I did it all for the pickles
It was too beautiful of a weekend to stay cooped up, but going out is . . . challenging. When I became a parent, I had no concept of how much stuff would be involved in a “simple” outing. Because I’ve gotten lazier and don’t want to haul a full diaper bag around anymore, I tend to just throw needed items in my purse. This means that, at any given moment, I have diapers, a pack of baby wipes and emergency snacks — for Oliver and me — on my person.
My husband and I gave up full-service restaurants months ago. Aside from the general stress that is taking a little guy out in public, it was too much to expect a toddler to sit still for an hour while we ate. Ollie is not one to be amused by col- oring books or activity sheets; toys and trinkets don’t interest him. The kid just wants to run around and be free.
Spencer and I still went out to eat occasionally when Ollie was an infant, mostly because he was portable and much easier to please. If he began to cry, we gave him a bottle. If he fussed, one of us could easily soothe him or take him outside. Sometimes that meant eating alone, but it was worth it to simply be out of the house and eating food we didn’t microwave.
As soon as Ollie became mobile, everything changed. When he was big enough to sit in a high chair, said high chair became the enemy — a prison of sorts. A friend recommended having a “restaurant box” full of little toys he can only play with while out and about, mak- ing them special, and I loved the idea . . . but turns out our little diplomat is more interest- ed in people than things.
Being Oliver’s mother has definitely forced me to be more social. Because he thinks nothing of marching up to other diners in a crowded restaurant and reaching for their French fries, it’s up to Spencer or me to hastily apologize and guide him away. Most people laugh — a good icebreaker. And if they don’t laugh, we’re already too far beyond them to worry about it.
Yes, friends, eating out is now reserved for times in which we have back-up (like my brother-in-law, who eats quickly and can tire Oliver out while we scarf down a sandwich) or have coordinated a rare evening to ourselves.
But because we’re a month or less away from having Baby No. 2 join the party, I’m feeling more claustrophobic than ever. I know I’ll be home with Little Miss for weeks, if not months, and we’ll be resetting the clock to zero. While Oliver is walking and talking and generally sleeping well these days, we’ll be returning to the land of infancy. Starting over. No independence there.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. If I’m startled awake by a nighttime noise at 2 a.m., my heart and mind begin to race with all the “what if” scenarios we might encounter this spring.
What if we can’t easily balance the needs of two children?
How will we handle it if Oliver is jealous of the baby?
How will we tackle being working parents to two kids?
Will we ever sleep deeply again?
After a spin-out like this in the wee hours Saturday, I decid- ed we needed to get out of the house. We’d made loose plans to work in the nursery, organize Oliver’s bedroom with new furniture and generally tidy up, but it was 70 degrees. In February.
And you know what pregnant women absolutely should not do? Watch the Food Network. Seeing TV host Trisha Year- wood making fried pickles — my only real across-two-preg- nancies craving — sealed the deal on Saturday morning.
“We should go out for lunch,” I said.
And an icy chill swept through the living room.
Just kidding. But it did feel like a foreboding thing to say. We got Oliver down for a morning nap and hoped he’d be in a good enough mood that we could chance it. Spencer was hesitant, but ultimately agreed.
Our last public outing — to a burger place with my extended family — included Ollie eating approximately one and a half bites of chicken before trying to rappel down his high chair. Never did we have all six adults seated at once; someone — or, more accurately, several someones — had to follow Ollie around as he greeted fellow diners, refusing to sit or eat anything else.
How would Spencer and I manage with just two of us?
I wasn’t sure, but I was hungry.
At a nearby barbecue place, I tried to set us up for success by requesting a booth far from other families. Ollie having a meltdown isn’t a matter of if, but when; my hope was we’d be far enough away from other people that the dirty looks wouldn’t burn too badly. We immediately got Oliver into his booster seat and began breaking up some bread for him. Snacks earn us a few minutes. I dug around in my purse for anything that could amuse him; car keys typically do the trick. By the time we ordered, Ollie was throwing his crayons and trying to jailbreak — but our server, picking up on our distress, made sure his macaroni and cheese arrived quickly. Though the experience threatened to go south a few times, a last-ditch move by yours truly to set up the iPad with “The Angry Birds Movie” bought us the 15 minutes needed to actually eat our own food. Ollie was going stir-crazy by the end, but we all sur vived. Even if we were “those parents” — the wild-eyed, panicky ones with a screen stuck in front of their toddler. Desperate times and all that. When the fried pickles call, I must answer.