Going "out to eat" has taken on a new meaning since having children. Gone are the days of leisurely dining.
When you are a new parent with your first infant, you don't even realize how good you've got it. You're too preoccupied with concerns that the baby will scream in the restaurant, interrupting others' peaceful meals. Or perhaps, he'll puke all over his outfit, and you'll have to rush to the bathroom to change him. Worse yet, he could have an explosive movement, saturating his outfit and car seat. If you happen to make it through a meal while he is sleeping, you are giddy with excitement.
When you have a second child, you begin to make restaurant choices based on the atmosphere and clientele. Louder is better, as it will likely drown out your eldest child's whines and infant's cries. "Family friendly" is music to your ears. Suckers at the hostess station are a good sign, and changing tables in the bathroom are a must.
As your children age, you actually try to pick places they will enjoy. We love you, Red Robin. Such places serve chicken fingers, and have kids cups with lids and straws. You don't feel guilty when it looks as if a bomb went off at your table, and don't even think about looking underneath. The servers frequently sing "happy birthday." This is your kind of place.
Tonight we went to the new El Nopal on Zorn Avenue. It was huge. The host seated us in a nearly vacant room. By the time we finished dinner, the room had cleared and the kids were able to run in circles around the tables. I smiled to myself. There was a time when I would have been almost offended to sit in an empty room, when the company of others and ambiance were to be desired. There was a time when I wished to see and be seen. Today, donning my mommy tee shirt and shorts, I was content to sit in an empty room and simply enjoy the company of my family.