We have been going to restaurants with the girls a lot more lately. Dining out with triplets and a toddler has always been a big challenge for me. For one you want to respect other diners and not spoil their dining experience, and two you want to have a great dining experience yourself. Why else are you paying service charge for? And to bring three babies and a toddler, all with different sets of temperaments – who knows what will happen? And we always bring them to large restaurants where there will be more than enough highchairs and also, we go during off-peak hours before the lunch or dinner crowd settles in.
Today we brought them to a favourite Chinese restaurant we used to frequent. Immediately, I noticed how the wait staff took care of the seating arrangement by accurately positioning the high chairs so that we were placed in between the children, rather than having the children seated next to each other where it would have been difficult for us to access them if they made a scene. I also liked that they did not bother us with questions about, ooo are they twins? They did eventually asked questions, but at least while we were trying to settle in and order our food no one bothered us and that’s really something I really appreciate. By not making a scene about our babies, we also remained invisible to other diners and nobody was turning their heads and pointing at us, and we could dine anonymously. I know it seems so trivial and we are not celebrities, but the attention we get in public can get pretty insane sometimes. So we love it when people just pass by us and not make a big deal.
Lucia started crying during dinner, don’t know why. So she sat on my lap while I ate. The other two were perfectly happy snacking on their biscuits while we ate. I also gave them a lemon from my drink to suck on – they seemed to really love that. Livia used to make these ugly faces when she tasted a lemon but these girls sucked on lemon like it was sweets. Livia was refusing to eat her rice and needed some encouragement. When her sisters are around, she gets very easily distracted and want to be near them and play with them rather than focus on eating. I could feel some diners and waitstaff staring at us because when I looked around, people gave me encouraging smiles. I wanted to say out loud, yes we are dining outside with triplets! Its a huge deal! But I just smiled back sheepishly. Toward the end of the dinner, the questions about whether they were twins, oh they are triplets? started coming in from the wait staff and the diners around our table. By this point, the whole restaurant was focusing on us and the finger-pointing and “look, triplets” whispers started. So I told my husband, guess its time to go!
Would I do it again tomorrow? Hell yes.
I totally miss eating out. It’s every Singaporean’s favourite past-time. For the past year or so, we have been eating takeaways from our favourite food places and they are just not that yummy by the time the food gets on our dinner-table. Its either soggy, warm, sometimes even cold, mushy, and forget about ordering anything with ice. I think it helps now that the triplets can feed themselves so everyone, including the babies, are part of the outdoor dining experience. I am not the type of parent who distracts her kids with toys at the table. Sometimes I do give them books to bite or look at while we are waiting for food, but when the food comes, the focus should be on the food and enjoying the food together. I think its important to include children at the dinner-table so they learn and internalise proper dining etiquette as well as understand that food and family is very much closely intertwined. And its pretty easy to include them through dinner conversation or just from sharing food.
I don’t even care about what kind of parent you are, whether you like to offer your kids purees, or you are into baby-led weaning, it really doesn’t matter as long as your child is involved in dinner. Some parents over-focus on their children finishing their meals at the expense of their own meals, or they spoon-fed their older kids while the latter watches an iPad or play games on a smartphone, or they get upset over their child not eating and the whole dinner becomes a battle of wills. They have no idea that when it comes to meal-times they are missing out on all the moments they could be bonding with their children over a shared love for food. Even if kids do not like to eat, just talking about the food and the experience of eating whatever you ordered helps. And if that doesn’t help, then just talk about anything else. I like to make funny faces at my triplets and teach them vocabulary from things at the dinner table. For me lunch and dinner is not just about filling our empty tummies, but they are precious times in a day for me to connect with members of my family, and its so easy to when you focus on how delicious the food is, as opposed to focusing on other things like your phone or whether your kid is eating his vegetables.
Livia for instance, started out as a fussy and picky eater, and sometimes she just didn’t want to eat at all and I would really just talk her through it, like try this pasta maybe? Or you want some soup? No, then you want to try my drink? Usually she will say yes to at least one thing. Now that she’s older, she knows how to vocalise what she wants and doesn’t want, and tells you when she is dissatisfied or happy with her dining experience. Of course my favourite word to hear from her while eating is “So delicious.” Usually only happens when we order dessert. But the fact is I acculturated her over time to what is expected of her at the dining table, and what behaviour is considered acceptable and unacceptable. In the beginning, as with every child, it takes a while to learn but eventually it sinks in.
I really want to bring them to my favourite steak-place but eating steak requires a lot of focus and cutting and I think we might not be ready for that yet. But soon!