Don’t get me wrong, I love my eight and nine-year-old girls more than life itself but the thought of ‘relaxing’ with them for two hours over a three-course meal sends a shiver down my spine.
I’d rather drink turpentine and take a whiz on a fire than take my two kids out to a nice restaurant for a feed.
We, as simple parents, fall into this trap too often. I’ll finish a big day at work and say to my wife, “We should go out for dinner, how about we get my mum to come around and have the kids?”
Her reply often matches my enthusiasm. “Sure honey, let’s do it, I can’t be stuffed cooking.” Then the words any highly strung parent fears: “But let’s just take the kids to dinner with us.” The same noise goes through my head when the Crows kick a goal at Adelaide Oval.
Off we go arming ourselves with iPads and colouring-in books: the type of weapons parents take in the attempt to have a relaxing, uninterrupted dinner. We get in the car and are off.
“I’d rather drink turpentine and take a whiz on a fire than take my two kids out to a nice restaurant for a feed.”
My wife and I discuss where to go. Our decision used to be based on quality of food or fancy location. Rundle Street and King William Road were where we ate during our single years. Now we choose the place that gives the kids pencils, sheets of paper and dot-to-dot activities. Side note: how bloody good were dot-to-dot books when you were a kid?
While we debate restaurants, the kids are having a much more heated debate in the back seat. Whose jacket is taking up more of the middle seat? Like, seriously kids, Kim Jong-un is thinking of letting nuclear missiles go and you’re worried about an inch of jacket on a seat that I own anyway?!
I generally turn around and yell another empty threat. “If you don’t stop muck-arse-ing around you can get out and walk!” Has any parent actually gone ahead with that threat? I feel like you’d only have to do it once to gain some massive respect from the little freeloaders but I guess the public backlash wouldn’t be worth it. Anyhow…
Into the restaurant we roll. We are greeted with the normal, “Where would you like to sit?” Well that’s a bloody interesting question. Personally, kids aside, I’d like to sit with a window view – where all the couples in love and retirees are sitting. Those seats look the best but we have Hurricane and Cyclone with us… best to sit us in one of two places. Option A: as far away from any other humans as possible. Option B: next to other suffering parents so we can share the shame of noisy kids.
“Side note: how bloody good were dot-to-dot books when you were a kid?”
Grab a seat. Now order. “I don’t want that, there’s nothing I like here.” We can never shift them off nuggets and chips so let’s go for that. We’ve been sitting for just over 10 minutes when we hear the inevitable: “I need to go to the toilet.”
The next hour or so is spent with my wife and I disciplining the kids and occasionally holding hands for a maximum of three seconds. We watch in despair the kids spill everything, from their drink to the salt shaker, and sauce to serviettes. We knock back our feed, pay the bill then get up to go. I always look back over our grubby table and think, “Well at least that mess isn’t at home.”
I finish my relaxing night at the restaurant by grabbing a few serviettes and wiping the table or picking up chips off the floor, just enough so a waitress or two sees me making some effort… then I walk out.
“Option A: as far away from any other humans as possible. Option B: next to other suffering parents so we can share the shame of noisy kids.”
As I pass the young couple sitting on a table for two, they look up and see our family rolling out of there like it’s some kid of human stampede. “Don’t rush into having children,” I say.
I ponder what he might be doing with his partner tonight after their romantic dinner and I remember what we used to do.
I drive home, get the kids to bed, tell them I love them and “Daddy thinks your wonderful” then lay in bed with my wife. We both stare at our iPhones. She’s on Facebook and I’m on Gumtree looking in the freebies section. Romance. At least we didn’t have to cook.
Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello is the host of travel show South Aussie With Cosi on Channel 9, Sunday nights at 5.30pm and chews the keyboard fat regularly – read his previous column Cosi Says: A Little Generosity Goes A Long Way.
What’s your nightmare ‘taking the kids out to dinner’ story? Let us know and share in the comments, below.