I had this whole meal thing down pat, taking Ally and Max out to lunch on my own was second nature by now. Most days I could get all 3 of us fed without much drama. Then we had Luke and suddenly meal times became complicated affairs.
Taking 3 young children out for lunch on your own is a feat in itself. First location is very important, hawker centers are out of the question cos a) the pram doesn’t fit at any of the tables, b) either one or both children are slipping off those little round seats since they have to perch on them to reach the table and c) poor Luke will be melting in his pram by the time we are done eating.
So that leaves us with food courts or restaurants. When one is at a food court, it’s all about location. You need to find a table that close enough to the stalls you are buying from so that you can keep an eye on the kids. This can be tricky if one child wants to eat something at this end of the food court and the other child wants something at the other end. What does one do? You either tell the kids to choose food from stalls in the vicinity or you take all the troops with you to one stall, buy the food, walk them to the other end , find a table and get everyone settled while you buy food for second child. By this time you probably look harassed and overwhelmed and hopefully some kind soul will help you carry your tray.
Even the type of food that you have to buy can pose a problem. Suppose you need to buy something from this end and walk over with kids in tow to the other. Now , if its a rice dish that isn’t too bad, but what if its a bowl of steaming hot noodles? Do you attempt to carry the tray with one hand while pushing the pram with the other and at the same time shouting at the other two kids to follow you? I choose to ask the stall holder to help me carry the tray, at least I know I won’t end up burning one of my kids! Most of the time they are willing to help but of course you get the odd one or two who couldn’t give a damn.
Once the food is actually bought, cut up and served to the kids, now its time to feed yourself. Gone are the days of buying what you actually felt like eating. Now I choose foods that I can either eat with one hand or gobble down in 10 minutes. No more hot soups for me! The meal goes rather smoothly if Luke stays asleep, but should he wake up in between then that’s when I wish I could grow an extra set of arms. Luckily for me, Ally is old enough to eat on her own and loves her food so I don’t have to constantly remind her to stop day dreaming and eat. Max is a different story, he can feed himself but will take forever and will fidget, day-dream and do about a 100 other things besides eat. So I end up feeding him half the time to make things quicker. Take today for example, we were all having lunch when Luke woke up and needed a feed. So while I fed Luke, I was trying to feed Max and myself all at the same time. By the time lunch was finished, I was ready for bed.
If Matt is around that makes thing much easier, in fact we can even have a decent conversation over meal times. Sometimes we end up playing what I call ” pass the baby” which just means one of us carries Luke and tries to feed ourself while the other manages the two older kids. Then we do a swap so the person carrying Luke can now finally use both hands to try and finish his/her meal.
Is it tough handling all 3 on my own during meal times? Of course it is! But I know it’s one of those things that won’t last forever. As the kids get older it would hopefully get easier , in the meantime , I’ve better master the art of speed eating.