Never Skip Lunch


Yesterday I spent the night in a hotel in New Haven, Connecticut. It was bliss. And all I really did was get there at 9:00 pm, eat two small bags of chips, drink a can of club soda, flip TV channels, sleep through the night, wake up on my own when my body was ready, go back to sleep, get out of bed, do yoga, eat a very mediocre hotel breakfast, shower, and go to my book talk. This was heaven. Absolute paradise.

And I kept thinking, what if Gwen was here too? We could relax. And cuddle. Maybe even have sex if we could remember how. We might have to call the porter for tips. He could stand over us and give pointers. I’m fairly sure that porters have a lot of sex. Actually, I’m fairly sure that anyone without young children has a lot of sex.

The next day, I get home from my retreat to a total debacle. We start the day at a three-year-old’s birthday party. Gwen and I forget to make sure our two boys eat a proper lunch during the festivities. So when we got home, we set the boys at the kitchen table for a big snack. By now, though, they are beyond hungry and bursting with agitation and emotion. Powder kegs. Gwen checks our voice mail and finds that our babysitter has canceled. Gwen and I were supposed to have a date. Gwen is devastated.

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We let the boys know that our babysitter, whom they adore, is not coming. Explosion. First Noah is screaming. This is too much for little Benji and so, like a domino, he, too, is beside himself. Gwen scoops up Benji. I sit with Noah. Between sobs he eats his tuna and settles down. So does Benji.

After lunch they play happily for twenty minutes. We watch each of them put on a puppet show. Then Gwen and I steal away to hatch a plan. We’ll head to a playground and then go out to dinner.

The playground is a lot of fun.

Then dinner. Our biggest mistake of the day. We decide to go to our date restaurant. It’ll be fun. They have amazing Belgian French fries (and duck gravy for dipping).

We park. We get seated. We order. Noah’s mac and cheese arrives. So does Benji’s shrimp. Benji sees Noah’s noodles and wants them. Noah does not want to give them up. He is a kid and does not say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’d like to share that.” Instead, he says, “Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!”

And of course this knocks over little Benji, who joins in on the chorus with absolute gusto. We are in a fancy restaurant. Noah and Benji are the only children there, and they are screaming at the top of their lungs. People are drinking $9 glasses of Shiraz and nano-brewed beers. I look across the table and Gwen is hiding under her napkin. Literally. As if it’s a large sombrero.

By the way, I forgot to mention that Gwen had left her sweater in the car, so as a shawl, draped casually over her shoulders, she is wearing a pair of Noah’s sweatpants from the diaper bag. She looks quite elegant in her sweatpants shawl and cloth napkin hat.

So Benji wants the mac and cheese. Noah screams and won’t share. I tell him to give Benji some noodles and I’ll order more. He acquiesces. I order more. Benji and Noah devour both portions. With a whirl of my arm, like a sailor in a bar, I order another round. “Keep ’em coming!”

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Finally, the boys are done. Gwen has not touched her steak. I’ve finished my chicken but have no memory of eating it. We get the check. Including the tip, it’s the most expensive meal Gwen and I have ever eaten out. And we’re nauseated from the stress.

The moral of the story? Maybe sometimes it ain’t easy. Or perhaps Don’t skip lunch. That one’s probably true. At least it would have made my day a whole lot better.

About the writer


Brian Leaf's new parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting, has been called "funny" and "wise" by Publishers Weekly, Yoga Journal, and his grandmother, but then again she loves everything he does. Follow his shenanigans on Facebook.


LisaG 2 years ago

Some days just snowball 😉 We’ve all been there. Kids can go to fancy restaurants, their behavior is just hit or miss, and you need to be prepared to walk-out if melt down ensues. Kids aren’t the only ones who can ruin a nice meal, occasionally the couple arguing the next table over or the loud celebratory table, or any number of other diners can be worst than children at a restaurant. We all can be a little understanding.

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Real Parent 2 years ago

Nowadays parents are scared of their children! If you bring your kids to a fancy restaurant they should behave accordigly but parents must teach their children how to do so! I am amazed when parents say the do not have sex because “they have small children”, that is not an excuse! Parents must first build a healthy relationship among them to raise children properly!

Kristy Chadwick 2 years ago

I just laughed so hard I cried.

Wendy Hernandez 2 years ago

I’ve taken my 9 month old to all sorts of restaurants since he was born, including several fancy restaurants. He has always behaved really well, can’t even tell a baby was there. The one time he had a meltdown at a restaurant we asked the waiter to pack our meals and left. It was out of respect for the other diners and because it is embarrassing and uncomfortable. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and it was completely out of character for him. On occasion if he gets a little cranky we step outside and calm him down…usually works like charm…we are able to enjoy our dinner and so do the other patrons. I adore my little man but agree that we have to be good citizens and it is unfair to have a 9 month old crying while you eat a $50 steak.

Sous Kitchen 2 years ago

I am blessed I have my Mom who can take care of my children so me and hubby can have a dinner out.

Patience Purdy 2 years ago

And here I thought the lesson was – you don’t need a fancy dinner and ritzy hotel – you can achieve bliss with mediocre lodging and a mini bar!

Lauren Chapin Karpew 2 years ago

So sorry for your shitty day! And I’m absolutely appalled at people who won’t take their kids out to fancy places. My family comes first, not random adult strangers who are self absorbed and can’t tolerate children. Grow up.

    Nicole Slaughter 2 years ago

    AMEN!!! thank you, my children also come first. i don’t care if anyone else likes it or not. i will take my child where ever i choose. if the rest of you don’t like it… YOU CAN LEAVE!!! Lauren… you are my hero. thank you for standing up and telling it like it is! 😉

Mary 2 years ago

Wow…. So many assumptions!!

Maybe they were the only kids there, so what? Should having kids mean staying at home 24/7 and never going out? How do you expect kids to learn manners if you don’t take them places they need to use them?

Sure, maybe a dinner out after a stressful day wasn’t the greatest idea, but you never know how kids will act. If they were fine at the park, it might’ve seemed like a good idea.

We ALL make mistakes as parents. Instead of pointing out the obvious, maybe we could all work on being a little more supportive, and give this mom, who surely realizes that the restaurant was a bad idea (seriously, how dumb do you think she is??), a sympathetic smile and a pat on the back?

Heather Danielle 2 years ago

I love my kids but they are not nearly reliable enough to take out to a sit down restaurant…lol. When they were younger I could take them to Olive Garden or something like that and they’d eat the breadsticks while they wait, but I haven’t found a place that does that and I hate going to OG. Now we just order for pickup and everyone is happy. Adults get real food and the kids aren’t going batty because food isn’t at the table in their ridiculous timeline of .000005 seconds. I have however, seen some pretty well behaved kids at the “fancy” places…so it’s not ALL kids. When I go on the rare date night, I’m not bothered by kids being there at the fancy place….I’m a parent of two irish-italian boys. Noise is nothing new for me. Here’s the bottom line: Didn’t have to cook it. Didn’t have to clean up after it. Didn’t have to tell my kids to stop eating with their face fifty bagazillion times per second. Pick your battles!

    Lauren Chapin Karpew 2 years ago

    Well said! It is easier to stay at home, but I bring mine out a lot too. And if I hear somebody else’s children, it never bothers me. It’s noise. It’s the world, and there’s noise in it. Get over it adults!

Suzanne Yingling 2 years ago

Better idea, run kids ragged outside. Put them to bed early. Order takeout and have it delivered. Eat together alone, with a nice glass of something and pop in a movie. Snuggle.

    Sous Kitchen 2 years ago

    Great idea! We do that from time to time with my hubby.

Ashley Schoenherr 2 years ago

Never take young children to a fancy restaurant. Trust me, I’ve worked in restaurants for years, everyone in there will hate you if this happens. Its not the children’s fault, it’s the parents. You are not only ruining it for the other guests, you’re also ruining the experience for yourself and it’s embarrassing for all. Plus, Mac n chz from any restaurant is so expensive, not including your own meals. Wait until you have a sitter.

Karen LM 2 years ago

If there was ever a day NOT to try to take small kids to a fancy restaurant, this was it. A party, a post party meltdown, and a trip to the park. This was a night to order in.

Momagain 2 years ago

Lesson: one ‘event’ per day.

Even if lunch had happened on time and the afternoon meltdown hadnt happened, the party was your one thing. Going out and leaving them with a sitter wasnt even an option, unless you planned on tipping her really well, or they were asleep when she arrived. Taking them out anywhere but a drive-thru was certainly off the cards after a party, a disrupted meal ischedule induced meltdown and a trip to the park.

But, yeah, when mine were that age, i would have done all these things. And raged if my own or any other Grandma tried to tell me otherwise.

Erin LeBel 2 years ago

Nice! Thanks for the laugh. I’ve had one if those days today.

Ayla Ervin 2 years ago

Funny stuff

Sandie Carmona Maldonado 2 years ago

My kid does pretty great when we eat out but i would never, NEVER take her to a fancy restaurant. I dont care how well behaved a child is. I dont want to see their adorable annoying little faces if I’m on a rare date night.

Heather Johnson Broadhurst 2 years ago


Billmo Gaudet 2 years ago

How she fit in Noah’s pants?

    Toni 2 years ago

    They were on her shoulders, like a shawl, she left her sweater in the car.

Dawn Robbins Stricklin 2 years ago

Don’t take kids to fancy restaurant. Other people are there on a date night to get away from their screaming kids.

    Lauren Chapin Karpew 2 years ago

    Right, bc other people are always more important than your children. We all know how grown adults are completely unable to tolerate unpleasant noises.

    Dawn Robbins Stricklin 2 years ago

    I don’t get a night out with my husband very often with out our son. I don’t need to hear someone else’s kid yelling. Respect for other people.

    Nicole Slaughter 2 years ago

    thank you Lauren, well said. it sounds to me like the adults are the ones who need to grow up!!

Magen Kauffman 2 years ago

Whoever wrote this is a brave, brave man for taking small children to a fancy restaurant. But, yeah. maybe next time, don’t skip lunch.

Janine 2 years ago

Well shit that was brilliantly written

Siobhan Pope 2 years ago

Oh dear. Reading this actually hurt.


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