There are rare but wonderful moments in life that leave you speechless. Maybe it was the time you attempted to talk to your first crush. In my case, that would also include the second through twentieth (I worked most of the kinks out by my 30th birthday thankfully). Perhaps it was one of the few instances when someone did something so kind and thoughtful that all you were able to muster was, “I don’t know what to say.” Or maybe it was the evening you took all of your children out to dinner, solo, and they acted like actual human beings. Normal inhabitants of the planet Earth. Grateful even. Yes, that happened to me tonight.
BRAVE OR STUPID?
My wife, who handles and dines with the animals more than I do during the week, had earned a well-deserved dinner out with a girlfriend. Tired of hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, corn dogs and chicken fingers, I decided to take my three “angels” out to a sushi restaurant. Sushi for me, fried Japanese stuff for them.
Upon entering the restaurant, my youngest made a grab for the lollipops. She didn’t want to eat one then and there, but desperately needed to “just hold it during dinner”. I assured her that was a bad idea, and that we would get one (or three as it turned out) when we were finished dining. My son grabbed a tooth pick, because, well who doesn’t “pick” BEFORE dinner, plus nothing screams “safe” like a six year old boy walking around with a toothpick in his mouth. It didn’t feel like we were off to a great start.
And then we sat down. We were against a wall and sandwiched in by families – front, back and side. Behind us was a girl of approximately ten with her parents, wearing bejeweled pink headphones, fully plugged into some sort of device. Essentially neutralized (or digitally lobotomized). Behind us was a mom and her baby in a car seat on a sling, probably no more than a month old. That one was in the sweet spot, basically a full time sleeper/part time milk monster and diaper filler. To the side of us was a train wreck in full effect – one year old throwing crusty stuff out of his crusty high chair, and his two year old sister singing random Sesame Street lyrics and smashing everything within her reach. She was more or less in need of a tazing. Both parents looked over at us, then the dad looked me directly in the eye with a certain sadness, fatigue and longing for easier days, noting “You’re brave to do this on your own.” Fanning my hand around our table like Vanna White I responded, “Oh no, these kids are angels.”
FAIRY TALES DO COME TRUE
They must have heard me, or perhaps the Mano de Dios reached down and touched our table, because what unfolded over the next hour was nothing short of a miracle. Everyone sat in their respective chair, not once did one of them even attempt to stand. They all happily ordered water, no requests for soda, and no one spilled a thing. Everyone asked for and drank Miso soup (WTF?), and devoured edamame (Do they realize those are vegetables?) as if the bowl were filled with skittles. My eight-year-old daughter ordered and delicately sipped a hot green tea. When did she start drinking tea? Napkins were happily placed on laps. No need for the stain stick this night! We split two kids meals amongst the three of them, with no complaining, and they devoured everything (including the orange slices).
The tired dad next to me kept glancing over, clearly baffled by the mastery I held over my Lilliputians.
I asked them to tell me about their day, and each child complied with a thoughtful answer while listening to the other. Seriously, what was going on? Granted, I had to shut down a three way chopstick sword fight at one point, but it almost turned into a four way as I considered entering the fray…so I’m hardly one to judge. The tired dad next to me kept glancing over, clearly baffled by the mastery I held over my Lilliputians.
Seeing that they were so good at dinner, I told them they had earned a trip to the ice cream parlor. As we walked in, two high school girls took notice of our crew, too naive to know how much work goes into parenting, but sweet enough to see the beauty of a dad and his kids out for ice cream. They watched as the kids politely (again, WTF) sampled flavors, actually looking the server in the eye as they requested different tastings. As I handed out the first dish to my son, he loudly declared “Thanks Dad!” No prompting required. Our high school friends giggled with delight at this incredible cuteness. “Having kids is easy and fun!” they must have been thinking. LOL. Each successive child followed suit by thanking me, and then proceeded to plead for me to hurry to join them.
We came home, where everyone bathed without a hint of resistance. Of course, we agreed on the choice of movie on this night (Goosebumps), which we watched in complete silence. When the movie wrapped, they brushed their teeth and went to bed, understanding that it was too late for the marathon reading and snuggle sessions to which they have grown accustomed. Within minutes, the house was filled with total (stunned) silence.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Maybe I was in the parenting zone this night, a la the Michael Jordan flu game versus Portland? Or perhaps my wife had offered them a payoff to treat me humanely? Whatever the case, when she returned home an hour or so later and asked how the kids were, I simply said “Oh, we had fun. They were good.”
I’m not sure if my reserved response was due to the fact that I didn’t want to gloat at the parenting clinic I had executed, whether I wanted the wife to think that her night off was extra special, or most likely because I was still in a state of disbelief and not fully able to process the evening.
Whatever the case, I’m not getting cocky. I’ll chock this evening up to a slow evolution that will surely take some steps backwards, but provides a glimpse into a future where all of our hard parenting work has paid off. Wouldn’t that be nice?