Adventures in Parenting
A few weeks ago my family went back to South Carolina with me so I could celebrate my 20 year high school reunion. (20 years! Crazy, right?) While we were there, we arranged to have dinner with a friend I’ve known longer than just about anyone. I asked her to choose a kid-friendly restaurant for us. She doesn’t have kids, so that was a ridiculous thing to ask her to do. With two kids, I’m just now learning what restaurants are kid-friendly and which ones I have no business in at this stage of life. How could I expect her to know?
We were late, of course. No matter how far in advance I prepare these days, it always ends up taking me longer to get out the door than I anticipate. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I end up the only one in the family who isn’t properly prepared to go out. Unless I get up before dawn, I rarely have my makeup on or hair done when I walk out the door these days. The ponytail is my dear friend. Often the WET ponytail.
For our dinner date Eliana had on a ruffled, bright yellow dress and Charlie was sleeping in his car seat. We hauled our 2 babies and 2 diaper bags through the oppressive heat and humidity into the loud and cramped restaurant. Music was blaring and the hostess seated us at a center table next to the bar. Our high chairs intruded into the normal aisles on each end of the table. Precariously close to the kitchen, I watched nervously as restaurant staff walked by balancing hot plates of food over my babies’ heads.
I made a mental note for future reference to specify that a kid-friendly restaurant is typically spacious, not too loud, not too quiet, and not too busy… Cracker Barrel-ish (if you can get the kids through the store without tearing everything up).
Eliana ate her food and behaved really well, which is hit or miss these days, but Charlie woke up from his nap a few minutes after our food arrived. I soothed him as I gobbled down my delicious meal as fast as I could, hoping to finish before he started hollering. I was almost done when he was no longer satisfied in his seat.
I pulled him out and tried different positions, but he was hungry and not interested in anything else. We were totally exposed in the middle of the restaurant, but I wasn’t about to sit in a dirty bathroom stall or outside in the muggy heat. As discreetly as possible, I attempted to nurse him. We were near the door, which kept opening as people went in and out, so it wasn’t exactly cool in the restaurant either. Charlie is a little heater all by himself, so between holding him and the temperature in there, I was uncomfortably hot. I smiled brightly at a nearby table of disapproving women with large, fruity drinks and wondered aloud if it was better to just let him scream.
Between the heat, the noise, and the discomfort I felt trying to nurse him in such an open area, he would not cooperate. I’ve gone 38 years without ever knowingly exposing myself in public, but I won’t be making it to 39.
Meanwhile, Eliana had a look of concentration on her face and her eyes were watery and red. Shoot. She was stinking the place up. There was another table full of people two inches behind her and I felt pretty bad for them trying to eat in such close proximity to that diaper. Although Rick is often the one who changes Eliana’s diapers, there are rarely changing tables in men’s bathrooms, so it was up to me to take care of the diaper. (Why would a man ever need to change a diaper? Grrr…)
I gave up trying to nurse Charlie and ventured to the darkest part of the restaurant to scope out the women’s bathroom, fingers crossed that there was actually a changing table. Strangely, there was a chair in front of the door and it was locked. I asked the waitress if it was out-of-order. She went to check and was gone for a while. Meanwhile, Charlie screamed and Eliana reeked.
She finally came back and told me it was open and there was a changing table. I gathered up Eliana and her diaper bag and off we went. As I laid her on the changing table, I noticed something splattered on the wall behind the table. Hmmm… Did that just happen or had it been there? Then I noticed that my hand was wet.
Sure enough, her dress was dirty. As I began to change the diaper, I noticed that the mess had run down her leg and into her shoe. Thankfully, I had clean clothes for her. It took quite a while to clean her up, clean myself up, and clean up the bathroom wall. The entire time we were gone, Charlie sobbed hungrily.
When I got back to the table, it was time to go. We headed to the local park so we could hang out a little longer and keep Eliana occupied. At the park I was able to nurse Charlie in the quiet, air-conditioned car. My friend talked to me while the husbands took Eliana to play on the swings.
While we were still in the car, Charlie decided to mess his diaper. That’s when I realized I’d left the wipes in the restaurant. We were in a rental car so I didn’t have extra wipes in the car like usual. I did the best I could to wipe him up with a diaper. I used hand sanitizer on my hands and we went to find the guys.
Rick gratefully handed me Eliana when we arrived and left to find a bathroom for himself. I wasn’t sure who smelled worse – my clothes (because Eliana’s mess didn’t just get on her), Charlie, or her. We were a stinky, stinky family that night…
We found a small slide with wide steps leading to it, so I handed a much more content Charlie to my friend and helped Eliana with the steps. She didn’t want to go down the small slide though; she wanted to climb the steps all the way to the top and go down the BIG slide. I followed her and decided the big slide was big enough for me, so I sat down and put her in my lap. At that point I realized it was really steep and holding her while going down was going to make it very difficult to moderate my speed. I tried to get off, but Eliana was having none of it. She wiggled so much that I had no choice but to go down or risk dropping her. My friend was laughing loudly, well aware of my lack of athleticism and balance. But down we went, me holding her tightly while trying to not fly off the end and land on my rear in the dirt.
I gave myself a sort-of rug burn (except it was plastic-burn) on my elbow and lost my balance. Her foot got caught, her shoe flew off, and she ended up screaming. With my stinging elbow, I recovered her shoe and realized it was wet. As I looked closer, I realized it was poo! The mess had gone down her other leg and into her other shoe as well, but I hadn’t realized it while I was cleaning her up. Horrified, I could think of no other option, so I put the shoe back on and let her play while we waited for Rick to come back. No wonder she still smelled so bad.
At some point during this adventure, my friend informed me that Eliana had left a puddle in the high chair at the restaurant. Her husband noticed but didn’t say anything to us about it. Since I didn’t put her back in the high chair after cleaning her up, we didn’t know and left it there for the waitress to clean up. As a former waitress, I cringed.
After Rick got back from his hunt for a bathroom, he took Eliana down the big slide a few times without incident. Of course. Then we excused ourselves and put the kids back in the car. As we were driving, Eliana decided she needed to take her shoes off. Since everything ends up in her mouth these days, we pulled into a gas station and cleaned her up the best we could with hand sanitizer and windshield wipes.
When we got back, Rick immediately put her in the shower and I scrubbed Charlie first, then her shoes. We figured our friends would probably decide never to have children.
I couldn’t help but think about how many of my high school friends are through this stage of parenting and highly unlikely to be cleaning poop out of their kid’s shoes at 9:00 at night. Oh well… They’re worth it.