I survived dinner out with 2 kids

[twitter]The laundry baskets in the bedrooms are overflowing, the dishwasher hasn’t been emptied, and there’s still swimming towels in the dryer from Monday.

This week, I’m a single parent and I’m just trying to keep my head above water. My wife and I have a strict division of powers to keep things humming. I cook and shop, she cleans and organizes and everything is hunky dory. We can cover for each other in a pinch, but everything works best when we stay in our own lanes.

This week I’m all over the map. My wife is in San Francisco for a work event and so it’s up to me to juggle the busy schedule of activities, work, school, cooking, cleaning, and laundry, oh my. I can get everyone fed and entertained and into bed on time, but I’m still dropping a few balls (see laundry and dishes above).

art at earl's willow
Art at Earl’s Willow Park.  “Portraits of ACAD Artists 2004” Sarah Jane Fougere .

Mid week saw me tackle the unimaginable: two hours in an upscale restaurant with a 5 and 8 yr old – by myself. Earls restaurant is the boys favourite ‘fancy’ restaurant. It doesn’t have a formal kids’ menu, but the boys can get by with some fettuccine. And since there’s no kids’ menu, there’s no real activity to entertain the boys before their meals come. No crayons, no puzzles, just the company of their parents and small talk.

So usually when we treat out to Earls, we bring the iPads. We don’t make a habit of it, but we do when we go to Earls. I forgot to bring the entertainment when I quickly packed up the boys after school and headed across town in rush hour for our early dinner appointment at a recently renovated Earls in Willow Park.

Earls Willow Park
Renovations at Earl’s in Willow Park have brightened up the space

The restaurant was unveiling some additions to their menu, showing off the renos, and was having a media dinner. Earls has a test kitchen where a crew of 5 chefs work on new menu items. They’re passionate, imaginative, and up for a challenge.

Normally, I’d do these media schmooze things solo, but knowing I was parenting solo, Earls invited the boys and I to have a table to the side and arrive early.

And so we did. Without iPads. Actually, I had planned on bringing their reading books from school, a chance to work together on some homework without distraction, but I left them on the stairs at home. Because of course I did.

new Earl's menu
New menu items at Earl’s include roasted corn and poblano dip, the original Hunan Kung Pao recipe, and a chicken confit fettuccine.

So the boys and I tucked into our booth and talked. I only brought out my phone to snap a few pictures to send to my wife showing off our night out. There was no Pokemon, no Angry Birds, nothing. There was talk.

We talked about school. We drew up hypotheses on what is going to happen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We talked about the new Wild Kratts Board Game they want for Christmas. We talked about the new Masterchef Jr starting this week. We talked about what they’re doing in art and gym. We talked about whether they would keep taking swimming lessons in January. And we talked about Justin Trudeau‘s new cabinet (seriously, I was running low on topics and after Charlie visited Justin during his final campaign swing, the boys feel like they know our congenial PM)

new earl's menu
New on the Earl’s menu the Silly Wabbit cocktail (think carrot and ginger) and the classic seasonal gingerbread cake

For nearly 2 hours and 5 courses of dinner, we talked. Sure, they squirmed a little bit. Yes, they got a little impatient. But achievement unlocked: I entertained 2 kids in a restaurant for 2 hours by myself.

I know there are thousands of parents who run this gauntlet every day with no light at the end of the tunnel. You have my infinite respect for all the juggling you do. Parenting is exhausting enough when you get to tag team, but to be left in the ring on your own? Hoo boy.

My wife comes home on Friday, and I can’t wait. Now, to fold bathing suits, empty the dishwasher, and pack lunches for tomorrow. Luckily, we have leftovers from dinner.

Disclosure: Me and the boys were guests of Earls for dinner.

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