Thursday, April 7, 2016
It never ceases to surprise me how the mundane can transform to memorable the moment we are quiet. It's my day off, I've just left a doctors appointment and I'm treating myself to my favorite Thai place. I am alone so I sneak in some people watching time.
There is a young family that just walked in with their squirmy and hungry toddler. I watched as the mom walked over to pick up the restaurant standard wooden high chair in that awkward tripod shape and was instantly transported.
It is 1999. I'm at Cici's pizza. There are 2 toddlers and I pick up the same wooden tripods, like a purse for each arm. I push chubby legs into slots they don't want to go in. I clear wrapped silverware, glasses, Parmesan cheese shakers and any other possible projectable objects out of toddler arm reach. They reach anyway. And then come the frustrated protests. Not my first rodeo, I grab for the sippy cups. God love sippy cups! They serve the dual purpose of occupying hands and stifling loud toddler cries.
This buys me time to find and secure bibs, while they attempt to pull them off with their free hand. When Sean is done with his desperate gulping, he really is done. The cup goes directly from his mouth to hurtling sideways toward a nearby table.
It is then I can confirm we are being watched. Of course, we are. There are 2 of them and 1 of me and people are understandably curious how this will play out. They are in 1 of the umpteen sets of matching short overalls my mother has purchased. And I'm not gonna pretend here. They are stinkin' cute.
I reach for the cup on the floor but the elderly man at the neighboring table has beat me to it. His wrinkled face in a full smile as he hands me the cup, chuckling and says, "Quite an arm he has there." I apologize and he and his wife won't have it. "No," they tell me. They have 4 grandchildren and they understand.
But now I have one more thing to watch like a hawk. Once is understandable. More than once and I'm certain it's a pronouncement on my parenting skills. I make a big show of cleaning the sippy cup, something I wouldn't bother with at home.
I have come here because it is a buffet. There are multiple choices in case the first 3 don't meet with finicky toddler standards. It's cheap. Most importantly, it is immediate. I won't have to dig through a diaper bag offering everything from graham crackers to gummy bears while we sweat out the eternal wait for food. I have picked a table that is strategically close to the buffet, so this mama lion can watch her cubs while hunting and gathering breadsticks and other toddler friendly cuisine.
Between spooning in bites of pudding to alternating mouths, I steal a bite for myself. They get done before me but that's just the way it goes. When they are done, they are done. I look at the floor under the table, littered with Weathersby crumbs. I try to pick up the big pieces and tell myself we didn't destroy the place.
As I leave, I know my next challenge will be to keep 2 little boys awake for the 10 minute drive home. If they fall asleep, afternoon nap is ruined. They won't go back down. I want to sleep way more than I wanted to finish my pizza.
A month and a week and those toddlers will graduate and go meet the world. I'm so nervous they aren't ready and I'm certain that I am not. I'm that mother that feels on display all over again. Have I done a good job? Was it enough? What did I forget?
I have no diaper bag full of tricks to heal a broken heart. To keep my military-bound son out of harm's way. To help my enormously talented musical son meet the right people and reach his dreams. I've got some praying to do.
Back in 2016, I watch this anxious mom losing her struggle to keep him happy and reasonably quiet. The meal is over. Time to go. I wish I could tell her no one is judging her. That she is enough. And that my prayer is, she can make it home before he falls asleep.