Going anywhere with the bunch I look after is often not only an experience but can be quite entertaining. Going out for dinner is no exception. The plan of attack is that I go into the restaurant ALONE (while the natives sit in the 12 passenger battle wagon in the parking lot as to avoid the looks of a “swarming” in the entrance of the eatery) to ascertain if in fact there might be room to accommodate the troops for dinner.
The hostess approaches me with a sweet smile saying “seating for one?” to which I respond “no, actually seating for 12.” The look is always the same. The hostess performs a quick total glance of my persona head to toe just to verify that perhaps I am not delusional as I am clearly standing all by myself requesting the bus-sized table.
The answer back from the restaurant is usually a calculated one trying to delicately balance the need to accommodate my request against a ghost attendance. Once I add the information concerning the participants such as high chairs and booster seats (not to mention children’s menus) the look on the hostess becomes one of “Big Birthday Party Mess” (lots of noisy kids and maybe lower gratuity) and the table at the furthest end of the establishment is then readied for our family’s entrance.
Next I head back to the vehicle and begin to have all twelve members disembark in various states of excitement. Families our size rarely eat out (cost is close to almost a mortgage payment). As we process into the establishment and to the newly prepared table setting… pretty much anyone with a pulse has their eyes on our entourage as we pass by. Older couples are busy holding up their fingers as they count out how many kids they think they see…others are pointing and several are craning their necks to get a better view.
The rest is pretty straight forward if you can get past the frequent comings and goings of the waitress as she administers to the 12 passenger table.
Then the questions start as other patrons feel the need to have their curiosity satisfied. As the food orders are placed (and while we are trying to keep the kids busy with the crayons that are customarily provided) …the “curious” folks, one by one “drop by our table. Let the games begin:
Is this a daycare? (Part of me wishes it was…then the bill could be evenly distributed among a larger group of working parents.) “NO these are mine … no one pays me (as yet) to look after them…. So..NO… not a daycare!”
Which children are yours and which are his? “Madam…NOW we are worried …up until now we thought all the children were ours. Which ones do you think look different?” (Kids are killing themselves laughing and are all making silly faces). Meanwhile I struggle to keep my face reasonably serene throughout the interrogation. (Really just want to laugh!) .
Are these REALLY all from the same marriage? “I think so (husband and I exchange looks… older kids seem bewildered) well…we never thought to have that checked (!!)”
You mean to tell me you have been married to the same man all this time? Course the husband now dons an angelic look as the children (some of the older ones) are wondering if we should have traded “Daddy” in for a new model. “Well, it is true he is getting older (Dad looks totally guilty) but we haven’t found a model we like better or who wants to be around so many kids.”
I certainly hope you (my husband) help this poor dear (as they point to me) with all the housework after giving her all these children? I can hardly keep a straight face I am wondering if this older soul might like to come back to my house and run housework boot camp for the natives. I think she has the right attitude to get the male of the species (I have 3 teenage specimens at my house) all fired up! Then some child says “Oh don’t worry about that MOM MAKES him help ALL the time!” (!!)
How can you afford to feed all of them? “Not sure lady… I came in here prepared to have some stay after dinner no doubt and do dishes…any leftovers from your table you want to share?” (The look resulting from this is usually priceless…jaw dropped WIDE open)
You must make a lot of money to be able to eat out? “Ever since I started printing up $20 bills the basement it is no longer an issue…besides this way I don’t have to waste my time doing the dishes at home.”
After the newness of our tribe among the other restaurant faithful has subsided (usually the food has arrived) and we are left in complete anonymity while some kids eat and others play at eating (hopefully no food fights!). Usually before dessert can be served there are more people dropping by our table…similar questions along with some compliments.
I will never forget the woman who told me how well-behaved everyone was and inquired if I was “a group home mom?” No doubt observing the mashed up fries and gravy down the side of my coat, the salad dressing in my hair or the other equally as galling indiscretions on the table that would warrant deliverance of a rather substantial gratuity in appreciation of our server. When I answered “No…why did you think I was?” …the response “You just seem so calm in all of this I thought you might be a professional.” (Died laughing! )
As I am leaving a lady pulls at my sleeve as I pass by her table…“Tell me dear…What made you decide to have so many?”
(Love that the kids all get to hear this one)…“Well…I wanted to be sure that there were enough taxpayers that when it is time for me to retire I at least know that there are 9 kids paying into the system to help make the seniors years of the average person (and me in particular) more enriched with better government services.”
Back to the battle wagon…until next time!
The Garden Goat
P.S. Reminds me of a story where two sisters each with five children went shopping. At one point one of the husbands was left for a few moments presiding over the combined tribe. Many people stopped to talk to the kids and felt sorry for the husband. Then the sisters watched the kids while the husbands ran an errand. When the husband came back an older was woman passing by and only seeing one “mom” and all these kids with the dad …walked a few paces away and muttered “Pervert” under her breath.
You can’t hope that everyone will understand.