Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Joys of...taking your kids out to dinner!

Today Alyssa (see photo above!) e-mailed me to see if I could watch Charlie one evening in June so she and Rob can go to their supper club Charlie-less. Of course I said yes - how lucky when a family lives close enough to be able to do this because an occasional "date night" is a fun way for mommies and daddies to have a chance for a little get-away and it also provides an opportunity for some "Mimi-Baby" bonding.

This is so much nicer than when Ashley and Alyssa were little - both sets of their grandparents lived out of state - and when they finally DID move closer to us, health issues prevented them from watching the girls for us. So we adapted.

Early on I decided our family should have dinner out once a week both to give me a break from the kitchen and to "teach" the girls about manners when they were in a restaurant. Needless to say we went EARLY to dinner in order to avoid annoying the least amount of diners :)

Our very first experience was when Ashley was 2 weeks old or thereabouts. Her favorite activity for practically her whole first year was being fed. She tended to be a little fussy otherwise - tummy issues I'm sure. But my plan for the restaurant was to ask for a more secluded booth and if the situation warranted it, I would simply "hook her up" - I carried enough receiving blankets with me, plus with the looser clothing styles of the day, I knew we could be modest. Not to mention I could learn to eat one-handed.

On that fateful Saturday night, we entered our favorite restaurant - we lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains of all places when Ashley arrived. Our favorite restaurant was the one closest to us (a fortuitious choice) located on Highway 17, near Summit Road. It was a busy little restaurant/coffee shop - casual and just right for us.

So on our maiden voyage, I explained to the hostess that we'd like a booth in the back because of our baby, and she was very obliging. However, this meant walking all the way through the place and passing through almost a FULL house of people having dinner or waiting to be served.

You know the stir a brand new baby causes. Ashley was tiny - only 6-1/2 lbs. at birth so there we were making our way along with this teeny little bundle - that EVERYBODY wanted to see. We weren't as aware of germs, I guess, back in the day because I dutifully stopped and showed off my sweet baby girl to all who asked before finally settling into our booth.

And, right on cue, Ashley began to howl because there I was sitting and she wasn't being fed! But - no problem-o - we were in a secluded part of the restaurant. I opened my menu with one hand and nestled Ashley into position with the other. Soon she was happily nursing away.

And then. Wouldn't you just know it. One of the diners, a nice lady, "missed the baby" on our way in because she had been in the restroom and asked if she could please see "the baby," Well. I don't know what I was thinking (or more correctly, I WASN'T), but being the kind of person who aimed to please, I quickly pulled Ashley away from her dinner. AND if you've never experienced this extreme pleasure, let me just say it is NOT something I recommend doing. Ever.

Of course the pain of such a violent removal is, well...painful. Then there is the mighty suction sound as Baby abruptly leaves the Mother Ship. And finally there is the horrific howling that takes place as Extremely Unhappy Baby is prematurely removed from her "play station." So the face the nice lady saw as I turned Ashley around was definitely not the same pink, placid little baby face that all the other diners witnessed on our walk in.

To say we kept up our weekly outings would be to tell a big fat lie. We did go out - occasionally, and I can't say it was always a happy, fun, family bonding time. But when we moved to San Jose, we found another family-friendly place we visited now and then called Uncle John's. Just the name sounds friendly, right? And it was. So the night we had dinner there and the roof pretty much caved in on our dining-out-with-the-kids excursions, they were very understanding. Here's what happened.

Ashley was a picky eater. But she did like soup. By now she was probably 3 or 4 years old - I believe it was shortly before Alyssa arrived, but I am not positive about that. You know, some things you just tend to block out. So on the night in question, our dinners had just arrived and Ashley was scooching up closer to the table and to her little bowl of soup. She was sitting on the inside near the wall and I was at her side.

Suddenly, in slow motion, I saw the soup bowl tipping over toward my little girl - and I was unable to stop it in time. So there, with the entire contents of an entire bowl of hot soup smack in the middle of her lap, sat my Ashley with the kind of look on her face that you just never want to see on the face of your child.

Immediately, without even thinking, I grabbed my full glass of ice water and hurled it onto her lap. And even though I think it prevented the soup from burning her worse than it did, it's just not the kind of restaurant behavior that Emily Post would write about. So we cleaned up the mess, with the help of our understanding waitress, and headed home.

In the picture below, you'll see that Ashley survived this traumatic experience just fine. I selected this photo because Ashley's hanging out with her baby sister, Alyssa, who (in this photo) is about the same age as Alyssa and Rob's little cutie, Charlie. (And check out that TV-as-Furniture unit behind the girls. Awesome.)

And - were there other dinners out with these two young beauties, you might be asking? Yeah. Probably. But I honestly don't want to remember...

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