Din­ing-out dilem­mas

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

It starts in the high chair, but it cer­tainly doesn’t end there. Spencer and I don’t haunt many restau­rants th­ese days, mostly out of re­spect for our fel­low man (and our san­ity). Din­ing out with small chil­dren is an ex­er­cise in pa­tience, and of­ten means you’re go­ing to spend your time feed­ing your tod­dler bits of an ex­pen­sive meal you’d much rather eat your­self — when you’re not wrestling him or her away from a stranger’s lap, any­way.

It’s kind of like throwing $20 bills into the wind as we bat­tle to keep Oliver oc­cu­pied. I barely touch the pasta I was des­per­ately crav­ing. Spencer hardly eats at all. Ev­ery­thing comes home in to-go con­tain­ers, usu­ally pro­vided as soon as our din­ners ac­tu­ally ar­rive; we’re al­ready head­ing into a melt­down by mid-meal. It’s just too ex­pen­sive for it to be that frus­trat­ing.

So we’re con­nois­seurs of carry-out. Restau­rants are for spe­cial oc­ca­sions only, and usu­ally when we have back-up in the form of strap­ping rel­a­tives. Spencer and I trade off eat­ing while the other chases Ol­lie. Learn­ing to walk took him longer than most kid­dos, a fact that wor­ried us, but I knew that some­day we would look back with nos­tal­gia on when Oliver ac­tu­ally stayed where we plopped him. I was right.

A good friend was re­cently in town from Lon­don, and we tried for weeks to make plans be­fore she flew back across the At­lantic. Like most folks, this re­sulted in roughly 25 text mes­sage ex­changes on pos­si­bil­i­ties be­fore we could set­tle on a sin­gle Sun­day mid-af­ter­noon date — a visit squeezed in be­tween the end of her con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton and her cab back to the air­port.

While I have no prob­lem ad­mit­ting when I need help with Oliver, I thought Spencer and I could han­dle him for an hour or two at a ca­sual restau­rant. I last saw Lyn­d­sey five years ago in Eng­land, back when I still had cash and time to va­ca­tion with my par­ents and sis­ter. Much has changed since 2011, and I was ex­cited to in­tro­duce her to my hus­band and son. How rough could it be?

And any­way, as a mother her- self, I knew Lyn­d­sey wouldn’t worry or judge when Oliver in- evitably got bored with his Ted- dy Gra­hams and moved on to . . . well, to dis­man­tling the place. My son is very into feng shui. Oliver senses when a piece of fur­ni­ture is in­cor­rectly placed — and has no trou­ble fix­ing it for you. It’s not un­usual to hear the rum­ble of a rolling desk chair be­ing pushed down the hall­way, or a side ta­ble shoved against a wall.

Did I men­tion he’s re­ally strong?

We had about 10 min­utes with Lyn­d­sey be­fore Ol­lie was ready to roll. No amount of beg­ging, silly faces or snacks could con- vince him to stay still; learn­ing to walk re­cently be­came learn- ing to run, and this kid is dan- ger­ous in sneak­ers. Re­luc­tantly, and mostly to stop the fuss­ing, we let him down from his high chair.

Spencer and I took turns chas- ing him around the restau­rant, which was mer­ci­fully empty. I’ve re­ceived a few death stares when my kid was act­ing up, and I’m not ea­ger to re­peat that ex- pe­ri­ence. I mean, I get it: I was once a fel­low diner just try­ing to eat her spinach dip in peace. But I give peo­ple plenty of grace now. The tod­dler fight stage is no joke.

Ad­mit­tedly, my hus­band does most of the heavy lift­ing — liter- ally and metaphor­i­cally. Car­ry­ing and re­strain­ing a 30-pound child at five months preg­nant is no pic­nic. Spencer spent most of the meal pulling Oliver away from bath­room doors, emer­gen- cy ex­its and glass win­dows, and I traded off as of­ten as I could. By the time Spence re­turned to switch places with me, his lunch was prac­ti­cally on ice.

At least the place was qui- et. Oliver’s de­lighted laugh­ter echoed across the tile floor, min­gling with our Bri­tish and Amer­i­can ac­cents in a cor­ner booth. Spence checked in with our con­ver­sa­tion oc­ca­sion­ally. Our lit­tle guy’s gig­gles added some lev­ity as we dis­cussed the re­cent elec­tion, Brexit, women’s rights, the fu­ture of hu­man­ity. Good Sun­day con­ver­sa­tion. Just keep­ing things light.

By the time we waved Lyn­d­sey off for her red-eye home, I was sweat­ing in the Novem­ber chill from schlep­ping Ol­lie’s di­a­per bag and trad­ing off hold­ing Oliver him­self. It had been fun, and it had been ex­haust­ing. Ol­lie grinned at me from his dad’s shoul­der all the way back to the car.

Later, Spencer and I nib­bled on salty chips packed up from the restau­rant. It felt great to col­lapse on the couch. Most of our meal still came home in carry-out con­tain­ers . . . but at least we got some ex­er­cise, too.

I’ll take it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.