Eating out at lunchtime is not a regular event. What with the number of highchairs required and the need to work around The Routine, it’s simply easier to stay at home. From time to time, however, the call of the skinny latte is too strong for me to resist, and I load up the triple buggy and head into town.
I had planned to go to the park this morning, but woke to the sound of rain and my heart sank. Rain is the Multiple Mum’s nemesis. We don’t care if it’s cold, or if the wind is whipping round us, Wizard of Oz style. We don’t care if the sun’s beating down or just peeking through the clouds. All these weather events can be combatted with sunshields, with extra layers, hats and scarves. In my (very short) time as a mother of one, the rain was really no problem; a cover on the Maclaren and a raincoat for me, and we carried on regardless. Nowadays rain presents logistical difficulties that stop short of ‘fun’. Three children means three trips from the house to the buggy or car. That’s three occasions to get wet, and tramp muddy footprints back into the hall. The babies sit tight in their buggy seats, the raincover already steaming up, but they are at least dry. The Toddler is forced to ride high on his toddler seat, three feet closer to the rain clouds, with no more protection against the elements than the hood of his coat. None of us enjoys it.
So we stay indoors on wet days, and this morning was no exception. I racked my brains for rainy-day activities. We built lego towns, read books, made a cardboard house and painted it with handprints. We sang songs, did the hokey-cokey, played musical instruments, had a teddy bears’ picnic and practiced marching. We played with dried pasta, made cookies, ate strawberries and led a treasure hunt through the house. A busy schedule, and I was beginning to flag. I looked at my watch: 8.45am.
When the rain dried up a couple of hours later, and the sun broke through the clouds in a grudging reprieve for we tired mothers, I abandoned routine and told the children I was taking them out for lunch. With great excitement we tumbled into the only cafe in town with a wide enough front door and enough back-ground noise not to mind our chaotic chatter. Food order placed, the babies were happily chasing raisins round the table when the Toddler turned to me and placed his hands firmly on my bosoms;
“Mummy, are they boobs?”
(I will forgive his uncertainty – my post-natal chest has little in common with the traditional female form).
“Yes darling“. I handed him a sachet of tomato ketchup and challenged him to open it with his teeth. It was a desperate move, but even that failed to distract him;
“What are they for?”
Hmm, good question. Around us, other customers stared meaningfully into their cups of coffee as their ears strain to catch my answer. A waiter paused, mid-order, his pen hovering above his pad. You could have heard a pin drop. Would I seize the opportunity to explain to my two year old about the wonders of nourishing babies?
“Well,” I stammered, “They’re just for looking at, really“
The man at the next table snorted into his cappucino.
A hundred years of feminism undone.