Monday, July 20, 2009

Kids, eating out and bathrooms

I have fond memories of the days before kids. Lazy weekends spent on the couch eating pretzels, sipping a frosty Sierra Nevada, watching bad television, or a This Old House marathon. In between this glorious laziness were 15-minute power naps that were complete with heavy snoring, slobbering and the realization when I woke that another episode of Huell Howser is on. Sweet days. Days that are gone.

Kid number 1 came, then 2, now we are 7 months into number 3. Numbers that add up to beautiful days and long ones at the same time. While the world is full of schedule mongers and helicopter parents, our style is loose. When is nap time? When baby girl is tired. When is bath time? When they are dirty. When do they go to bed? When it's time. Why create a schedule when it functionally messes with your life? To each his/her own.

So our life continues, though in a much more chaotic manner compared to the glory days of doing whatever, whenever. Now there's a crew in tow. Simply going to the market whether normal or flea is a process. Cole (10) is self-sufficient, Luke (5) is getting there, and Hope (7 mos) is a baby nugget. Enough said. But we do it because we want to. Simple exposure to daily life unsheltered brings experiences that they may not remember completely, but exposes them to life unfiltered, unscheduled, uninhibited.

Same goes for going out to eat. It too is an adventure and we don't do the blue-plate special schedule of 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. We go when we go. When the crew is ready. When shirts are on right-side out, the diaper is refreshed, and toys are tucked away in the bag only to see the light of night when a possible meltdown may occur. Preparation is key of course for the excursion to the local haunt. Spare diapers, wipes? Check. Cash? Yep. Onward.

While it's always nice to actually go out to dinner with just mama and I, it's not always feasible so the army of 5 hit it. Wait for a booth. Sit down. Get the Chianti rolling, the milk, the Sprite, the formula too. All set. Order the pizza, get some bread, maybe a salad. Bingo! All ordered, time to look at each other, chat, people watch. Things are rolling along fine. Luke has his cars. Cole's drawing, baby girl is giggling at the old man in the next booth... The cheap Chianti tastes like a million bucks. Here comes the bread and salad. We dig in. The cheap salad tastes like a thousand bucks. Life at this very moment is off the charts. I have restaurant high. It's similar to a workout high where you have this feeling of levitation of maybe 1/2 inch off the floor. The sweaty, springless, naugahyde booth bench can't be felt. People watching is at its all-time high. "What did they order? Why is the middle-aged couple not talking to each other? Damn this cheap Chianti is good." Then the pizza comes. Eggplant, basil and tomato. The best pizza on earth made even better by my restaurant high. Scoop a piece out for each character, mama first of course. Then the boys, then me. "Oh sweet Jesus, this fruit you bring me renders me speechless," I think. One successful bite, washed down with Chianti interspersed with cold tap water that tastes like a hundred bucks... Restaurant high catapulted.

Then it happens. "I need to go poop," says a grimmacing 5-year-old. "Grunttttt, ughhhhh, errrrr," says baby nugget. Mama and I look at each other. Default is she handles nugget and I handle the pooper. The high drops a few levels back to where I began at the beginning of this adventure. The seating situation creates another drop in the "high" level. Luke scurries out from under the table. The "cool" family out late is now the center of attention, but we never let our guard down. We have experienced this before. It happens. Shit happens. The schedule folk don't know this because they are done with the bath, reading stories, sheets tucked tight. Our mojo has a slight dent, but nothing that can't be fixed with a slight tap. The goddess of patience (mama) takes nugget, taps on her back, flips her around, gives a few sweet "Shhhhhhhhsssss" and baby girl is back to her wide-eyed, dimple faced freshness.

Meanwhile I am off to the outhouse. Single toilet, paper on the floor, the john in need of a second flush. Little Champ climbs aboard the seat, telling me to look away. I do. The moment last a few minutes. I sense a lineup outside the door. Whatever. Hold up hipster, this little fella has some business to tend to. We're done. Hands washed, stomach cleared, back to pizza. At this point baby Hope is passed out on the naugahyde, Cole's playing cars and Luke crawls under the table to his spot. The restaurant high is still flat-lined, but another slice and gulp of the sweet juice will bring it up a notch. It does. Kids are in check, doing their thing, nibbling, sipping, playing. Chit-chat about life, things, work, travel, gardening, you name it. Another slice, more Chianti. I am back up to the level I was at before things slightly unfolded moments ago. Tables turn over. An old couple compliment us on our kids, things are good.

The check comes. Nugget is still asleep. The boys are tired. I'm full, as is mama. I scoop up baby girl, Cole takes the leftovers, Luke the toys and we're off. Into the car. Back home we go. A successful outing. Not unlike the hundred other times we've headed out. We don't fear meltdowns or scowls or situations. We confront them when they happen and remedy the situation. We are all on the same playing field. Our life is not determined or dictated by a schedule. This exposure is important, children are resilient and I think deep down they are truly enjoying the adventure.

So while those days of being kidless sitting on the couch watching Norm Abram rebuild an interior wall or Tom Silva frame-in a window, the deep naps and cold pizza are long gone, there's really nothing better than a posse of 2 kids sitting on naugahyde (1 in the high chair eating mashed bananas) chowing on pizza, a fresh-faced 10-year-old giddy about a Lesney Matchbox purchase for a bargain, or the deep-dimpled strawberry blond ball of fire with a blow up guitar impersonating Pete Townsend at the local concert in the park. These are priceless, unscheduled moments that will be brought up in conversation on the front porch days later and perhaps years down the line. "Remember that one time..."