My family and I go out to eat quite a bit. Sometimes it is just so much easier to sit down at a restaurant, eat a meal, pay and go home. No cleaning up in the kitchen, no leftovers to put away. We can go home, take baths, and get started on our bedtime routine with the girls. Although eating dinner at home is much more relaxing for me.
Trying to sit down at a restaurant with three kids, one of them being a restless 1-year-old, is not exactly as enjoyable or relaxing as it used to be. She has about 10 good minutes in her before she starts wanting to wander around, throw utensils on the floor or start screaming at the top of her lungs. As a mother this can be extremely stressful. You feel like you are disturbing everyone else in the restaurant who, like you, are also trying to wind down and enjoy a hot meal that they did not have to prepare themselves. I constantly feel like everyone is staring at me, wondering why my kid is acting like a buffoon or praying that I can get her under control.
She will be two this coming May and I can honestly say that I have not necessarily enjoyed going out to eat in approximately two years. That was until last Sunday. We went to eat at a local restaurant and Emerson and Ashton, who are both old enough to know how to act in a restaurant, were their usual pleasant self. Kameron was surprisingly cool and collected throughout the meal. She sat in her chair the whole time. She ate her food without accumulating a pile of it under the table. We did not have to ask for extra forks or spoons to replace the ones she usually tosses across the table at us. No drinks were spilled, which is uncommon not only for Kameron but for all of us.
I did not want to say anything aloud about her behavior in fear of jinxing it before we could get out of there. Right as we were about to pay and leave, an elderly gentleman who was seated at the table next to us with his wife, turned and said, “I just wanted to say that your girls are very well-behaved.”
Cue the tears- tears of gratitude, tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of regret. I felt all of this in a matter of seconds.
I was so thankful and ecstatic that this man acknowledged them and left me with those kind words. As a parent, you sometimes feel like you work so hard to make sure that you are raising your children up the best you can, and a lot of the time all this work goes unnoticed. It is so nice to know that someone just sees you every now and then and that all your efforts are actually making a difference. This man did not know that this was the first meal in almost two years that we have made it through without a meltdown.
But on the other hand I also felt so terrible. This man was sitting there alone with his wife, enjoying their quiet dinner and a couple of drinks together, probably looking at my husband and I with our three children, longing for those days when their own children were younger. Talk about a gut punch, right?
On hard days, I find myself thinking about the future. One day the girls will all be grown-up. They will be taking their own little families out to eat for dinner and struggling with their own tornado of a toddler in the middle of a restaurant. They will stress and be embarrassed every now and then. Hopefully, they will call me as I am sitting alone with my husband in a too quiet house to complain or ask for advice and I will tell them without missing a beat, “Enjoy it.”
They will most likely roll their eyes in the same fashion that I did when anyone and everyone would offer up their unsolicited advice and tell me to simply, “Enjoy it.” Now I can see that they were right.
Somehow these years with your kids can be the slowest yet fastest years yet. Sometimes in an effort to get us through the rough patches of parenthood we find ourselves thinking, “I cannot wait until this or that” or “If I can just make it through this day, this week, this month, this year.” But what happens during that time leading up to that moment that you are longing for? They become unimportant to us. You have already written off all these wonderful moments because you are too busy anticipating what is coming on the horizon. It may be extremely difficult to find instances in those really tough days that you think are worth savoring, but they are still your moments with your family and precious time to be appreciated. So, do not wish the days away- even those ones.
One day you too will be sitting at a table in the middle of a restaurant with your significant other. You will take in all the young families sitting around you with toddlers giving their parents absolute hell and you will chuckle and look over at your partner with a blissful, longing glance internally replaying those chaotic moments you spent together parenting your own children and you will wish for them back.
(Paige Nash is a wife, mother, digital journalist for the Webster Parish Journal and publisher of the Bienville Parish Journal.)
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