Last night, we went out to dinner as a family. Now, I am not an optimistic person by nature but for some bizarre reason I am always optimistic that this time when we go out it will be different. This time, Zephan will be charming and well-behaved and he won’t poop in the middle of our meal. This time, Asher will happily eat whatever is before him and won’t become over-stimulated by the experience of eating out. This time, our family will have fun.
It started out pretty well. We settled on a restaurant very quickly (half the battle typically centers around trying to find a place Matt & I both agree on). We got an incredibly early start so meltdowns from hunger could be avoided. Then we arrived in the parking lot and my optimism sank. Although it was only 4:30pm, the parking lot was ridiculously packed. A sign at the front of the restaurant read, “Next time, call ahead.” We decided to take them up on their advice and call from the car to see what kind of wait we might encounter if we ventured indoors. Matt kept pushing buttons and holding a finger in my face to shush me from my attempts to talk. He finally made it through the annoying maze of automated messages to speak to an actual person. We received the bad news that it was a wait time of at least 100 minutes. Not even in my most optimistic dreams would my kids be able to wait that long to eat, so we quickly improvised a Plan B. We drove to a less desirable, but more kid-friendly and less expensive restaurant called Friendly’s. I felt a little crest-fallen that it had come to this, but I tried to cheer myself with thoughts of the Peanut Butter Cup Sundae with Forbidden Chocolate ice cream that awaited.
We had a bit of a rocky start just entering the restaurant (which may have been an omen to turn back while we still can). Matt was walking briskly with Asher in tow and Asher, who never pays attention, took a car’s side-mirror to the face. He has a bit of a shiner to show for it. Once inside, we were escorted to a booth that looked very empty in comparison to the surrounding booths burgeoning with families and kids. Some man walked by our table with an incredibly lewd t-shirt (stating his desire to have sexual relations with all women) just as our waiter approached to take our drink order— in an unidentifiably, bizarre accent. I tried not to crinkle-up my nose in disgust. This will be fun, I told myself as Zephan began to fuss and Asher threw his menu on the floor.
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Now, when Zeph wants something he bellows, “Maaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!” over and over again until he gets what he wants. We’re working on modifying this behavior, but he’s a smart baby and he knows that in the past this technique has worked his maaaaaaa’s nerves to the point of personal success. I also think that just like you and I might speak louder and more emphatically when we think someone doesn’t understand our language, Zeph realizes that we don’t speak baby and therefore must project in order to get his words across. When I say “no”, it’s as if he replies with, Oh, my poor Mommy is a little slow and does not understand what I want. I simply must speak LOUDER for her to catch on. Zephan desperately wanted to drink from the plastic cup with the cool straw that the waiter had just placed in front of him. Against my better judgement, I gave in and allowed it. He started out okay, but quickly he decided to experiment with the process. He sucked up a mouthful of icy water and then drooled it down the front of his shirt. Then he threw the straw on the floor and began dumping the contents of the cup all over his lap. This obviously was not acceptable, so I took the cup away and tried to distract him with utensils, snacks, napkins, sugar packets, anything! All of my attempts were met with the very loud and obnoxious, “Maaaaaaaaaaa!!!” Other people’s obnoxious children leaned out of their booths to see where the horrible noise was coming from. Zeph seriously rivals fire engine sirens with the volume of his voice. The first time we ate out with him at only six weeks of age, Zeph actually got us kicked out because of the volume of his cry! The manager came to our table due to customer complaints. But, that’s another story for another time. Needless to say, I’m getting used to the embarrassment.
We gulped down our food and tried to distract Zephan enough to behave. I started to smell something foul and saw the woman with the four kids in the booth next to us get up with her baby and head to the restroom. I knew in my heart that it was most likely Zeph she was smelling and not her little girl. Sure enough, they returned a few minutes later and I saw the woman glance our way and whisper to her husband. I told Matt that we needed to go. I wasn’t up to trying to change Zephan in the public restroom. He’s not a big fan of a diaper change in his own living room let alone while balanced on a scary plastic tray in a cold, loud public restroom. (Why do they always have the music turned up so loud in there with the air conditioning blazing?)
I finished the last bites of Peanut Butter Cup Forbidden Chocolate Yummyness, paid the bill, and took our stinky, sticky kids to the car. On the way to the car Asher said, “Mommy, that was fun,” and I felt my optimism renewed. You know what? It kind of was!