I saw it like a beacon of light on my way home from work. Wednesday Nights. Kids Eat Free.
I’m not usually one for such marketing schemes, but I was tired of coming up with dinner ideas, and Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, after all, and didn’t I deserve a night off? I declared it so and announced to my husband to meet me there promptly at 5:30 pm. I’d enjoy a bowl of soup while my kids munched on chicken quesadillas with pure delight oozing from their grateful little bodies. It was a good moment, while it lasted in my head.
I pulled into the parking lot at 5:15 and my iphone sent me a meeting update that I had a conference call scheduled at 5:30. One I absolutely could not miss. So the moment my husband pulls up, I dumped two kids in his arms while talking on the phone and waved in the air like “well obviously I’m busy right now. Please take these things off my hands, for goodness sakes.” He stared at me with I so hate you right now eyes and schlepped the kids inside.
Finally, we are all sitting down and I quiz the waiter about the claim of free kids vittles. He indicates that upon purchase of an adult entrée at the highest possible price, they’d throw in a tortilla wrapped up with cheese and a soda disguised as a kids meal. Since I just wanted a cup of soup below the required price limit, that meant only one of our kids was eating free. The only logical choice was for one of our children to simply starve.
After a long wait, the waiter finally decides to tell me that my daughter’s lemonades are costing us three dollars a pop and aren’t included in the free part, so maybe she might like a refill of water? My son then develops an infatuation for drinking straws and decides he needs as many of them as possible to clutch between his tiny fat fingers. When one drops, he screams “STRAW MAMA!” at the top of his lungs because we just haven’t quite mastered the inside voice and because straws are apparently super fun to just hold for no apparent reason.
Suddenly, my daughter whispers that she must use the restroom immediately, so I rush up to take her. My departure makes a great impact upon my son, who seems to feel that he’s going to become motherless and abandoned right there in a Mexican restaurant amidst the piñatas and pink tablecloths. He shrieks out my name and cries in horror, clutching his straws, until I reappear. My husband just sits there, holding his head in his hands, wishing he was back at work writing a brief or something. My son’s fake tears dry up the moment I arrive and he simply says “why hello, mama” like nothing ever happened.
We finally get our food, and while my husband is clearing a space for his tacos he knocks over his tea, which lands on my lap, and I’m all “this is so fun! Let’s all have a good laugh about how kids eat FREE! Yippee for us!”
At some point my husband makes the “let’s blow this joint” gesture, and he pays while I scoop up all the stray chips that have been flung in a four-foot vicinity of our table. As he’s taking the kids to the car, it occurs to me that the bill is quite high. Too high. It hits me like the smell of bacon.
Our kids did not eat for free.
I marched up to the hostess stand and demanded my $5.95 back. What kind of two-bit joint is this anyway? The lady just looks at me with mascara smudged on my face and crazy hair and red marks on my arm where my son was bopping me with straws. The credit card machine was busy and my waiter was annoyed and my husband wondered where the heck I was. But I wasn’t about to walk out now. Not when I was a sucker for such a stupid marketing ploy. How long have I been a parent, anyway? Didn’t I major in such foolish mind-bending communications in college? Didn’t I know better than to get my two-year-old out in public at that time of day? I blame it all on myself as I plunked down money for a new (and lower) grand total, putting my hand on my hip and realizing my jeans are still soaked with wet tea.
So, my friends, the next time you see such a claim about kids eating free and with wild abandon, run. Run far and fast. Away from said restaurant with straws and distant bathrooms and back toward home, where you can brown some broccoli and heat up some macaroni noodles. At least life is calm, and lemonades don’t cost three bucks, and no one is screaming.
I noticed that Tuesday is Dollar Taco Night. Sounds promising. Maybe we should go for it?
Some people never learn.