Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fear of Restaurants and Being Spontaneous

Not long ago, we got a last minute invite from acquaintances to go out to dinner.

With all of our kids.

To an actual restaurant. Again let me say, with our kids. And not to McDonald's, either. To a Thai restaurant.

I told myself, hey, lots of people do it all the time. I've heard about it. I've seen it before. It is entirely possible for people take a bunch of kids out to eat and actually leave the building unscathed, with full bellies. We...just don't attempt to do that.

Our world became a lot smaller when Lilli was born.  Dates, vacations, road trips, eating out, shopping, all of those public activities became extremely hard. I became paranoid and began to avoid unnecessary, difficult outings. So we just got used to staying home a lot. We don't go out to eat, we stay home and cook. We tell ourselves that "our cooking is better than most restaurants anyway" and "eating out is expensive." Those reasons are valid (depending on the restaurant.)

But the biggest reason is because it is just too hard for it to be worth it.

So this was complicated. Jasen told me about the casual invite which had actually taken place on his voice mail. We had a short window of time to decide and call back. The person who asked really does not know us, and obviously does not know that we just do not "go out to dinner." Oh, and it was to a restaurant that we had never been to before. For an early dinner at 5:30. I was intimidated by the potential disaster I envisioned. (I can be a bit dramatic at times.) But without explaining why in detail, I will just say that it was one of those situations where we knew we had to go. Trust me, it was important.

Maybe one day, when we know these people a little better, we will look back and laugh at our preparations and paranoia. But the next few hours before dinner were devoted to avoiding a meltdown at the restaurant. We made food for the kids. We fed Lilli her dinner way early at 4:00, and gave the other two a huge snack. We grabbed Josh's lunchbox full of hotwheel cars and some crayons and markers for Chloe. But Lilli, well, I was not sure about her. I looked at the ipad and decided it was time. I needed to break down and actually BUY a movie for her from itunes. I guessed that there was not going to be free wi-fi for her to watch Elmo on Youtube at the restaurant (our best distracting activity), and I later found out I was right. I figured it couldn't be that hard to figure out how to put a movie on an ipad, I had been talking about doing it for months. I am so behind the times about some things. So I found one of her favorite Sesame Street movies, The End of Silliness. It was totally worth the $6.99. Of course, I didn't know it would take that long to download, with our slow internet connection. I watched the "downloading" line, paced, and packed drinks and diaper bags. It finished just in time.

While we drove to the restaurant, we made plans and instructed Chloe to use her manners. As we pulled in, Chloe informed us that she had to go to the potty again. I took Chloe and Lilli inside to the restroom together. That took about fifteen minutes. Then, we were READY.

At the table there were four of us adults, and seven children. The kids did awesome. Josh did not throw any silverware or yell loudly, "MA! MA!"" He sat in a highchair and played with his cars quietly the entire time. That was a small miracle. Chloe colored quietly with the children of the other family. Lilli sat next to me and watched her new movie on the ipad which was discreetly laying on my lap under the table. I didn't want it to be a distraction to the other kids, or to other people in the restaurant, so I put the sound on mute. Lilli did great sitting in a real chair, and only tried to get up a few times. I kept my arm around her and hugged her tight next to me with my left arm, all while I tried to eat my dinner with my right, balance the ipad on my lap, and maintain a coherent conversation with a person I hardly know. Jasen entertained Josh and held another conversation at the other end of the long table in the middle of the restaurant. I was nervous, but it went better than I could have imagined.

The best part of the dinner was when one of the people we were dining with commented, "So.. your kids are doing great! Are they always like this when you go out to eat?"

Jasen and I glanced at each other. I said, "Um, we don't...really, go...out to eat at restaurants."
They both looked from me to Jasen, who smiled sheepishly and shook his head, "No, we don't."

I feel like we are re-learning how to live life sometimes. We are learning how to do "normal" things in a different way. We cut back drastically on all of our activities years ago, because of Lilli's seizures, her behavior, her feeding issues, and finances (which were affected by having a child with special needs).

Now, we are at a point where we can try to go out spontaneously as a family once in awhile. And if we try it, we find sometimes that it actually does turn out OK. I don't know when we will attempt to go out to eat with the kids again. Probably not until someone else talks us into it.

And then I will download another itunes Sesame Street movie, take a deep breath, and we will try it all over again.

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