Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rookie Baby Wranglers at the Restaurant

Remember Mommy Shorts? Of course you do.  She wrote about fancy underpants one time?  And spiffed up our Pool Rules sign for us? She's our good buddy and she's awesome.  You can check out her blog right here.

My father moved out of our house when I was ten and my stepmother has never had children. Historically, it appeared like they did not have much interest in kids. However, since the addition of my baby girl to the family, they seem to have developed a vested interest in winning her over. This surprising show of affection combined with a lifetime of child-free living can make for an eventful evening.

As evidenced last week, when they invited myself, my husband (Mike), and our 15 month old daughter (Mazzy) all out to dinner.

When we arrived at the restaurant, my father and stepmother were sitting at a round table with the high chair pulled squarely between them. Obviously, they wanted to make sure they had the lion's share of the baby. Mike and I looked at each other with uncertainty— do they know how hard it is to entertain a toddler throughout dinner? Do they care? We decided to sit Mazzy in the highchair, retire to the other end of the table and find out. Who doesn't love a little dinner theater?

Pleasantries were exchanged. The requisite oohing and aaahing. To their credit, the first minute or so progressed rather smoothly.

And then the third minute arrived.

My father's first mistake was ordering a martini and putting it within arm's reach of the baby. Mazzy's hand reached for the stem of the glass faster than a greyhound when that fake little bunny starts running. Screams from the peanut gallery (Mike and me) prompted my father to grab the glass before it shattered on the floor. Although the larger tragedy was that valuable alcohol was wasted.

Next, my father asked us, in all seriousness, if he could give the baby one of olives. We said no. My stepmother proceeded to enlighten us with the various health benefits of olives until my husband cut her off by saying— "It's been soaking in vodka".

Then my stepmother told us that she had taken the liberty of ordering some appetizers before we got there. I thought, perfect— you can't sit a baby at a dinner table for long without feeding her some food, maybe they know more then I give them credit. But that was before I knew that my stepmother had ordered oysters on the half shell. As if the baby was just going to sit idly by as she watched the waiter deliver a seafood tower filled with ice, shells, assorted condiment bowls and miniature spoons. She may as well have placed a life-size Elmo doling out cheerios and juice in the center of the table and told Mazzy she wasn’t allowed to look at it.

So what does my father give the baby to distract her? A plate. Never mind that giving a baby a plate to distract from a seafood tower is the equivalent of giving a kid a piece of spinach in substitution for a brownie sundae. The bigger problem was that the plate was ceramic and the floor, like most restaurants, was not made of "bouncy castle". Thankfully, my stepmother took it away before it was dropped or thrown at an unsuspecting diner's head.

Throughout the rest of the evening, we were faced with a non-kid friendly seafood menu, assorted screams for dangerous cutlery, and a trip to a candlelit bathroom without a changing table. Lastly— there was the inevitable Baby Meltdown. Seems Mazzy wasn’t particularly happy with her fried talapia, she didn't understand why she couldn't play with the steak knife and all the lingering between courses had caused it to be way past her bedtime.

Ultimately, we left before we finished our meal, leaving my dad and stepmom sitting amongst the wreckage and debris that was once their seafood dinner.

At which point, I bet they turned to each other and said— “That went swimmingly!”

Sigh. A mother’s stress is never shared.

The evening got me thinking. What exactly are the telltale signs that someone doesn't have any kids? Besides leaving a full martini within arms-length of a 15 month old, of course.

10) They want to see the baby so they suggest coming over before they go out for the evening. At 10pm.

9) They look generally well-rested, use terms like "beauty sleep", and claim exhaustion after just one late night out.

8) They apply under-eye concealer with great success.

7) Their clothes look freshly laundered and there is no evidence of dried snot on their shoulders. Also, they wear clothes that don't look like they can be repurposed as pajamas.

6) They don't think there is a difference between the taste of a cheddar cracker and the taste of a cheddar cracker in the shape of a bunny.

5) They have nightmares that do not involve Mr. Noodle.

4) They call you to make plans without a lead-time of at least two months.

3) They think their cold/flu-like symptoms are solely their problem. And they are showing you how important you are to them if they keep plans regardless of their hacking infectious cough.

2) They equate having a baby with having a dog. Then they put food in a bowl on the floor and leave their dog to go out for the evening.

1) They think going out to dinner with a toddler is an enjoyable activity.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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