I did it all for the pick­les

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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