Eating out with children is fun isn’t it? There’s nothing like trying to make them sit still when all they want is their fish and chips NOW. Then when they do finish they want attention and you can’t chat to your adult friends. And watch out if you’re out with friends who have kids the same age – it just gets a whole lot harder. But you’ve made do over the years and know what to expect so it’s not too bad most of the time – really.
When we were kids we grew up in the country and a great Saturday night out, for us kids anyway, was to go to the Footy Club for dinner. The town we lived near had a pub and the Footy Club so there was a choice of two places to hang out for drinks and dinner. But going there was an exciting outing and it was the main place we went to.
There were always other kids there and because the town was small and you went to school with all the local kids you all knew each other so you had someone to hang out with. The Footy Club was always overrun with kids running around, hanging out and playing a video game.
There was a foyer that everyone walked through to get to the main area. This foyer was fairly large and you had to walk through another door to get to the main area. So the kids had this big room all to ourselves, apart from when people entered it as they were arriving or leaving.
As a parent, I look back at this and think what a bonus that would be. You go out for dinner, you catch up with your mates, you just have to buy your kid one bottle of Coke or a raspberry and lemonade and you won’t see them until you’re all eating together. Meanwhile your kid’s running amok and if something happened someone would come and tell you because everyone knows who everyone is.
As a kid then it was great especially as we grew up on a farm so socialising with other kids our age out of school was fantastic. The video game I mentioned before was Space Invaders and as time went on, Pakman and Froggy. I didn’t play them much as there were always other kids there who were way cooler than me and a lot better at the game. I was content to watch, interact with the others, and listen to the music like Split Enz through the loud speakers.
We probably went to the Footy Club once every two months or so for dinner and the nights would finish with car rides home in the Kingswood. The car would just get warm 15 minutes later as we pulled into our driveway and if Dad had had a few beers, the car would be filled with the smell of his burps. I’m sure quite a bit of drink-driving happened when we were kids – a lot more so than these days as it’s rammed down our throat how dangerous it is to drink and drive.
When JJ and I go out for a meal in a public place I have my eye really closely on him just to make sure he’s not fighting with other kids but the more I think about it the more I want him to interact with other kids even if it does mean a fight and I don’t mean a hitting fight, I mean an argument.
There’s not many places I’ve been to eat around where I live where I would let JJ run off and muck around with other kids because those places aren’t conducive to that. And that’s the difference, perhaps, of growing up in the country compared to the city. Although in some places there are kids areas with video games setup but it’s different because they’re playing with kids you don’t know and you need to keep a closer eye on them.
Having said all of that, JJ gets his mixing fix with other kids at kid-friendly functions I go to where I do know most of the other people there and he does have the opportunity – within reason – to go off and play.
When I talk about footy I mean the Australian Rules kind. It’s like a religion to a lot of people in Australia.