It is most likely to happen on the weekend. He gets that look on his face, like he is contemplating something. I avoid eye contact in hopes that it will pass. He cannot be thinking what I think he is. Then I hear the dreaded words fall from his lips, almost in slow motion: Let’s take the kids out for lunch!
OHHHHHHH NO. What is he thinking? Does he not remember the last time? When he swore that we would never do it again? Eating with them is like a herd at the trough. Before I have time to voice my opinion, the kids are screaming with excitement. Of course they love to eat out. Dad says “Unless, Mom doesn’t want to go?” Oh well-played. I AM the FUN parent. Let’s go out to eat, I squeal! (yea)
This is where the foot race breaks out because evidently, being the first one into the car is sweet, sweet victory. My daughter is usually the winner. It’s only logical really. She has the longest legs, is the oldest and will horse-collar tackle anyone who tries to pass her. Within seconds she is in the car, and the three boys are left outside the door wrestling for second place.
Finally we are all in the car. Off to the only place that all four kids can agree on, our favorite Mexican joint. We pull into a parking space. I give my speech. The same speech that I have given for years. No running, no pushing, inside voices, no fussing, hands to yourself and absolutely no sneaking any of Dad’s Dr. Pepper (he added this one). They promise that this time will be different. I gulp, then open the door.
It’s a full on hullabaloo, a brouhaha, melee. They fall out of the car like a wave, stepping on each others limbs as they scramble to be the first out, because evidently first is ALWAYS best. Just as their shoes reach the pavement, Dad is there to contain the chaos. At this point, all we can do is get them into the restaurant, because in the restaurant is better than running amok in the parking lot. He leads the way to the door. I bring up the rear.
The force of the front door opening makes everyone look up from their cheese dip. It will never be said that we do not make a grand entrance. Dad grabs shirt collars as we stand and wait for the host. I say table for six please. While waiting for the call, the kids manage to run into a waiter carrying a tray, erase the specials from the dry erase board and assault the bubble gum dispensing machines.
I sit on the opposite side of the waiting area, pretending not to know them. My look of complete mortification is academy-worthy.
We finally get our oversized booth. I contemplate a small table for one, on the other side of the restaurant. Dad still has composure. He still thinks this is a good idea. The chips and salsa and drinks are delivered. The waiter can barely pull back his hand before they dive in. It is almost like they have never eaten before. Elbows are flying. There are arguments over napkins. Then the first drink is spilled. I have to remove the youngest from the middle of the table. Next thing I know, they bring cheese dip to our table. Exactly who ordered cheese dip? Every kid is now covered in cheese dip. One is licking it off his brother’s shirt. The second drink is spilled.
Our table is a big, wet, sticky, cheesy mess and oh look! The food is here. Plates are handed out. With six people there is no room for error. His drink is touching my plate. She just put her elbow in my beans. He has my fork. Why are we even here?
I’m going to eat my meal. I just won’t look at them. First bite for me, equals the first child who has to go poop. Dad volunteers to take him. Thank goodness. I go in for bite two. Mom, will you cut my burrito? Mom, I asked for rice. Mom, the baby is eating chips under the table. I never lose my toothy smile because these people around us can’t know just how close I am to a mad dash for the car. WHY is you father still in the bathroom?
I manage a few more bites before salsa flies into my hair. Then child number two has to go poop. Dad again volunteers. Wait! In the bathroom he gets a moment to himself. No way! I’m taking this one to poop.
Why do kids always run everywhere they go? and there it is……the trip and baseball slide. I don’t see any blood or missing teeth. On to the restroom we go. Suddenly he doesn’t have to go anymore. Oh yeah? Well you are going to sit on that filthy toilet for FIVE minutes because Dad is managing the zoo out there and this is peaceful.
Back at the table, everyone is finished, everyone except for me of course. I am determined to get a few more bites before I throw in the towel. By now the kids are bored. They are standing on the seat, peering over at the people on the other side. Dad has finally realized what a huge mistake this is….AGAIN. They are climbing all over him with their rice-covered clothes, alternately sneaking drinks of his Dr. Pepper. Defeated Dad has lost the will to fight them off. The vein in is neck his popping out. He declares “WE ARE DONE HERE, TO THE CAR!”
He gathers three little boys into his arms, and physically removes them from the restaurant, because that is the only way to make the madness stop. My daughter looks at me and I tell her to go ahead, I just have to grab my handbag. She follows and I sit back down.
I take another bite. I look out the window and see my husband chasing kids across the parking lot, then wrangling them one by one, into the car. Maybe just a few more chips and salsa. This, after all, wasn’t MY idea