My family took a big step forward last night. We went out to dinner - to a restaurant.
It was just the local pizza and pasta place, next to the local cinema, and after we'd taken in the 5pm session of Shrek. But it involved sitting still in one place, taking turns ordering, making conversation while we waited for our orders to arrive, and then eating like civilised people. The Hubster and I can usually manage all of the above, but to do so with three children - aged 12, nine and four - and actually enjoy the experience was a very nice surprise.
Usually we only venture forth on such expeditions at lunch time and for yum cha, which involves children who aren't worn out by a day's activity, food which arrives instantly, and is undertaken in a noisy barn.
In their defence, eating out with them individually is usually most enjoyable and fuss-free. At 12 years old, Number One Son in particular is very well behaved when we're out. It's the combination of everyone together which can be a recipe for disaster, especially if someone - and not necessarily one of the kids - is grumpy.
Hopefully, last night hasn't lulled us into a smug sense of security and ease. It was such a pleasant experience for everyone, we're planning to dine out as a job lot again soon. We should make the most of it while we can, as once the older two hit teenage years, they probably won't want to be seen out with us ever.
On another note, it's the first day of the second half of the year ... how did that happen so quickly?