Whenever my husband and I take our children out to a friend’s house or, should we feel saucy, to a restaurant, events begin well. The baby will laugh and crawl around, our daughter will dash off to play, and lulled by the façade of peace we will sit down with a drink and begin a conversation. But of course, this is really only a false front disguising the storm brewing inside my children.
Often, what’s brewing inside my children is poop. I don’t know why, but they instinctively know to hold on to any bowel movements until we are in the most rural part of our road trip or at someone else’s’ house. I’m no novice. I now carry back up diapers, wipes and clothing in the car. This has led to the baby wearing a shirt declaring him a Princess and my daughter waddling around with a size two diaper on her three-year-old bum, but poop we can handle.
It’s the other storm that worries me. The one that begins with whimpering and a quiet hysteria that I can see rising in the baby’s eyes. We know what’s coming: the meltdown. The full-on public meltdown. Children don’t meltdown quietly. They aren’t masters of the graceful exit. Instead, they are Biblical in their wrath and grief. Clothing is torn. Teeth are gnashed. Hellfire comes spewing forth from that cute little mouth that you kiss at night. And my children always seem to meltdown when my husband and I dare to take them out in the evening.
We never learn. I don’t know if that is the sleep deprivation or the fact that we are eternal optimist. Maybe this time our kids won’t scream in Red Robin! Maybe this time my daughter won’t decide that the marching band in the parade is going to crush her and start sobbing. Maybe this time, the baby won’t grab my plate of ribs, while I look away to take a drink, and toss my whole meal on the floor. Maybe this time we can all eat hamburgers happily as a family as God intended. But inevitably, the whimpers begin, the pupils dilate, teeth start grinding, and it becomes evident that we need to leave. Of course, we never do leave on time. We always push the boundaries just a little further than we intend to. Goodbyes take a little longer than we expect and the waitress is never around with the check. (Which surprises me, because if I were a restaurant, I would want me out of there too.)
So, if you see a frazzled woman and a disgruntled man hauling a sobbing little girl in a princess dress and a pantsless, screaming baby to the car, that’s us. Say, “hi!” The meltdown has already come, what’s a little more parking lot hysterics in the grand scheme of things?
Inevitably, we will be back at it again next week. Hoping against hope that this, this will be the time we can take our kids in public successfully. Forget college. Forget being a doctor, I just want to enjoy a nice meal out without my kids crying because the French fries are to “French fryie.” But that’s parenting: The eternal hope that one day your kid can function in public without you or someone else getting arrested or breaking down into tears. Wish us luck.