Thursday, February 10, 2011

That'll be four adults, and four high chairs.

There are many times when I am overwhelmed with a deep sympathy for a complete stranger. Reading a tragic autobiography, or watching a sad news story.

Or this past Tuesday night, when I felt sorry for our waitress.

Here's the deal. It was my mom's birthday, and my sisters and I, along with the four grandbabies, were taking her out to eat. As I've mentioned before, the grandbabies are 2 1/2 years, 18 months, 9 months, and 10 weeks. So, as the title states, we needed seating for four adults, and four high chairs.

I was the last one to arrive, and as I was walking my son into the lobby, the hostess spotted me. "Are you at the table with all the moms and babies?" (Like we're having a convention? It's only 8 people, and half of those are tiny.)

"Yeah, I guess so." What else could I say? Maybe there was a Mommy's Night Out group meeting. Or a baby shower. I had to assume that what tipped her off is the fact that my sisters and I do share a bit of a family resemblance. Still, it would have been embarrassing if she'd accidentally sat me with another table.

Fortunately, she led me to the right place, the table in the farthest corner back, right next to the bathrooms. Yay for sequestering children!

Though everyone else had arrived a few minutes ahead of me, seating was still being determined. Though it may seem simple, determining table seating when you eat out with kids is crucial. We had to make sure everyone was close enough to their kid for easy supervision and feeding, but also far enough away that they couldn't grab at our plates or drinks, and allowing space for diaper bags, purses and coats, and Mom's birthday presents, cake, and balloons.

We finally had everyone seated and strapped into high chairs somewhere between dessert and the check.

In all seriousness though, eating didn't go too bad. My son isn't picky at all, so ordering for him is a breeze. He also knows how to drink from a straw now, so I don't have to fuss with sippy cups. His older cousin did well also, and the younger little girl ate puffs and other little baby snacks. The newborn mostly slept and farted (often simultaneously). But it was adorable because, hey, newborn. Even their bodily functions are cute.

The major problem is, my son really loves to share. That's sweet in theory, but it becomes messy when his version of "sharing" is "dropping food in the general direction of his aunt, and then clapping for himself". The legs of his high chair were buried a foot deep in crumbs and assorted food debris by the end of the meal.

My mom was actually the one misbehaving. She is a complete shutterbug, and brings her camera along anywhere the babies are present, even if we're just walking around the mall. We could not get her to understand that dinner is one of the worst times to try to take pictures of us and the kids. We don't want pictures of ourselves shoving our faces, and we don't want pictures of our kids smearing themselves with food. (Fun fact: As soon as they realize the camera is on them, they will start fingerpainting with their mashed potatos. If they're unaware they're being photographed, they will eat nicely. But it doesn't help when you're yelling "Baby! Over here! Look at Nana!")

Then the newborn boy's farting turned into the real deal, and he had to be changed. While you would think that newborns would be easier to change, with their tiny bums, and inability to squirm on you too much, you'd be wrong. Newborn poop is the approximate consistency of roofing tar, but without the pleasant roofing tar smell. And since you need at least three arms just to properly hold a newborn, supporting their head, neck, lower back, etc., you need even more help trying to lay one on a changing table and hold their legs up while you degrease their butt.

So, my sisters got that done, leaving my Mom and I with the other three kids. This violates my golden ratio rule. You can never let the kids outnumber you. The more adults you have on each of them, the better. Fortunately, my sisters were done in the ladies' room quickly enough that the children didn't have time to smell our fear and take advantage of it. (Plus, we had them all strapped into high chairs, which wards off physical threats, though not auditory attacks.)

Then it was time for dessert. My mom is a complete stick in the mud about restaurants singling her out on her birthday. We tried to explain to her that when they do that, they bring you free dessert. (My middle sister celebrates her birthday about twice a month due to this fact.) But my mom thinks all the servers coming and singing to her in the middle of the restaurant is crawl-in-a-hole-and-die embarrassing.

Unfortunately for her, my sisters and I respect her wishes far less than we respect free dessert.

Anyway, my son got a huge kick out the people singing, and clapped and cheered for them. (I tried to tell my mom that we knew the babies would really enjoy the people singing, and that's why we told them it was her birthday. It was hard to convince her though, since I was talking through mouthfuls of complimentary brownie a la mode.)

Finally we got our checks, got everything split up, and commenced to packing the diaper bags and bundling up the kids. I tried to clean up around my son's high chair, but then I remembered that I quit waiting tables after four months for a reason. So I just tipped the waitress about 35% as an apology.

As fun as it was, I don't know if I'd want to do it again soon. Don't get me wrong, the whole family's eating dinner again tonight, but we're ordering pizza. (Though my parents only have two high chairs, so we'll feed the kids on a rotation, I guess.)

So what's the largest number of little kids (preschool or younger) you've ever taken out to eat? What's your mandatory adult:child ration? I'll be very impressed if anyone has pulled off taking out three or more toddlers per adult.

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