Dinner for Four by One (reblog from 2010)

This is a reblog (with minor edits) from my old blog.  I enjoyed re-reading it so much I thought you would too!  It’s too easy to forget the difficulties we’ve faced (and triumphed through!) as people but especially as parents.  If anyone is wondering what it’s like to get out of the house with many small children here’s a glimpse into that world. I often was annoyed when people called me “supermom” back then, nothing about me felt super (except for my ability to pump 8oz of milk at a sitting, that was pretty super) but rereading this I kinda feel like that woman (aka ME) was pretty darn super.  Or insane.  Jury is still out on that one.

May, 2011

The sky was grey as the van trudged onto the highway.  Wipers swishing as it merged as gracefully as a large vehicle can and sped on towards home.  The woman driving was tired, very tired.  Caffeine addiction seemed to be an ongoing battle, conquered for a week with a swift backward slide when the children kept her up a few nights in a row.  She found herself rubbing her temples, her whole body aching for a cool, refreshing, fountain diet coke…  Snapping back to reality she contemplated her dinner plans.  In an ideal world she’d have at least 30 minutes to create a culinary masterpiece for herself, her children and husband (if Rachel Ray can do it so could she!) but she knew that a few minutes here and there were all she manged on an average night.  “30 Minute Meals” never shows an exhausted woman returning from her full time job and three kids crawling or running underfoot with a husband who doesn’t get home until after bedtime.  The chicken she’d purchased that weekend sat, untrimmed and unmarinated, in the farthest corner of the fridge, mocking her for her inability to get her hands dirty with chicken goo when there were two infants underfoot constantly needing her attention.  Her husband had promised to prepare the chicken the night before but lately he’d been promising a lot of little things like that and then not following through.  It was a symptom of the problem of her being back at work, an entire story unto itself!  So, regardless of how or why there was no meat ready to cook and no creative vegetarian options available on short notice at home.  So what to do for dinner and her aching head?

She remembered what she would have done just a couple of months ago…  She would have picked up her son from daycare and headed over to Friendly’s  for a quick bite, just the two of them, one adult caring for one child… but now it wasn’t just her son she was picking up.  Three small children waited for her at the home daycare her son had been going to for almost two years now.  Three.  And there was only one of her.  The two little girls (almost eight months old) were absolutely adorable but quite literally handfuls.  She contemplated the adventure.

She’d need to go home first to pack food for the girls.  Okay, she’d left early enough to manage that and still pick up the kids for an early dinner (the only kind she’d dare bring them in public for, they became quite vocal when they got tired and hungry at the same time!!).  She had the extra hook-on seat in the car, good because two high chairs were a pain to deal with in a restaurant because they wouldn’t be able to use a booth which meant her three year old would be roaming free.  She’d need bibs and the baby place mats (they suction cup to the table and have a little scooped edge to catch things that fall off the table, well, in theory anyway).  A small bag of toys for her son; He was three now and was usually wonderful in public but there was no use tempting fate, the toys would be a good distraction.  The Ergo was already in the car but maybe the sling would be better, she’d check for it and throw them both in the car when she got home.  Spoons, baby toys, a change of clothes, check for wipes in the diaper bag…  The hardest part would be getting all the kids (only one who could walk), diaper bag and extra seat into the restaurant by herself.  Was it really worth all this trouble?  She did NOT want to go home and cook (with children melting down left and right) and it was either that, cereal or peanut butter and jelly and, to be honest, there had been just too many of those nights in the five weeks she’d been back at work.

She mused for a few more miles.  It came down to laziness battling with the possibility of all three kids having a meltdown simultaneously in a public place that she couldn’t leave at a moment’s notice–laziness (exhaustion?) won.

Her plan was foolproof.  Baby in the Ergo carrier, baby on the hip, hook-on chair in the other hand, back-pack (diaper bag) on her back only feeling mostly like a pack animal and the three-year old gamboling ahead of her with a small bag slung on his shoulder filled with toys.  The hostess looked askance at her when she announced that she’d only be needing one high chair, no goo-gooing over babies from this lady.  After depositing one baby in the high chair, setting up the hook-on chair in the booth (with a baby still strapped to her chest) and depositing the second baby in it she sat down across from her son.  Feed the babies their finger-food while the “big kids” waited for their meals.  The girls were so cute, actually getting most of their broccoli, carrots and noodles into their mouths instead of on the floor (the little crumb catcher failing miserably as they shoved their little bodies tight to the table rendering it’s flexible, plastic scoop shape completely ineffective).   The flawless plan was playing out perfectly!

Then (of course) it happened.

The sweet little boy across from her began a sudden spastic dance and looked up at her with that look.  Her mommy instincts knew, he didn’t even have to say the words, “Mommy, I have to go potty!”  Crap, she thought, total crap.  Leaving two seven-month old babies at the table keeping an eye on each other didn’t really seem like a feasible option.  There were only three other diners in the area: an older couple who hadn’t seemed to notice her little litter when they’d entered a half hour earlier and a potentially cranky older gentleman who, when the hostess was about to seat him across from their table, requested a table slightly farther away.  No help there.  Then, as if her server instincts sensed the frantic workings of the woman’s brain, the waitress came to her rescue.  Though the only thing she’d said about the babies was, “Oh, are they twins?” and she seemed to show no interest in the three beautiful children other than wanting to know what kind of drink the little boy wanted the woman was desperate enough to ask her an important favor.

“I know this is weird but would you mind staying here with these two while I take him to the bathroom?” the woman asked, looking sheepish and probably more than a little desperate. “I just didn’t plan for this eventuality!”
The waitress replied, “Sure,” as though she’d been asked for extra dressing on the side.  The woman did not hesitate, almost eight months of dealing with twin babies had taught her to take advantage of people when necessary and this definitely qualified as necessary!  Helping a toddler onto a big toilet (and helping clean up after) was just not a real possibility while holding two infants.  She grabbed the little dancing boy by the hand and whisked him off to the bathroom.  He handled his business like a pro and, with freshly washed hands, they scampered back to the table a mere two minutes later.  The baby girls were happily munching on their dinner.  Until the littler one saw the woman.  With a look that said, “How could you leave me?” she burst into tears!  The waitress assured the woman that they’d been smiling moments before.  The woman smiled up at the waitress and thanked her before scooping up the sad little baby and smothering her in reassuring kisses.

A thought she’d had a million times before surfaced again.  How could she be so casual, leaving her babies in the care of virtual strangers (the waitress had told them her name was Pamela, so she wasn’t a complete stranger)?  She mulled it over for a moment.  Were her motherly instincts, the ones that told her to die for the sake of her children, failing her?  Then again, what is the worst that could have happened?  The waitress was not about to steal one of them.  Possibly one of the older patrons could have leaped up and snatched a baby from under the waitresses watchful eye, or she supposed that the waitress could have whipped out peanuts,  soft cheeses and shell-fish and fed them to the girls who would immediately have severe allergic reactions and stop breathing. But really the worst that would have happened is that both babies would have panicked when mommy disappeared and screamed the entire two minutes.  Since none of those things actually happened she decided that her motherly instincts were just in super-MOM-mode (MOM meaning Mother Of Multiples) and she really did know that everything would have been fine.

“Ah well,” she mused aloud, “they do say that the best laid plans will go awry!”  She had planned carefully.  She planned everything carefully these days.  She had played out all the logistics of getting into a restaurant with a pre-schooler and two babies who needed to be carried along with all the gear necessary for a tantrum free meal.   She’d just missed one tiny eventuality… and in the end even that was handled with a swift and decisive grace.  Other than that one little hiccup the dinner for four people–three kids and just one adult–went fabulously well!

Maybe they’ll even try it again sometime…



"What?  We're not any trouble at all!"

“What? We’re not any trouble at all!”

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