The ‘relaxing’ art of eating out with children

Last week some friends and I took the sprogs to our favourite local children’s café to sample lots of caffeine (us) and a spot of African drumming (them).

Yes mini-me, blue-eyed boy and I are very global in our choice of leisure pursuits don’t you know… (Not really, unless you count me shamefully watching Teen Mom 2 on MTV after they’ve gone to bed. Trash-tastic yes, but I maintain great entertainment with the added bonus of making you feel like the world’s best parent!)

Still the drumming sounded like a brilliant idea, something a little different and a good way to wear the rugrats out while we adults, hopefully, got to drink our still-hot beverages and catch up a little. (Otherwise known as having a good old mum moan.)

The trouble was that we’d forgotten that dining out of any description involving pre-school children can and usually does descend into total chaos. You know, of the food flinging, kiddie whinging, baby screaming, exploding nappy variety.

Now add an hour’s worth of percussion into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s anything but relaxing.

As usual my friends and I tried to maintain yelled conversations over the madness whilst wet-wiping various offspring, lifting luke-warm tea out of the path of marauding toddlers, doling out rice cakes to babies and averting potential toy injuries before they happened. I’m tensing up just thinking about it.

Then later we texted each other to say: ‘So nice to see you, sorry we didn’t get the chance to chat properly.’ And the fact is we never really do. In fact, the last time I really caught up with a friend was when Rachel, my pal from Light Monkey Photography came round – and that was only because the sprogs were playing nicely for the cameras!

Still, it doesn’t stop the other halves from casting aspersions on how we spend our days though, you know in those precious few hours between wiping arses, performing numerous household tasks and fitting work in as well.

‘I’d love to stay home and drink coffee with my mates,’ hubby has been known to mutter on various occasions to the soundtrack of me grinding my teeth in frustration.

‘God knows what they think we do at these meetings,’ one of the mum BFFs said in exasperated tones. ‘We ought to install ‘nanny cam’ to reveal the reality.’

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

As a mum I suppose you are just more used to the whole rigmarole of ‘café culture with kids’ so your tolerance level for dirty looks received from other diners and increasing numbness to treat bribery are naturally just higher.

(Incidentally my personal ‘treat equation’ for mini-me has been known to extend to three bags of pom-bears in the quest for good behaviour. Goodness, I do hope Gwyneth ‘mung bean’ Paltrow isn’t reading this – she’s bound to report me!)

Well, parental guru that I am, I say load yourself up with high-carb snacks, chuck some raisins in to make yourself better, and get them grazing.

With any luck you’ll manage to slurp down a cuppa and consume a chocolate biscuit in the space of three seconds and the outing can be declared a success. Hooray!

Never mind the indigestion pains. You’re used to it by now…

Parenting Wars: Battle of the Sexes

There’s a ‘fun’ little game hubby and I never seem to tire of. In fact we often seem to play several rounds in any given day.

You might be familiar with it yourself? It’s what I like to call the ‘my life is harder’ game. Yes, that’s the one.

You know where you’ve barely had a minute to sit down all day, have been dreaming of supping even a semi-lukewarm beverage, and then the moment you’ve finally got the rug rats into bed your other half calls to say he hasn’t had the chance to eat since breakfast and what’s for dinner.

You then proceed to mutter to yourself as you stomp around the kitchen wondering exactly how many tea rounds there were in the office today, whether he enjoyed having time to read something other than the back of a baby food pouch on his commute and cursing the fact there’s bloody football on the telly. Again.

Of course you choose not to recall the fact that hubby had to trudge to work in the pouring rain, that you did get to catch up with a friend (if that’s what you can call a snatched conversation as you try to rescue various offspring from the bacteria-soaked ball pit at soft play) and that other half is babysitting at the weekend so you can go out for a drink.

But that’s a given with parental bickering – especially of the mid-week, getting really knackered now variety – isn’t it? The whole point is that on particularly sleep-deprived, vomit-fuelled days your life is DEFINITELY harder than theirs.

Several bones of contention spring to mind at this point. All of which my mum friends would sincerely back me up on. I know because I’ve done my ‘mum market research’, otherwise known as having a good old bitch over coffee!

Firstly who wrote the rule that as a mum you’re the one person in the family who is never allowed to get sick? Or, if someone actually acknowledges that you have a slight sniffle – usually full-blown flu – as mum you are not entitled to a single snippet of sympathy.

No, your job is simply to get on with it. Or ‘man up’ as hubby so charitably described it the other day.

This when I was recovering from a sickness bug that would proceed to take down everyone we know while coping with both kids and he headed out for a poker night. Hmm, yes he did pay for that one. Mostly with hangover + screaming baby = tough, deal with it sunshine!

Second, the dad misconception that when you meet up with friends, with numerous offspring in tow, that a lovely ‘relaxing’ time is had by all, consuming vast quantities of afternoon tea and debating the news of the day.

To be fair hubby does admit his mistakes here when faced with a coffee shop and a plethora of small people at the weekend, but it’s all conveniently forgotten by Monday.

Third, since when did I say that I was happy to become some kind of housekeeper, chef, dry cleaner and professional ironer? Oh that’s right, it was allegedly a given when I got the first bun in the oven. Having been a career girl since my early 20s it’s only natural that the majority of household tasks should all fall to me.

After all who doesn’t love washing other peoples’ pants and cleaning up poo?!

Yes I like things neat and tidy. Doesn’t mean I clean the kitchen floor for kicks.

Anyway, I realise I sound rather bitter and twisted here. But hey it’s the end of the week and I had three hours sleep last night.

The good thing about the ‘my life is harder’ game is that it usually ends in laughter and an admission that ‘sorry, I’m being a bit of a dick.’ And bickering – of the largely good-natured variety – keeps you both on your toes.

Just don’t expect me to iron you a shirt okay?!

 

Coughing over the dilemma of ‘basic human rights’ (pre-kids)

The Neat Freak household is one full of sickness at the moment.

Mini-me has managed to take down everyone within a five mile radius with a particularly lovely hacking cough/streaming cold/ what I like to refer to as ‘cotton wool head’ combo. (So apologies if the following doesn’t make total sense!)

Poor blue-eyed boy is particularly stricken and looks so sorry for himself that it makes me want to cry. Horrible.

Having spent the weekend being sprayed with snot, tears and projectile vomit (don’t ask!) all this got me thinking about what it was like being ill before children. You know when you were actually allowed and had time to be ill.

I have vague memories of lying on the sofa with a selection of films to watch on telly and a ready supply of chocolate to hand, hubby checking in to see how I was and bringing home my favourite food for dinner.

Whereas now you’re lucky if you get time to swallow some pills to tackle your own temperature before donning your virtual nurses’ uniform and starting a seemingly never-ending shift of mopping brows, fetching juice, finding favourite Ben & Holly episodes, trying to coax little people to eat something, reaching for the Calpol, doing the fourth pyjama change of the day etc. etc.

Being ill is in fact one of those things you consider a ‘basic human right’ before having children. There are lots of others too…

*Drinking a hot drink while it’s still hot – some days I lose count of the number of times I re-boil the kettle. Either that or pretend to ‘enjoy’ my semi-cold, stewed cuppa that’s been sitting waiting 20 minutes for me with a piece of kitchen roll over the mug.

*Not dreading twice-daily teeth cleaning – this may of course not be universal but as mini-me has a hatred of brushing it’s become something I truly despise. Nothing like trying to clamp your daughter’s head in one position so you can clean her teeth as quickly as humanly possible after 15 minutes of trying to coax her into letting you do it in a less stressful fashion.

*Wearing stain-free clothes – It doesn’t matter how many aprons I use, how many muslins I attempt to hold up as a ‘human shield’ I still always seem to end the day speckled in food, formula, milk, mud and other unidentified substances.

*Being able to pee alone – God I miss ‘using the facilities’ without having to do any one of the following: Singing a selection of show tunes to provide ‘entertainment’ from behind the bathroom door, answering questions from behind the bathroom door, trying to pacify a screaming baby from behind the bathroom door, mini-me yelling ‘Mummy, I need a poo!’ from outside the bathroom door, taking mini-me and blue-eyed boy into the bathroom with me…

*Packing for every possible eventuality before leaving the house like some mad bag lady – I find this one is particularly enhanced by hubby nagging about why it takes me so long to get ready, and then later tutting because I didn’t think to bring a football, third change of clothes for blue-eyed boy, the kite, the preferred nappy cream, a wider selection of snacks and drinks etc. etc.

I’m sure there are many, many more of these. To be continued when my brain loses its current fuzzy status and returns to ‘normal’ – whatever that is…