I got home from work the other night and was excitedly informed it was a night to celebrate. I frantically ran through all the important dates my memory could conjure. I was drawing a blank. Before I could ask “Why are we celebrating?” and risk a night full of apologizing for forgetting what happened on January 4th, my wife said, “We have some extra money so we are going out to eat! Out out.” (It should be noted “out out” is more than just “out”. It’s similiar to a 6th grade “like like” crush)
Over the past few months, the restaurants in our budget usually have drive-thrus or more teenagers working at them than a car wash for an 11th grade fundraiser. I just want to be smart with what money we have. Times have been tough. Money has been tight. It seems like a bad idea to spend money going “out out” to eat when we have bills approaching their grace periods. If we are going to spend money, then it should be money well spent.
My wife reassured me, “We’re fine. It will be worth it.”
“And Daddy, Mommy told us you have to break the tie!” Hannah, my 8 year old, had an excited yet serious look on her face.
It seemed all sides were at an impasse about dinner. I was going to have to break the three-way tie between the 5 year old, 8 year old, and their mother on where we would be dining out (these are the kinds of hard decisions you have to make as a dad). The 5 year old was in favor of Wendy’s. The 8 year old wanted Red Robin and my wife was waving a coupon for a free dessert with a kids’ meal at Applebee’s.
“I choose….Applebee’s.” Groans from the reps of the two losing restaurants. “How about we get dessert too?” And just like that, Daddy goes from Lex Luthor to Superman again.
I’m sure we’re all aware of the benefits to sitting down with your family and eating together but certainly we could save the money and do it at home? My family does get to eat together a good amount of the time during the week. But I know home can be filled with distractions, taking away from the entire point of sitting down and eating dinner together. One or both kids are convinced their mother and I are trying to poison them with what has been made which leads to them voicing their displeasure with a sound reminiscent of a Blue Whale just harpooned by a Japanese fishing boat. The phone seems to ring just as everyone picks up their forks. The dog panhandles for morsels. My wife and I are guilty of peaking at the tweets and texts coming in to our phones and although we turn off the television and I have no empirical evidence to prove it, I know the TV is telepathically urging the kids to eat quickly and come back to it. So a night out could be a good change of pace and a good way to get away from the distractions of home.
Applebee’s may not compare to Nobu, but for Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, it isn’t too far off. We got our table right away (Having to wait longer than 3 minutes for a table, with two hungry kids, can be like waiting your turn to be rescued by the Coast Guard from shark infested waters. You’re never sure when that bite or, in this case, meltdown, could come.). The four of us quickly scanned the menus and made our decisions. Because my wife and I worry less about making sure the four food groups are represented on our kids’ plates and more about keeping the dying whales sounds quiet, the kids are allowed to order what they want (short of them ordering a whiskey sour and a piece of ‘Triple Fudge Death Mountain Cake’, I’m not real picky).
We talked about school. About who the kids played with at recess, how they like their music teacher, and how they did on their spelling test. We laughed at the funny faces Emma made. Hannah beat me at the kids’ menu’s Tic Tac Toe board. We all forgot to use our “indoor voices” at different points. We laughed. We laughed some more. We used enough napkins to knit a parachute. My wife and I got in to a debate about the Wizard of Oz (the effects of 11yrs of marriage), we commented on the Justin Bieber/Selena Gomez romance, and we just listened as our kids kept talking.
I can tell you that dinner, even though I don’t remember what the food tasted like, was fantastic. I can tell you the four of us never broke from each other’s attention even though cell phones buzzed and TV’s could be seen in the distance. I can tell you that our bill, for us, wasn’t cheap. I can also tell you, that dinner that night, was without question, money well spent.