I don’t remember much from the days before B&B and I had kids. Perhaps my faulty memory is my body’s way of protecting itself from recollecting how enjoyable life was for us then.
I do remember that we went out to dinner regularly. We kicked off our weekends with Friday happy hour, then hit a steakhouse or a seafood restaurant for a mouth watering meal.
We even went out to dinner during the week. Can you imagine? It’ll be 15 years before we can pull off a coup like that again.
There was a little spot around the corner from our apartment that we loved. The Greeks. A local bar. It’s still there, and it’s still loved by the locals. We’d stroll over on a Thursday night for Quizzo. I would sweep the entertainment and music categories. B&B would dominate all remaining categories.
Me: “Sheena Easton! Sheena Easton sang backup for Prince on that song!”
The Mom playing Quizzo at the table next to us high 5’s me. I smile proudly. The smile quickly fades. I wish I still had that record.
Quizzo Mom: Animated, “I loved her! Did you love her?”
Me: Nodding, “I totally loved her.”
B&B: “I loved her too. I don’t remember her voice, but she was HOT.”
Men are indeed visual creatures. And B&B is no exception.
Quizzo Mom: “This Quizzo is fun! This is our first time here. We’re so lucky we can bring the kids.”
She motions her hand across the table. I follow her gesture to see the tops of two miniature heads. But only the tops. I can’t see their faces because they’re glued to their handheld electronic devices.
Me: “Hi, kids!”
Quizzo Mom: Nervous, “Shh. you don’t want to disturb them.”
Me: Perplexed, “I don’t?”
Quizzo Mom: “NO! Then we’ll” she motions between her and her husband, “have to entertain them!” She laughs and shakes her head. Her husband joins in her laughter.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
I am in 6th grade again. Watching two people laugh over a shared secret, to which I’m not privy.
I smile politely.
Then guess what I did? I wish I could write it in small print because I’m so ashamed…
I judged her.
I turned around to B&B and, because texting wasn’t available at the time, I wrote on my napkin, “Remind me to tell you about HER when we get home.”
When we arrived home, wreaking of smoke from the bar…ahh, the ‘90’s…I asked B&B, “So, did you see that display at the table next to us?”
B&B: “The Mom who liked Sheena Easton?”
B&B: “What display?”
Me: “Did you not see her kids on their handheld devices?! They’re school-age children! They’re away from her all day!”
Oh yes I did. And I wasn’t finished…
“…and then she takes them out to a restaurant, hands them a machine and lets them act like zombies over their meals? So she can play Quizzo?! What happened to a family dinner? How about connecting with your kids?”
B&B: Shrugging, “I don’t know. Maybe the kids are annoying. We don’t have kids yet. Maybe they are all happier going to Quizzo on Thursday night. Did you like going to dinner with your parents when you were that age?”
I have a vision…
We are in a restaurant. Mid 1980’s. While Mom and Dad converse, Big Brother, Little Sister, and I stealthily pass an open packet of sugar back and forth among the 3 of us. Then another. Then a third.
We do it quietly, so as not to arouse suspicion from Mom and Dad. At the end of dinner, Dad rewards our sugar high with a, “Well, you kids certainly made me proud with your behavior at the dinner table.” as Mom flags down our waiter, “Pardon me, may I please have some sugar for my coffee? We don’t have any at the table.” She turns to Dad, “Why do they always sit us at the table with no sugar?”
Me: “Of course I enjoyed going to dinner with my parents as a kid. We didn’t have handheld electronics. And I survived.”
He smiles, “Did your parents let you talk?”
I’m writing in my strawberry shortcake diary, “Dear Diary, I ordered prime rib for dinner. I almost ordered chicken parm. I’m STARVING. And we’ve already eaten all 17 sugar packets. Nothing left but the dangerous pink ones. Dad’s telling Mom about work, and we’re not allowed to interrupt. This is SO boring.”
Me: “I wrote in my diary when we went out to eat.”
B&B rewards me with a laugh. “Wow, you were really super geek, weren’t you?”
Me: “The point is that when we have kids, we’re not taking them to dinner and handing out electronics. It’s a waste of money. And it reflects poorly on the parents.”
I will now stop typing and smack my head against the desk because I deserve a beating.
B&B plays Devil’s Advocate. Which, in this case, is the voice of reason, “I think, until we have kids of our own, we’re in no position to judge.”
Me: Appearing to concede, “You’re right.”
Fine. I’ll judge quietly.
It’s not easy to slip out for dinner the way we did before becoming parents. We’re tired. And it’s expensive. We have to pay for a sitter, pay for our date, plus tack on the $14.99 for a new shirt from Marshall’s that I’ll need for our big night out. It adds up…
So a few months ago, B&B and I were way overdue for an evening away from the house. We booked a sitter, I hit Marshall’s, and we told the kids…
Me: “Guys, Mom and Dad are going out for dinner tonight. The babysitter is coming at 7:30. Interrogator and Verb, you’ll be in bed already. Kenyan and Waldorf, you can stay up until 9:00.”
Interrogator: “Who is it, Mom? Who’s coming to babysit? Can we come downstairs and say hi? Oh! Or, can she come up and say hi to us when we’re in our beds?”
Me: “She will come up to see you, Interrogator,” to the older two, “and guys, you can watch a movie or play the Wii.”
We watch as their shoulders droop a little.
Waldorf: Complaining, “How come you never take us out to dinner?”
Kenyan: Upset, “Yeah, how come we never get to go anywhere? My friends get to go to dinner with their parents!”
Interrogator: “Oh, can we go, Mom? I want to go to dinner! I’ll be good, Mom, I promise. I’ll go to dinner, and I’ll be good.” He snaps his fingers, one at a time, over and over to an imaginary beat. The Verb, ever his faithful sidekick, begins swaying his hips to the beat of the snapping. The Interrogator adds words to his snapping, “We’re going to dinner, oh yeah, oh yeah, and we’re gonna behave, oh yeah, oh yeah, and we’re gonna get dessert, oh, yeah, oh yeah.”
I should have a camera mounted on my head to capture these moments, which truly are indescribably hilarious.
Me: “Interrogator, you’re welcome to come to dinner with us. Do you want pork for dinner tonight? Or do you want fish?”
The snapping comes to an immediate halt. He scrunches his nose in distaste. “I don’t like pork, Mom. Or fish, Mom. You’re not gonna make me eat it, Mom, are you?”
Me: Shrugging, “Sorry, buddy, that’s all they have.” I give him my widest eyes, “And they MAKE you eat your vegatables at the restaurant. You’re not allowed to leave until you do.”
Interrogator: Appalled, “I don’t want to go there to that restaur-not, Mom. Don’t make me go!”
Me: Soothing him, “OK, if you’re sure, I won’t make you go. You can stay here instead with the babysitter.”
Interrogator: “I want to stay with the babysitter. Don’t you Verb? Let’s stay here with the babysitter.” Cue the snapping accompanied by the Verb’s hip swaying, “We’re staying home, oh yeah, oh yeah, with the babysitter, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. I don’t like pork, oh yeah, oh yeah, I don’t like fish, oh yeah, oh yeah.”
Neither the Kenyan nor Waldorf is fooled by my vegetable bit.
Waldorf: Making his argument, “We’ve been to a restaurant before…remember, that really nice one with all the guitars? And they didn’t make us eat our vegetables. Why can’t we go? You can take us to the guitar restaurant again.”
Kenyan: “Yeah, that was like, the nicest restaurant in Philadelphia!”
B&B and I exchange a look. And some mental telepathy.
The older two are easy. What the heck, let’s take them with us.
B&B: “Kenyan and Waldorf, you guys can join us.”
Waldorf: “Yes! Can I bring my DS?!”
Kenyan: “Me too! Can I bring mine?!”
B&B begins nodding his head yes, as I swiftly bring down the hammer with my, “Absolutely not.”
He looks at me, a question in his eyes.
Me: “We are going to dinner to spend time together. Not so you boys can zone out with Mario and Luigi.”
They head upstairs to change clothes.
B&B: “What was that all about?”
Me: “Don’t you remember? Quizzo? At The Greeks? The kids with the handheld electronics? I told you we’d never allow that as parents. I meant it.”
B&B: Rolls his eyes, exhales, and smiles, “You realize we’re going to have to talk to them, right?”
Me: “That’s the point, isn’t it?”
B&B: Shrugging, “You’re the boss.”
The Kenyan emerges with a Star Wars book. I’m on the verge of telling him to leave it at home when B&B says, “Good idea, Kenyan. You haven’t read much Star Wars recently.”
We choose my favorite local pub. Best quesadillas ever. We arrive to discover a 45 minute wait. The Flyers are playing…no wonder. I look at Waldorf and the Kenyan. They’re already hungry. And there are no sugar packets here.
Plan B is in walking distance. Delicious adult beverages. This place has a 40 minute wait. Not sure about sugar packets.
Plan C is also in walking distance. It’s a new hotspot. Amazing nachos.
Me: “How long a wait for 4 of us?”
Hostess: “15 minutes.”
We order a shirley temple for the Kenyan and a lemonade for Waldorf. The Kenyan mounts a bar stool, cracks open his book, and devours the words on the page.
Me: “Kenyan. Kenyan. KENYAN!”
He finally looks at me, eyes cloudy. He hasn’t transitioned completely from Tattoine back to Pennsylvania.
Me: “This isn’t the library, big guy.”
Kenyan: Finally lucid, “Oh. Right.”
He returns to his book. And accompanies his reading with sound effects.
“Choo choo choo choo choo choo choo.” Gun.
“Zhooo zzzzhhooo zzzzhhhhhooooo.” Lightsaber.
“Da da da daaaa, da da da DA da, da da da DA da, da da da daaaaa.” And…Star Wars theme.
I look at B&B. He looks at me. We both look at Waldorf. He looks at us. All 3 of us grin and shake our heads simultaneously.
Not exactly what I meant.
We get a table. The Kenyan positions his book around his plate so that his head is not visible to Waldorf or B&B, who sit across from us. He reads the entire meal. And hums. And chooses carefully from his extensive armamentarium of sound effects. We enjoy a delicious meal. We field minimal complaints. We catch up with Waldorf on all things 4th grade while the human beatbox provides the score from Episode III.
Waldorf is a pig in shit. While he holds court, we notice inflection in his voice that isn’t always there. His eyes twinkle, and he smiles easily as he experiences a phenomenon that occurs with the frequency of Haley’s Comet….uninterrupted, undivided attention. From both parents.
I drink him in. My first baby. He’s soft spoken. And tall. And skinny. And a math wiz. His feet are the same size as mine…which may change by tomorrow. He’s tough. And he’s tender. But he likes to keep that tender part hidden. Right now, he’s as animated as we’ve ever seen him.
He still wants to be with us. I’m so glad we brought them with us tonight.
Unfortunately, B&B and I have zero time to reconnect. And we need to reconnect. We reside in a small house. We share it with four little boys who are navigating the world. And they’re as dependent on the love and attention of their parents as they are on oxygen. It’s overwhelming. Every day.
So B&B and I…we miss each other.
His thoughts must mirror mine. As we confiscate the Kenyan’s book for the short walk to our car, B&B whispers in my ear.
“I’m glad we brought them. But I miss you.”
I nod in agreement.
He continues, whispering, “I vote next time they bring their electronics.”
I know the perfect spot.
Me: “Hey, guys, the next time we go out to dinner, we’ll take you to one of our favorite old spots.”
B&B: Chiming in, “It was right around the corner from our first apartment.”
Waldorf: Curious, “What’s it called?”
In unison, B&B and I, smiling, tell them, “The Greeks.”