In order to test the fortitude and strength of character of our children, we dragged them to New York for the weekend, forced them to travel the subway and switch trains like a billionty times, made them walk for miles and miles, kept them up way past their bedtimes two nights in a row, and brought them to restaurants where they didn’t like the food we bought them. It was a little trying, but we’re all better people for it.
However. There were some things that worked out well. There are always some.
Books in the car: When you take a road trip, don’t forget to put some books in the car. Picture books, fact books, books of maps, story books. Mabel did lots of reading on the way to New York. (Dash did not, but whatever.)
A scooter: I had a brainwave and put Mabel’s scooter in the car. When we got to New York, with its myriad train and subway changes, escalators, and requirements for walking, the demands for piggybacks were almost totally done away with. It was easy for an adult to pick up the scooter when we were on stairs, and Dash was always willing to have a go if Mabel just wanted to walk. Definitely a good idea. Also, having a child on a scooter instantly makes you look like a local instead of a tourist.
New shoes: We arrived at our New Jersey hotel on Friday afternoon and went straight into the city to meet my cousin for dinner. Mabel announced that evening that her feet hurt. That, in fact, both pairs of shoes were too small and worn. The soles of her crocs, I discovered, were about a millimeter thick. (Well, I did get them at the thrift store last year.) So before we went anywhere the next morning, Mabel and I hit the handy mall and bought her the brightest pair of Sketchers you’ve ever seen. They are cushy inside and out and she was much happier. Is there nothing new shoes cannot fix?
Ellen’s Stardust Diner: So my cousin and her girls were booked into this uber-trendy hotel where they had free muffins for breakfast. I said “What you need is a proper New York diner breakfast.” A friend on her FB told her she should check out Ellen’s Stardust Diner, so we arranged to meet there on Sunday morning. I was vaguely mixing it up with Tom’s Restaurant of Seinfeld fame, which is a nice regular old-style diner. Sure, one diner’s much the same as another, I said, and this one was closer to her hotel, so, grand.
On Sunday morning we dragged the kids out of bed after their second late night in a row and once again took the PATH train and the subway to Times Square or thereabouts. Without even a free muffin to sustain us, I might add. We got a table straight away, which we discovered is pretty lucky – but as we sat in our booth we realised that the reason the version of Eternal Flame we were hearing was not the original was because it was being belted out karaoke-style by a member of the waitstaff.
I had not had anything to eat. I had not had any coffee. It was 10:30 am and I had already taken two children across a state line by public transport. Those children had not had breakfast either. Tempers were frayed. I had pretty much promised the fussy eater that he could get french fries (for breakfast. don’t judge me) because diners have All The Food. There were no fries on the breakfast menu and there was no other menu. He said he couldn’t eat toast because the orthodontist told him not to. (He has braces now. He is a rule-follower. Berating my child for being such a rule-follower is clearly a misguided avenue to go down, no matter how much I’d like to.) The music was so loud we had to shout in each other’s ears. It was like being in a nightclub, except it was breakfast time and I hadn’t had breakfast, and I wasn’t drunk, and none of us were 20 any more.
I was not happy. I was thisclose to walking out, except we’d already ordered drinks. The fussy eater complained that he couldn’t stir his chocolate milk and the syrup was all stuck at the bottom and it was too sweet anyway. My suggestions of stirring it with a straw or a knife were met with withering derision and some tears. I felt I would move heaven and earth to help my poor starving child; but ten seconds later I was out of patience because I was a horrible mother who hadn’t had any breakfast. I considered walking out again, only now we’d ordered food too.
Our food came. The singing continued, but it somehow became less irritating and even a tiny bit charming. By the Abba medley I was singing along. There may have been some gesticulation. The fussy child was disgusted with me, but he’d stopped crying and I’d procured a long spoon, because anywhere with those sort of glasses clearly serves ice-cream sundaes in them at other times of day. The Les Mis “One More Day” ensemble piece brought the house down. There weren’t tears in my eyes, but there could almost have been. My waffles and bacon weren’t bad either, and there were free refills of coffee. Of course, because it’s a diner.
Our waiter was the best singer, because natch. In a moment of supreme timing, when it was his turn to sing he hammed it up and bent down to Mabel as if he was serenading only her. With utter indifference, she happened to take that moment to annouce loudly “I don’t like this!” She was talking about her pancakes, and I’m not sure he heard, but we found it hilarious.
It really honestly is a place where all the waitstaff want to be in showbiz, and make no bones about it. In fact, they make it the whole raison d’etre of the diner, and they do it well. They raked in the tips, and the scholarship bucket filled up too. I was still grumpy about the two hungry children we took back out of the diner after breakfast, and the nice relaxed conversational interlude that had been denied me, but I can’t deny it was a New York Experience.