Just to lay a little groundwork, I will start with a little anecdote. Before we had our daughter, my husband and I were regulars at a local neighbourhood pub. The servers knew us by name. They knew our favourite table. They would bring us our drinks of choice without us having said a word. If our favourite sports team was playing the TVs would be flipped to that station as soon as we walked in. It was fabulous.
Then I got pregnant, we stopped going out for drinks, and that pub went out of business. True story.
No, I don't actually think that the loss of our business that made the pub go under. I can hold my liquor pretty well, but I can't drink that much. My point is simply that my husband and I are pub people. We like sitting down for a pint and some relaxing conversation in the cozy confines of a local watering hole. And having a baby has not changed that in the slightest. In fact, at just over 18 months, I can proudly say that my daughter has been to every pub in our neighborhood.
When we were pregnant with our daughter, my husband and I decided that, to the greatest extent possible, we were not going to let the fact that we had a child change who we fundamentally were. Now, going out to a pub is obviously not a defining characteristic of who either of us are. However, so many people spoke about the imminent arrival of our child as if she was some kind of anti-social atomic bomb that would decimate all our previous fun-loving ways, and lay waste to any thoughts of engaging in traditional "adult" pastimes.
We were determined not to let that happen. Hence, my daughter's pub-going ways begin when she was just a few months into the world.
At first, I was quite nervous to take my daughter out. There was, of course, a bit of the fear of the unknown, since you never know exactly how your child will behave in such a new situation. Even more than that, unfortunately, was the worry over how other people would react. I've read the articles lambasting (sometimes justifiably, undoubtedly) parents who bring their loud children to restaurants and spoil the experience of all the other patrons. However, I also knew that after going through my horrible postpartum anxiety it was extremely important for me to start resuming some of the patterns of my pre-baby life, and to feel like life could be "normal" once again.
So, to the pub we went, gainsay us who dare!
Now, before the howls of outrage start, let me state for the record that our pub-visiting habits have changed. No matter what day of the week it is, pub "night" now ends by 6:30 sharp. I am sure we have all seen what happens when a parent tries to push the boundaries of bedtime in order to eke out a precious extra half hour or so. It's not pretty, and we have no intention of going down that particular rabbit hole.
We have also become masters of the quick getaway. Sure, you can whip out a toy or play that bizarre version of toddler hot-potato, where you take turns passing your child back and forth in the hope that a change of scenery will somehow placate her. In desperate times (i.e. when your child starts to fuss just as your full drinks or plate of food arrive at your table) you can even hold your child's hand while she practices walking to the front of the pub and back again, and again, and again... But we all know what that is; a temporary stop-gap that only buys you a little more time.
No, the only real solution at that point is simple: full-on retreat. It is amazing how quickly you can clean up stray Cheerios, repack a diaper bag, put a snowsuit on a squirming toddler, pay the bill, and haul-stroller outta there. As an additional upshot, I have also become incredibly good at chugging various types of drinks. Nothing makes you drink quite as fast as seeing that telltale look in your child's eye which you know means she is only moments away from very loudly telling the world exactly how mad she is about pretty much everything.
To date, our daughter has yet to have a temper tantrum or full-on meltdown while we are out (though I am aware of how badly I just jinxed myself). I think this is partly because of her laid back temperament, and partly due to the self-imposed rules discussed above. When she does, however, we will make a quick getaway that night, to be sure, but we won't be embarrassed or shamefaced as we do so. Trust us, we will not appreciate her crying any more than you, our fellow patrons. But we will do our best to minimize your pain, and we certainly won't let it stop us from trying another pub visit the very next night if we wish.
We love our neighborhood, and we love popping in to our local pubs. But more than that, we love bringing our daughter out with us as we do it. Rather than being an obstacle to our going out and enjoying ourselves in the ways we used to, she is a very welcome addition to our little tradition. And besides, we may have found a new place to become regulars at. The servers know our daughter's name, we have a regular table by the back where our stroller fits easily, and they bring our drinks of choice without us having said a word - including that glass of milk for our little girl.
(Image: getty images)