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Letting the Spaghetti Fly - One Lesbian Mom's Guide to Surviving Dining with Kids In Provincetown

Letting the Spaghetti Fly - One Lesbian Mom's Guide to Surviving Dining with Kids In Provincetown

Letting the Spaghetti Fly - One Lesbian Mom's Guide to Surviving Dining with Kids In Provincetown

Dining out with kids on vacation is always an experience.

Dining out with children can be both an exciting and challenging experience and there is no place my family has ventured to on the Eastern seaboard that makes this more apparent than when we visit our favorite vacation spot -- Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Dining out in P-Town is an experience, something that involves all the senses—taste, texture, sight, smell, hearing.  The meals are as delicious as they aesthetically pleasing.  In years past, I have had dishes placed in front of me that were too beautifully constructed to eat; the place settings, music, and lighting all designed to enhance the presentation.  With kids however, it is a matter of divide and conquer from the moment you sit down with one simple yet seemingly unattainable goal in mind—finish the meal. 

If dining out, eat early.  After six o’clock you will have a forty-five minute wait—the approximate tolerance span of the mythical well-behaved toddler.  Remember, dining out in P-Town is an experience.  Meals are designed to be savored over several courses with a bottle of wine and after dinner drinks.  If you are lucky enough to last to dessert, your children will be asleep across your lap under the table.   

Be prepared to either apologize profusely to your wait staff and fellow diners while picking strands of spaghetti off of the ceiling fan, or tip profusely.  I suggest both.  My wife is an ex bartender, I am an ex waitress.  The table with kids is a loud, drawn-out mess with dumped salt shakers, ketchup smeared menus, chicken nuggets mashed under the table, and juice spilled over everything.  It is stereotypically a low bill, no drink, big mess, long clean-up, crap tip kind of table.  I understand.  I get it, I do. 

Being a parent however, you just want to enjoy a bottle of wine and a lobster with your wife, on the one vacation you saved all year to afford.  But the kids knock over your $12 glass of perfectly chilled Chardonnay before you can ever take a sip. You have one hand on each kid and their food so that you shove poorly shelled chunks of lobster into your mouth between telling one to sit still and the other to keep his hands to himself, all the while spitting pieces of shell onto your plate because you are too tired to pick them out and too hungry to care.  You will have a 10-minute argument about how it is still real ketchup even if it does come in a little silver dish and not a plastic bottle, and as soon as you think you have settled the ketchup matter and everyone is eating, your eight-year-old puts down his fork and says Mom? And before he even gets the words out you know because it has happened at every single meal that you have sat down to for the past six years.  “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.” 

Be prepared for your host/hostess to say there is no changing table, no high chair, no kids menu, no stroller access, and—my personal favorite as they watch hungry children squirm in your grip—no kids. 

Be prepared for no kids menu.  If you order a cheeseburger, you will get a $22 peppercorn encrusted ground sirloin burger with avocado aioli drizzle, red pepper paste on a parmesan-crusted panini.  Spaghetti?  No problem!  Pasta littered with chopped garlic and organic basil in a thick sauce strewn with crushed whole tomatoes.  Tableside, your toddler watches the waiter hand toss his pasta, flipping strands into the air and catching it back in the bowl and you can already see where this is going.  The ceiling fan creaks overhead, taunting you. 

Be prepared to have bad, slow, or inattentive service.  Be prepared to be turned away (it happens) and be prepared to call it a night and leave.  Some nights, you will walk back to the hotel early eating slices of pizza from Spiritus.  That’s parenting, and that’s just the way it goes.  You go home and you try again the next night.

So why do we do it?  Why do we put ourselves through this torture every year? 

Because there will be that one moment—when you least expect it—when everything seems to settle.  One moment, when the kids are lost in a game of “I Spy” munching on Goldfish crackers, when you will glance at your wife and once again see the woman you fell in love with all those years ago.  One moment with one free hand to wrap around your lover’s fingers.  One moment to remind you of the old days before the food arrives and the crushed tomato spaghetti literally starts to hit the fan. 

You will have the one dinner where everything in the known world conspires in your favor.  The hostess will seat you at the large, secluded window booth where the kids can watch ocean spray hit the glass.  The waitress will slap down a stack of paper napkins, hand each boy a packet of oyster crackers, paper and crayons all without asking and all before your drink order.  The waiter with the handlebar mustache will remind your kids to use their inside voices and they will listen! Then he will bust into a baritone version of “Let It Go,” to make your two-year-old squeal and your eight-year-old cringe under the table.  You will find a high chair. You will open the door to the bathroom to find that elusive changing table. 

There will be the moment when you are sitting at dinner with spaghetti dropping into your hair from the overhead fan and twelve dollar Chardonnay soaking your lap, when you will swear that this is it, next year you are not paying a small fortune for this torture.  Then your wife will slide you the rest of her wine and you will drink it despite the fleck of French fry floating near the bottom because this is life and this is life with kids.  You squeeze your wife’s hand as she orders one last round, and as you reach for the dessert menu, you feel one, then both boys, slump against your chest.  Looking up, you watch the last spaghetti strand cling to the slowly circling fan blade.  The kids are winding down, the night is winding down, and tomorrow, vacation is over.  You foolishly tell yourself over and over again as you watch that slowly circling strand that next year the kids will be older and this will be easier. 

Then, as that last stubborn strand breaks loose and falls directly into your now empty wine glass, you realize that one day—when the kids are vacationing with their own families and you have all the time in the world to hold your wife’s hand—that the spaghetti falling from the overhead fan will be the highlight of this trip. 


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