Thursday, May 22, 2014

Do You Remember When This Was Fun?

Going out just isn’t the same once you have children. Things that used to be relaxing and enjoyable become migraine-inducing nightmares. Unfortunately, my husband and I always seem to forget the trauma the latest outing induced, so by golly, we get excited about going out all over again. And every time, about half-way through, we’ll make eye contact and one of us will say, “Do you remember when this used to be fun?”

Do you remember when eating out used to be fun?
Oh, how I enjoyed a good restaurant back before children! Hot food delivered directly to our table while we gazed into each other’s eyes and had meaningful conversation; people who were paid to wait on us hand and foot and to say lies like “my pleasure!” while doing it; more paid people to clean away our dirty dishes, wipe down our table, and vacuum the floor… It was heavenly!

It is no longer heavenly. It is hellish. 

Hot food is stone-cold by the time I finish cutting up food for two, blowing on food for two, inserting straws and fitting lids for two, taking steak knives away from two, then rushing one to the potty for an emergency bathroom break.  Meaningful conversation has been replaced with reminding the children not to turn around and sing to the people sitting in the booth behind us, or to crawl under the table, or to throw the food they’ve decided they don’t want onto the floor. Even the sweetest waitress cannot manage to fake pleasure at our visit once she’s witness the amount of food smeared all over the table and dropped on the floor for her to clean up later, and she spends the entire time mopping up the kids’ spilled drinks and bringing extra napkins rather than re-filling my Dr. Pepper. I am pretty sure the entire staff high-fives and buys each other a round of drinks when we walk out the door.

And these things happen every single time. Guaranteed. Without fail. 

But every now and then, there’s some additional fun. For instance, the boys took me out for a special lunch on Mothers’ Day. As soon as our drinks were served, Andy reached into my water glass and fished out my lemon wedge. That didn’t gross me out at all because he had definitely not been picking his nose on the way to the restaurant. He sucked and licked all over it for a couple of minutes, got bored with it, then chucked it back into my glass. Not to be out-done, Finnick waited for our food to arrive, then continually dropped bright red spaghetti noodles onto my sandal-clad feet throughout the entire meal. (Yes—on purpose.) And being seven months pregnant and unable to reach my feet or move them elsewhere, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Kids=2, Parents=0.  

Will I remember this at Fathers’ Day? Of course not. We’ll march our happy little family right into another unsuspecting restaurant and do this all over again.

Do you remember when going to the movies used to be fun?
Ah, the movies! Giant tubs of popcorn and massive cups of Mr. Pibb while Hollywood’s finest ushered us into a fantastical world of romance and adventure; special visual effects on a 30-foot screen and surround sound turned up to maximum volume; holding hands in the dark and snuggling close during the tense moments… It was heavenly!

Not anymore.

Cinematic masterpieces have been replaced with G-rated, animated cartoons, and the most exciting moment is when I finally identify the actors doing the voices of the main characters. The popcorn is tainted by little hands that have been licked repeatedly before being shoved back into the tub, and my Mr. Pibb has been swapped out for Sprite so that it can be shared with an already hyped-up preschooler. I will spend the majority of the show reminding my children to sit down and stop hanging on the seats in front of them, or answering questions about what’s going to happen next, or trying to find Finnick’s pacifier in the dark that has rolled five or six aisles down. And I am guaranteed to miss the climax of the movie because I will be in the restroom for the fourth time with my Sprite hogger. 

Will I remember this experience the next time Pixar puts out a new ad? Absolutely not. We’ll load up the whole happy family and pay the theater $40 so that we can consume five bucks worth of popcorn and sprite and use dirty public restrooms. 

Do you remember when concerts used to be fun?
Woo hoo—live concerts! Our favorite musicians on a stage so close that you can see them clearly on the jumbo tron; the camaraderie of the surrounding fans who know the words to every song just like we do; hoping to get in line early enough for an autograph and a photo… Heavenly! 

We don’t even attempt those anymore.

However, with a band director for a husband and an international student in the high school choir, we are destined to attend school concerts if not professional ones. With one child, I began to opt for the very back row and an aisle seat, just in case of a meltdown or diaper situation. I couldn’t see worth a flip, but at least I could exit quickly if needed. With two children, I don’t even pick a seat. I know up front that I won’t occupy it long enough to bother.

With it being May and school coming to an end, we have had a whopping THREE concerts in the past two weeks. The first was a jazz band concert that was held outdoors. Knowing that we would be a distraction otherwise, I opted to sit at the top of the hill, practically on the curb of the parking lot, rather than down inside the actual amphitheater so that we could remain unseen behind the crowd. Naturally, that backfired. Andy and Finnick both yelled “Daddy!” and waved in between every song; Andy insisted on dancing on top of the blanket, which kept getting twisted around his feet and making him fall; and Finnick kept trying to walk down the very steep slope to get the stage. I spent the entire hour shushing and trying to keep my children from falling over the edge of the “cliff” to their deaths. I have no recollection of the concert itself. 

The very next week was the regular band concert, held inside the gym. Again, with the chair set-up, I was able to hang behind the crowd unseen. But not unheard! My children chased each other back and forth, tripped their way across the bottom step of the bleachers where they banged into the metal below, and fought over who could push the giant metal cart that holds all the folding chairs. By concert’s end, Finnick was screaming, and Andy was talking over him, asking me to help him get a drink out of the water fountain for the hundredth time. 

Two days later was the choir concert. I went alone.   

Do you remember when “date night” with your spouse was fun?
Actually going OUT is a thing of the past, but my children manage to ruin even the date nights we attempt at home. If we’re going to watch a movie after the kids are in bed, you can bet Andy’s going to get up every five minutes for a short visit and a re-tuck. And if romance is in the air, you can bet that Finnick is going to choose that moment to wake up screaming and need a pacifier recovery team. I swear my kids can smell romance the way some animals can smell fear, and they immediately attack and try to kill it dead. More than likely, we’ll give up on the movie about half-way in, and we'll wind up with a three-year-old sleeping in between us. Ooh, spicy.  

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