As December loomed the inevitable invitations for Christmas meet ups and dinners with our friends arrived via WhatsApp. A few we rearranged for a different time that suited us better and on one occasion my husband went out with his friends and I stayed in with my Mother in Law, drank Cabernet Sauvignon and threw breast milk down the sink by the gallon.
It was something I was really worried about, losing our friends. We were the first of our local friendship group to have a baby and we weren’t sure how it may affect things. Would we still be invited out for Good Friday sushi? Were we going to be overlooked when booking tickets for the Bristol Cider Festival? We haven’t been invited for sushi yet, but there was a Christmas Mexican. Were we ready for this? And can you really take a small baby to a busy restaurant in the evening?
Some very good friends that we don’t get to see that often were coming all the way from Oxford to have dinner with us and some other mutual friends. There was one evening in the whole of December they could do, and our friends Simon and Dani weren’t able to meet until seven thirty pm after they were both home from work. So we were meeting at Casa Mexicana at seven thirty and there was absolutely no wiggle room.
I know some people will think we are utterly awful parents for taking a 4 month old out at that time in the evening. But Alex and I decided before we had Ivor that we were going to be relaxed parents. That doesn’t mean he gets to choose whether he goes to school or not, and it’s absolutely not his choice to get a tattoo if he wants to. But if we were going to be happy parents (and have a happy baby) we felt a flexible schedule without highly regimented nap, bed and meal times was the way to go. The Spanish for example, are happy for thier children to be out in the evening accompanying them at a late dinner, and Spanish kids don’t all end up as crazy delinquent smack heads, so we’ve decide that within reason, we want to raise Ivor this way.
Tip: Always call restaurants on the day of your booking to ensure they actually made a note that you need a highchair or space for your buggy. Stress that your buggy is “quite large” even if it’s not, because on more than one occassion I’ve arrived to find our table is right at the back of the restaurant or cafe and I’ve had to ask about eight tables to get up as I try and shove my way through while muttering “ever so sorry” repeatedly. People that don’t have kids will often reserve you a table with room for a buggy. It won’t ever occur to them that you need to actually GET the buggy to the sodding table.
We really weren’t sure how this dinner was going to go. Ivor was still too small to fit in most high chairs, so he was either going to have to be in the pram or sitting on someones lap. Ivor loves the pram…as long as it’s moving. If it’s stationary for more than a minute he will scream like a peasant on a medieval torture rack. As it was a special occasion it was likely to be a three course affair so I spent the first ten minutes at the restaurant scanning the menu for anything I might potentially be able to eat with just one hand and if possible, no cutlery.
Ivor was asleep in his buggy when we arrived but it lasted all of fifteen minutes. Up and out he came onto my lap, then Dad’s lap, and then back again as we tried to eat starters and catch up on the last 6 months with our friends whilst uttering things like “pass me a muslin” and “Where is Sophie The fucking Giraffe?” to each other.
It was turning out to be the haphazard juggling nightmare I had expected. What I didn’t bargain for was our friends stepping up. Our friends took him off us once they had finished their starters to let us finish eating ours. Okay it was partly out of pity that I’d barely touched my spicy prawns…but who the fuck cares. Dani took a break from eating her main so I could eat a bit of mine without a tiny hand going splat in my delicious chimichangas. Oli and Simon entertained him whilst we waited for dessert and Steph came over to play whilst we we waited for coffee. Rather than our measley, insufficient two pairs of hands, we had 12 pairs of hands. And possibly more importantly, 6 smartphones to play Super Simple’s “Baby Shark” on repeat via YouTube whenever Ivor got a bit pissy. I had been really worried that I’d spend the whole evening looking after Ivor and barely talking to anyone, but in actual fact, everyone wanted to play with Ivor and chat to me about how things were going. I even got to talk about important grown up stuff like work and holidays and Netflix. I was having a great time and sometimes forgot I had a baby for a second.
And Ivor had a ball. He was being thrown around, having funny faces pulled, seeing people he’d never seen before and flirting outrageously with them. And once he was done, he was done. He fell into a deep sleep as we finished our coffees and we took staged photos of him as a Christmas drunk (terrible mother, remember?). The whole evening was so much easier than we expected, and despite everything I’d read about routine being the utmost important thing ever, Ivor didn’t self combust because he wasn’t in his moses basket by seven thirty on the dot. So when you have a young baby and you’re invited out for a meal with your friends, accept the invitation gladly. It’s actually X the number of extra pairs of hands easier than going out with your partner alone.