The Coronavirus has messed things up far worse than the economy you know.
It used to be a handy venting mechanism to head off to in-laws, friends or relatives with kids in tow, so they could revel in your offspring and you could have a precious hour or two where your eyes didn’t have to be located in two places in your head simultaneously. They in turn could revel in even more attention that is lavished upon them – not like they don’t get enough from you, but that’s kids for you.
But now, the lockdown has nulled this option. When the complete lockdown was in place from March through to July/August, the weather played its part in making outdoor pursuits a handy replacement for seeing your loved ones. You could take your little ones outside and they could frolic and gamble along the lush green pastures – or if you’re located in a more urban environment, the local park.
The issues with that are best left for another chapter, but the point I’m trying to make is that during these tough times, even the little things make a big difference.
Which is why we were at the shopping centre – see yesterday’s diary entry.
We had finally escaped the clutches of H&M and now I was hungry and the boys were getting crabby. You can tell when it’s time for food with the wee ones. The whines that you can normally fade out are now far more audible, much like that troublesome pirate radio station that is far too near your favourite radio station frequency.
So we decided to head to get something to eat.
This was when the trip got a fair bit worse.
We perused the options, each step making the kids that little bit hungrier, that little bit more whiny. In the end, thanks to our indecisiveness and the noise emitting from the kids, we went for the quick option – Burger King.
Like it or not, fast food will play a part in your kids life. We have a great support network and our children are lavished with fine home-cooked meals most of the time. But there are times when you get in from work feeling like you’re running on fumes, the kids have been on tremendous form and pulled on every nerve – and they don’t follow procedure by asking for dinner at half past three. You can’t ignore a kid’s cry when they’re hungry and you may think that offering a snack may suffice, but sometimes, only a quick meal will do. So you will invariably head to the local drive-through at least twice a month.
When my kids were born, I vowed that McDonalds and its evil brethren wouldn’t pass my child’s lips – but exhaustion is the master at taking your pride and your best intentions and pretty much desecrating them at will.
Anyway, we get to BK. There’s a queue of course, so my wife takes the buggy with the youngest and banks a booth, complete with Perspex either side. I swoop up my oldest and attempt to entertain him with the moving images of the video menu – but he doesn’t want this. He’s in a mood and wants to walk. No he doesn’t, he wants me to pick him up. No, scratch that, he’d like to get down again. Hang on, now he wants mummy. Nope, he wants a dummy…
I queue for about five minutes (feels like twenty) all while performing my own version of Billy Elliot. My arms ache, I’m thirsty but all of my will is focused on ensuring my kid is happy and we get some bloody food sometime this year.
We get to the front and the employee apologises for the wait and takes my order. All the while, my oldest wants to grab all of the movable things on the desk in front of us. All things that the public have touched, so while talking I’m wrestling with my kid to stop him possibly contracting something that no one wants.
I swerve ordering food and just get the kids something. The employee mentions that they don’t do bottled drinks for the kids, it is only Capri-Suns. In my haste, I agree and go to the booth where my wife and youngest are.
The order comes over pretty swiftly and that is when my wife spots the error.
How will our youngest child, little over a year, deal with a minute, hard plastic straw?
I slump as I have no answers. I continue to chop up the kid’s food into handy, digestible morsels while the oldest uses the free crayons that came with the kids meals. Our youngest has now smelled the food, like a shark he bolts upright and starts to paw at the wrappers in front of him, extending the mess radius beyond our booth by way of chucking whatever he can get his hands on.
I suggest we pour the drinks into cups, thinking that the holdall we have has pretty much everything inside. If I dug deep enough I’d find the lost city of Atlantis. My wife assures me that out of the myriad of stuff in the bag, the kids’ cups is something that wasn’t packed.
I try to give the youngest the straw in his mouth but he doesn’t know what to do, bless him. And now he’s getting frustrated and hitting the drink – which is essentially a big bag of juice. So it squirts all over him.
The oldest kid laughs.
I then place just the tip of the straw in his mouth and apply gentle pressure, but it’s still too much. He drinks about twenty percent of it – the rest end up on his clothes and the floor.
Cue the look that all women possess, coming from my wife.
No such problems with the oldest, right? Wrong.
He takes the straw and pushes it wholly inside the bag of juice – so no straw.
So, I perform an incision on the corner of the bag of juice and again I try to coax the juice into my kids mouth. He does better, but it requires concentration, which is something that toddlers possess very little of. The kid is also fiercely independent so he wants to hold the juice – which causes a tidal wave of juice to swell and crash onto his person.
The kids, wet and sticky, then descend into the food and eat well – thankfully – but no sooner have they started, the oldest begins to get antsy. He wants to explore. In these scary times, proximity with anyone is a no-no, so we urge him to stay where he is – I even begin to draw a car from the crude crayons they were given.
Nah, the crappy image of a car can’t hold this one down, so the kid clambers onto the floor under the table, where it is littered with wrappers and squashed bits of food – mainly from our kids.
Mental images of microbes crawling up my kids’ arms and hands no doubt filled my wife’s mind – as it did with me – so we now start to get under the table to get him out. He doesn’t like it, but it’s not like we have the choice for him to have his dining experience down there.
Just as we were getting back up, the youngest grabs what remained of his food and chucked it on the floor.
Ok, we’re done.
So we do our best to tidy up and we swoop the kids up and head for the nearest changing facility, before going home and agreeing that the holdall will indeed have cups in it next time.
And we’ll take food with us too.