The Challenge: Eating out

This December will mark 7 years since I’ve been a mom. Time mostly has flown by, yet on some days time has totally stood still. For the last half hour my husband has been in and out of the car running errands as I sit…in the car…with 5 tired children (it’s 9:00pm). Time is standing still. They are fighting, screaming, and complaining. “Don’t you DARE unbuckle!”, my 6 year old whines loudly to my 3 year old who responds with a quick snarky “I’m gonna unbuckle!”. The 6 year old has had it with my son. These petty exchanges are the result of my husband and I telling her that we won’t be doing dessert out after our adventure at Cracker Barrel.

It’s been a long time since we’ve felt at ease with even considering taking the kids out in public to places not called Chick-fil-A. Don’t get me wrong, banging spoons, flying food, multiple breakdowns over ice melting in the water cup sounds entertaining but not when it’s your ONE child behaving this way. So, with only one kid in our gang, we pretty much gave up on eating out as a family and my husband embraced his inner chef…but that’s a story for another time.

Fast forward a few years, add 4 more gang members and a mom who often craves adventure outside of what might be described as a constant tornado zone and we’ve got : Dinner in public with the Phantastic Phive (mild shout out to Philly).

Our early re-attempts started out testing what seemed like familiar waters for maybe the past year as we still often end up running out of the restaurant as fast as possible all while leaving a literal trail of crumbs. It seems we double the amount of dropped food under the table when we eat out. We’ve gotten better though.


I *think* we enjoy the time we get out together which as of late has mostly included uproars of laughter as 7 month old Felix tests out food and has the most hilarious facial expressions. I actually have (albeit briefly) moments of thanking God for the awesome hilarious family. Sometimes intentionally check out for a moment and enjoy listening to the conversation at hand. What silly blessings they are…and so is…the water mess that Jameson just made all over the table or…yes, that’s Luci hiding her biscuit under her arm- for safe keeps?

It’s funny how panicked I used to feel when my only child made a loud noise in the restaurant.  I’d quickly sush her. Now I realize that her sweet silly noise at 1 year old was probably not a big deal. Water messes, meals on the floor, fights over crayons- those feel like a big deal. We’re now generally able to maintain an appropriate level of respectful entertainment (for those in close proximity of our table) yet, I still don’t think that we’ll frequently venture outside of the walls that Mr. Truett Cathy so kindly created as a safe haven for my family and many others with young children.

For me, it’s not about maintaining an image of perfection, it’s about displaying an attitude of love and enjoyment (and respect for those also wishing to enjoy their meal). I want others to see that we truly enjoy these little lives we’ve been blessed with but it’s slightly difficult to express that when Jameson randomly takes the top of the oil lantern and immediately turns it into a spy glass…while Woody and I are giving the waiter our order.

I’m happy to allow God to use me to mold these little lives into people that love others and (Lord willing) love Jesus, but sometimes it’s really hard to be a happy, self-controlled Mamma with all the personality we have. I’m so thankful for the years past of growing and learning. I’m thankful that even though I’m messy and loud that God is still always patient with me and I’m really glad that he has given me the ability to go out in public regardless how of much I do or don’t have it together. Haha.

All this to say– Hey you, mom with littles, as you sit exhausted on your couch dying to not fear the unknown of taking kids out in public: This season is short. I promise. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed and how close we are to REALLY looking forward to family time out.

For now though, we’ll continue to let the kids enjoy chicken…again.