Life Lessons, Parenting, Uncategorized

How Not to Take a Toddler to Dinner

Since 1996 when Katie was born, I’ve been living The Mom Life. This journey has had its ups and downs, but tonight I’m lying wide awake recovering from surgery and needed to laugh, so I’m reminiscing about a couple of the crazy moments I’ve had with my crew.
Early in 2004, during my first full year of single-parenting, I took my girls, ages 3 and 7, to our favorite Italian restaurant. It was a little hole-in-the-wall with great pizza at less-than-great-prices (at least on my budget back then). It was one of those nights where the girls wanted to get out, so Luigi’s it was. We sat, mostly quietly, while a couple in the corner had their sweet, awkward, mushy first date, an older couple held hands, and you could cut the sappy romance with a knife. I’d been busy cutting up the girls’ food, helping them eat, and chatting with Katie about school. My food by now was cold and mostly untouched. I looked up to see that 3-year-old Stephanie was literally wearing her spaghetti sauce. I got looks from other patrons as spaghetti and sauce was everywhere, Stephanie was laughing like crazy about it, and Katie needed to “go”, so I took their little hands and found the ladies’ room. I cleaned (practically bathed) Stephanie and wiped bottoms and washed little hands and walked back to our now perfectly clean table. Someone had come by and cleaned off our table while we were in the restroom because they thought we’d left the restaurant. I’ll remind you – I had hardly touched this beyond-my-budget meal. Katie was uncharacteristically mad – “where’s my plate…I wasn’t finished.” Stephanie started to cry. I was about to cry. I took a deep breath. The manager made it right by making us new meals and comping mine, but by that time the girls had eaten most of theirs before the potty break and were unruly, so I just took the new meals to-go and warmed mine in the microwave at home (after bath, book, and bed-time). After that we didn’t go out-to-eat much, at least not without another adult to keep watch over our table.
Then there was the day when Katie was about 10 and I was taking a test in a class at the University. It was a final exam, but Katie had strep throat, I didn’t have a sitter, and I couldn’t miss the exam. My professor was livid. He was afraid she’d get everyone sick, and that I’d somehow cheat. I somehow convinced him otherwise. So there I sat in the very back of a lecture hall on the floor with a feverish Katie fast asleep on one arm while I filled in a Scantron and wrote an essay with the other. I aced the class.
As she got older, I made it a point to take her to one class a semester. One time she sat in on my Archaeology class while a guy came in to show us flint-knapping (making arrow heads and stone axes). That was cool. My girls became familiar with University classrooms, libraries, and lecture halls by the time I finished graduate school.
I suppose I could recall many more times that life as a single parent got crazy. The moments etched into my heart the deepest are when I say “I love you,” and a little voice echoes mine and sing-songs, “I love you more,” to which I always reply, “not possible.”

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