There are two kinds of parents when it comes to dining out with children.
The first kind of parents say "Children can be a handful at unexpected times and I choose to put certain aspects of my life on hiatus until said child grows older and becomes more predictable."
The second kind of parents say "Public tantrums and embarrassing charades be damned, I will not sacrifice my freedom merely because I have children. They will learn to behave in public or I will die trying to teach them to."
We are the latter kind of parent. Both styles of parenting have their pros and cons. We chose to parent in the latter style regarding restaurant dining in particular because we grew tired of hearing our friends with kids tell us they couldn't go out to dinner with their offspring because said offspring "won't let us, they just don't listen when we are out in public."
Lamont and I would look at each other, knowing full well who wore the pants in that family. We were determined to be just as social and active as before we had our kids. Sure we endured the occasional tantrum or glass of spilled milk, but for the most part the kids knew what was expected of them and we prided ourselves on their behavior in public. We were frequently told how wonderfully behaved the kids were when we dined out and yes, I gloated a bit. Then Ty was born.
I'm not sure if it's because he's the baby and has been coddled a bit more than his siblings or if it's just his borderline insane (but awesome nevertheless) personality, but he is the one child who has made us look like fools in public time and time again. He's the one who would lay down in a puddle of tears on the Target floor and wail over something ridiculous. When I would bend down to pick him up, his body would immediately go limp in that quintessential child defense mechanism that we like to call "jello body." If I did manage to pick him up he would flail and grab at my clothes (once baring my entire chest to the homegoods section of TJ Maxx). He knew better than to hit or kick, but tried his best to deter my intervention through a flurry of movement that even a cat in a sink full of water could not replicate. We have managed to tame the beast somewhat over the years, and at the age of five, he is predictable in public settings at least 80% of the time. Last night was the other 20% of the time.
We took the family out to an "upscale" burger joint in the Biltmore District of Phoenix. That was our first mistake. We assumed that we could handle the Yelp described "hipster hangout" with ease. The kids all got the standard run down before entering, and off we went, our best intentions laid out. We were seated on the (still very cramped and hipster-filled) patio and set the kids at the table. 30 seconds in and I hear one of the very stylish gentlemen seated behind me exclaim "Uh-oh." I turn instinctively toward Ty only to see my son with a large ball of flames in his hand and a mixture of fear and thrill on his face. I grab whatever is the source of the flame and put it out with my bare hands. Yes, it hurt. Once the fire was under control, I realized that in less than a minute Ty had managed to peel off and set fire to his kindergarten reward sticker proclaiming him "terrific!" as well as part of his napkin. Fail number two. Mommy forgot to move the decorative table votive out of reach. Time for the first beer. We have now been labeled by fellow diners as "that family"
A little while into the dinner and the littles decide they need a potty break. The normally well mannered Ty shouts out "I'll go with you mommy, I REALLY have to PEE!!" Okay, thanks for that announcement, you may now come with me. It's dark on the patio, so I take Ty and Stella by the hand without much notice. As we walk through the restaurant (which is substantially more illuminated) I see the hipster crowd looking at my little Ty and smirking. I guess they just think he's cute, right? Only then do I realize he had taken off both socks and shoes and was walking through this posh little bar with a ketchup smeared face and hillbilly bare feet. I am mortified, pick him up, and carry he and his sister into the bathroom. Moments after closing the door, my oldest son begins loudly knocking on the bathroom door while equally loudly saying "open up, I have Ty's shoes. Lamont said that being barefoot in a public bathroom is wrong on many levels." Really?? Thanks Cal, I was unaware of that fact, but now, not only am I informed of it, so is the rest of the restaurant.
Back to the table. Order another beer. All I want to do now is LEAVE. Then I am suddenly seized by uncontrollable laughter. The humor of it all hits me. Us and our ridiculous expectations, and the judgmental crowd observing. It really is amusing. I look around at the tattooed, high-heeled, overly tanned, surgically altered crowd, all of whom are clearly annoyed by the presence of (God forbid) children and I realize just how funny it all is. I love my life, I love my kids... arson and all. Take that hipsters!