Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Crazy Middle

There is a lot of research concerning birth order. And if you’d asked me a few years ago what I thought about all that research, I would have said that it’s a bunch of psychobabble junk. But now that I have children, I’ve come to realize—there is a special kind of CRAZY that is the middle child. In fact, my hubs and I have discussed at great length the need for a fourth kid, just to remove the “middle child” stigma, thus dialing down the crazy of kid #2. 

That crazy was on full display a couple of nights ago when my husband suggested going out to dinner. Destination—Olive Garden. Probably not the best choice for three kids ages 3 and under, but we had a gift card. And the free pasta and unlimited bread sticks called to us. Against our better judgment, we decided to answer the call, so into the freezing wind and rain we went.

The drive went something like this…

OLDEST CHILD: Looked out the window and sang sweet songs about Jesus.
YOUNGEST CHILD: Slept quietly.
MIDDLE CHILD: Screamed “MAMA, I WANT YOU!!!!” at the top of his lungs for a full 25 minutes.

I could tell already, this outing was not going to be our best. Those bread sticks had better be absolutely incredible.

Finally, we arrived at the restaurant. Oh, sweet moment to be able to open the doors and let out some of the noise! Of course, it was still raining, and we had three kids we needed to get inside. But with two parents, how bad could it be...

OLDEST CHILD: Held my hand and walked quickly to the awning to get out of the rain.
YOUNGEST CHILD: Silently allowed Dad to carry him within the carrier to dry land.
MIDDLE CHILD: Yanked me over to every puddle so he could splash while “running” to get under the awning. (Running=trotting in place.) Refused to hold Oldest’s hand, screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” whenever he had the audacity to reach for it.
I began to dread the stares of disapproval we were doomed to receive inside the nice, quiet restaurant.

Thankfully, the hostess ushered us to the very back room. I always feel a little better when we are seated in the back or in a corner. It helps us be a little more inconspicuous with our noise and mess. That hostess must have had a premonition, or she was simply a genius, because so it began…

OLDEST CHILD: Sat down and begin to color his child’s menu.
YOUNGEST CHILD: Stared sweetly around the room whilst making precious cooing sounds.
MIDDLE CHILD: Threw a temper tantrum over the booster seat provided for him, insisting on sitting on the bench like Oldest. Turned around to meet the folks behind us, all the while brandishing his fork like a weapon. Shoved his coloring sheet into Oldest’s repeatedly, finding great delight in his frustration. Threw his crayons on the ground. Begged to sit with Mama, then lunged headfirst into the diaper bag, sitting on the booth bench, much like a football player would tackle his opponent. 

I had the na├»ve thought that maybe he was just hungry and would settle down when the food arrived. But then the appetizers came, and I quickly realized that wasn’t the case...

OLDEST CHILD: Asked politely for a piece of bread with cheese and salad.
YOUNGEST CHILD: Entertained himself quietly with a cloth napkin.
MIDDLE CHILD: Refused to sit down, so ate while standing precariously on the very edge of the booth bench, still waving his fork around, by the way. Greeted the new customers behind us by clonking one of the girls on the head with the fork-sword. Banged on the wall with the fork. Dropped accursed fork on the ground- hallelujah!- but… then stole Oldest’s. Sucked the dressing off his salad then spit the lettuce back out. Asked for more at the top of his lungs, then pouted that we wouldn’t let him have it. Inhaled 5 pieces of cheesy bread instead, which I had to blow on over, and over, and over, even when it wasn’t hot.

At this point, I gave up all hope of a nice family meal and started mentally counting down to the end of the torture. Meanwhile, our meal arrived…

OLDEST CHILD: Commented on how good everything looked, waited patiently for his plate to be fixed, then ate in a mannerly fashion.
YOUNGEST CHILD: Continued to chew the cloth napkin.
MIDDLE CHILD: Dropped his new fork. Practically ripped my shirt off to get my attention, even though I was looking at him and saying, “What do you need?” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  Tried to climb the diaper bag, knocking multiple items onto the floor. Climbed under the table to retrieve fork(s). Had so much fun that he started dropping things on purpose so that he could pick them back up. Banged his head on the table and needed a kiss in order to recover. By the end of the meal, despite multiple recovery trips down below, there were three forks, one spoon, two jackets, and a blanket under our table.

At last, our meal was completed. All we had left to do was pay our bill…

OLDEST CHILD: Pretended his straw was a gun. (Hey, he had been a PERFECT ANGEL this whole time! Cut him some slack!)
YOUNGEST CHILD: Fussed to be held. (Again, perfect angel up til now!)
MIDDLE CHILD: Pretended his straw was a gun. But louder. And he upped the game a little by “shooting” other customers.

Back at the van…

OLDEST CHILD: “Thank you Dadddy for taking us to The Garden!”
YOUNGEST CHILD: Sweet silence.
MIDDLE CHILD: Shot Mom and Dad with his straw gun.