I remember a time in the not-so-distant past when going out to eat was a relaxing occasion. My husband and I would stare across the table at each other, maybe talk about our days or comment on the conversations of those around us. I’d even venture to say that sometimes we were bored.
Then we had kids.
We took our three kids out for breakfast the other morning. Before arriving at the restaurant, I envisioned mostly cooperative and obedient kids sitting quietly coloring while I leaned back in my seat with a warm cup of coffee, sweetened with French vanilla non-dairy creamer and my hand resting upon my rounded belly from gorging on too many over-easy eggs, rye toast, and hash browns.
My vision was put to death as soon as we were seated when our lovely children began arguing over who would sit where.
“I want to sit next to Mama!”
“Why does HE always get to sit next to you? Do you even love me?”
“It’s not fair!”
“I’m not gonna sit next to HER!”
Once our seating chart was settled via some under-table crawling where our legs and feet seemed to double as bumpers in a pinball machine, my 4-year-old daughter stood up in the booth to meet the patrons at the tables around us. It was at that point that I noticed her shorts were on backwards. I encouraged her to sit down with a clipped, “Sit down!” and left her shorts as they were. I would repeat those clipped words about eight more times as she attempted to exchange pleasantries with our neighbors repeatedly. And by “pleasantries” I mean, she might, at any point, say something like “Hi, Stinky Head.” No lie.
The waitress arrived and we gave her our order.
As we waited, my 4-year-old quickly became bored with the coloring pages and crayons she had been given upon arrival. I placed the holder full of jams and jellies in front of her to play with thinking it would double as an educational activity of sorting and stacking. As my head was turned, my daughter managed to stab a number of the jellies with her fork. As I grabbed the fork to prevent her from stabbing every last orange marmalade, I knocked two half-full tubs of French vanilla non-dairy creamer over onto the table. I threw my napkin over the spill and pretended like it didn’t happen.
Our food arrived.
I cut my daughter’s food and we all dug in. This is an actual one-sided conversation I had with my children while we dined:
Don’t ruin your straw. Don’t ruin the lid. Put it down. Just put it down! Stop talking with food in your mouth. Shoes go on the floor. No talking with food in your mouth, please. Please turn around. Please stop talking with food in your mouth. Wow, that looks delic-PLEASE PUT THAT DOWN!
After a number of minutes of focusing on my own food, I looked over to see how my daughter was doing. Good. She had eaten her bacon and not another thing on her plate, other than the tub of butter, a mini-pot of syrup, and the equivalent to three packets of ketchup.
“You need to eat your eggs and pancakes.” I said.
“Ohh, I full. ‘Scusting eggs, Mama. ‘Scusting.”
We asked for a take-home container and put her remaining food in it. My husband took my sons to pay the bill and my daughter continued her attempts at greeting our neighbors. I maniacally slurped down the rest of my coffee with one hand and dragged her out of the booth with the other.
I look back at all those times I relaxed at breakfast and think how little I appreciated them. And yet as much as I long for those mornings, there’s still something slightly endearing and amusing about watching my three kids organize our seating chart, exchange pleasantries with the neighbors and eat only butter, syrup and ketchup for breakfast. And it gives me something to blog about.