Now back to lunch as a group of parents. Firstly this had to be put into the diary a few days before, there are no last minute whimsy’s with a baby. Then a venue had to be found, one who could cater for a table of 6 adults and 3 highchairs without any fuss. I’m told by Fergotron that when she mentioned this on booking they barely batted an eyelid. That should have been a warning sign I suppose. With a table booked we woke up on bank holiday Monday and whereas in the past we would have milled around until it was time to leave we had to plan. At what point were we feeding Lizzy Face, how were we going to schedule her naps so that we could get the maximum enjoyment out of our lunch. With this decided there was a small lull (during which time I played Halo for half an hour). Then we had to pack a bag. I used to be able to just pick up my wallet, keys and phone and leave the house. Now it takes at least 30 minutes of packing, checking and final checking the bag. All this has happened before we have even left the house. I’m already exhausted.
The stress of leaving the house should have been abated when we got to the pub. What’s not to look forward to, dinner, a cheeky afternoon beer to quote a guy in my office regarding a Sunday lunch I looked forward to ‘accepting I was writing the afternoon off’. I did not account for the baby in this anticipation.
It’s not that the babies were badly behaved, all three babies were actually a delight and it was nice for me as the two others were babies I’ve not had much opportunity to interact with over the last 10 months since Lizzy was born. In contrast to our previous lunch this one was a blur. There were drinks ordered and then a good 15 minutes picking things up that one or other baby would throw on the floor. Eventually we all but gave up on picking them up. This, alongside trying to stop Lizzy eating crayons but also not let her get bored led to a snap decision on ordering food – suddenly the waitress was upon us. After a little while I had a moment, I was suddenly aware of just how loud it was in the pub. It was like a wall of noise closing in on me, overwhelming and crushing my brain. I looked around and suddenly realised, the pub was full almost exclusively of families. Until yesterday I hadn’t really experienced this. We have been out on our own with Lizzy or to odd places where there might be a few other families about and with a smile of acknowledgement you all agree that it’s great to be able to take your baby with you for a relaxing dinner. But yesterday, I realised we had become something else. Now we were those people. The people that as a young single guy you look at and think, they look exhausted, they’ve barely had a conversation and they’ve spent their whole time getting up and being distracted and letting their food go cold.
The noise was almost unbearable and I suddenly felt like these places exist to keep us contained. Not in a bad way, but we don’t want to have to worry about upsetting other people. If we went to a pub for trendy young hipsters we would be forever nervous about the noise. There is a freedom in going to a family orientated pub and allowing your child to scream as loud as they want. Fill your boots chuck; everyone else is already doing it. There is something about being able to let your child drop stuff on the floor and not have to apologise and spilling drinks or food is almost actively encouraged which is all very lovely, BUT!
There is a downside. The downside is that you have a room full of adults barely able to hold a conversation between them what with the noise, the interruptions, the nappy changes and the feeding and the naps. A room full of the weary acceptance of parents knowing that, in order to get out of the house en masse, this is what you have to endure. And knowing that that 3rd pint will definitely be your last. Whereas in the past you would wander home, collapse on the sofa and watch a film, half in a boozy snoozy haze having a cuddle with your partner and maybe just dipping into a sneaky afternoon glass or port or some cheese; now you have to get home and entertain your baby, make them dinner, give them a bath and put them to bed all before you can even begin to relax yourself. Indeed if you can even be bothered to do so after all that. By 7:30 last night when we put Lizzy down I just wanted to go to bed. I was beaten. There was no mistaking it any more, I’m a parent and this, if I want to go out and talk to other adults, is what my life for the foreseeable future will be like.
Don’t get me wrong readers, I had a nice time. It was good to go out and hang out with our friends. It’s not something I have much opportunity to do and as we don’t know many people in the area it’s a great chance to get to know each other a little better but I wasn’t prepared for lunch as a group of parents. I didn’t know this was parenting, the last time I was in this situation I was on the other side i.e. the child, off having a great time with the other children while my parents were having their conversations interrupted by my siblings or by me as I came back screaming after falling out with my brother. The food was good, the service was ok too I think though I didn’t have much attention left to notice. We were made welcome and we stayed for dessert and coffee so we were having a good time, the kind of good time that only parents can understand, where at the end you get home and think to yourself, Christ I never had a full conversation that entire time, what was I doing?
I think next time I will get my sister to come down, she can take all the babies for a walk while we get a pint in a normal pub and have a normal conversation, about ourselves and the things we like. Like hot dinner and cold beer.