When S arrived on the scene, each Daddy road trip felt like a marathon. I would count the meals, the bedtimes, the days, until Husband would be home. In the earlier years, we would encamp at my parents house. Two doting grandparents and prepared meals made it all manageable. Of course, when the kids were young they do want a parent a LOT of the time so even with willing and qualified help, I rejoiced when I woke up on the last morning, knowing Husband would soon be back in the family fold.
This week Husband had a three day-er in Ottawa. I worked two of those days and had previously arranged to take the third day off to go on a field trip with a group of rowdy kindergartner's. Also, one evening I had a sitter arranged as I had my class.
You know, it all went pretty well. I felt so comfortable in the shallow water of the pool of single parenthood, I jumped straight into the deep end: I offered to take the kids to a sit down restaurant WITH NO BACK UP.
Our kids, well they have mixed success in restaurants. J's predisposition to wiggling and boredom, intersecting with a certain degree of impatience (he gets that from me) combined with extreme volatility when hungry (i.e. when you're about to eat) is recipe for disaster. S is a fussy eater and has been known to reject meals because the mac 'n cheese noodles are not the right shape or it's not "regular cheese pizza".
Before any restaurant outing, Husband and I often read the menu on the internet. So were arrive at restaurant and upon getting a cheery "How are we this evening?" and even before hearing about the chef's magical creation that evening (and sometimes before we sit down) we are prepared:
"We'll have one order of the kids' chicken fingers with plum sauce, one kids' cheese pizza, 2 kids sized milk with extra straws please, one Thai chicken salad, no onions, dressing on the side, a Cajun chicken burger with garden salad with the vinaigrette, one iced tea, one diet coke, extra napkins, 2 glasses of water. Do you know how long that will be? Oh and do you have any brown crayons?"
Then Husband and I have a well-ordered routine. We get the kids settled on the colouring/puzzles that invariably come on the kids menu. Once they have finished the mazes, word finds, crossword puzzles or similar, and they are starting to play with the sugar packets, we take a trip to the bathroom to wash hands and play with the automatic paper towel dispensers. If we are really lucky (and we're usually not) the food will then come. If not, Husband will gamely take the kids "on an adventure", which may include checking out a water feature in the entry, looking for rocks in the parking lot or looking at the bar stools in the bar. The latter only usually happens when there is a hockey game on. In a pinch, we'll also play guessing games, tick tack toe on on the napkins or a few rounds of "please don't pick your nose". The last arrow in our quiver is to threaten to never take them to a restaurant in their lives again. Or give them a treat. Or do anything fun.
It's not always un-fun, but it's a mixed bag of success even with two parents.
Anyway this evening, I bravely suggested, knowing J's improving life skills, we go to Frogstone Grill. On top of the usual kid-friendly things (nuggets, pizza, menu with puzzles) then give the kids a frog with their milk. These fellas can entertain for quite some time. Plus the bathrooms have the sound of frogs croaking which never fails to entertain.
I did secure their solemn vows to be "super-fantastically-extra-amazingly-good". We also went at 4:15 when I knew almost no one would be there but a few seniors and a few people having beers after work, which would mean a) faster service and b) fewer people to annoy.
The kids got into a serious Spy game on the drive over and the game bled over into the restaurant. I consented to their taking ONE tour around the restaurant searching for clues, which turned into ten. Then they said they weren't going all the way around, just going to the teleportal and they'd be right back (You have to hold hands to go through a teleportal, in case you didn't know).
I can't remember what required that they crawl on the floor, it was all very top-secret-hush-hush-need-to-know-basis.