.

Several years ago, still fairly newly located in a far away state, I needed a sitter. I had not been able to find one for months and I was getting desperate. I emailed my group of young mothers and friends that shared playdates with my first child and me. The letter read something like this:

Dear Ladies,

Please let me know if you have any recommendations for a good sitter for small children. I am looking for a responsible young woman over the age of sixteen who has a driver’s license and lives reasonably close. Not to offend anyone, but I absolutely will not hire an eighth grader to do the job that I am still learning how to do in my late twenties.

I would like to have an evening out with my husband in which I do not have to cut a child’s food, change explosive diapers mid-meal, or try to stop said child from crying. I would like to not have to tell this child to chew her food, keep her mouth closed while she chews, or withhold her beverage until she has finished eating. I would like to not have to tell anyone to keep elbows off the table, face straight forward, to quit playing, or better yet, to quit interrupting. I would like to not have to remind a child that she must take at least two bites of all things offered on the plate, that food must stay on the plate, and not be thrown. In fact, food must be consumed by her and not slipped quietly to the dog. I would like to sit leisurely at the table in relaxed grown up conversation without having to feed, burp, coddle, pat, juggle, or entertain a tiny, demanding person.

I would like to have a sitter come to my house and make this all possible, and in addition to the above, bathe my child, put her to bed, and tidy the house after herself so that there are no cracker crumbs on the couch or underfoot.

If this is possible, please let me know.

The response I got was one of two: complete sympathy or absolute hysterical laughter. I did find a sitter, but it took going through someone who knew someone else who knew a lifeguard. Many phone calls later, we found her, and things went well until I had to move again.

Oh, to date your spouse. Such a lovely thing. To be reminded of who we were before that incredible persona-altering force of childrearing came into play. I recently went to dinner with my husband, sans enfants of course, and was delighted to enjoy al fresco dining over a fried oyster po-boy customized to our request. We did not have to mind anyone else’s manners but our own, we were not interrupted, and no one had to be sent to time-out. It was lovely. Of course, when I got home, the first thing I did was ask the sitter why my daughter texted me twice to complain about her brother. Then I scurried up the stairs, kissed gentle little sleeping heads, nuzzled those warm bodies, and smiled over the perfectness of my son and daughter.

Peaceful eating, everyone.

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