It was dark, it was very cold, and my legs were scrunched up too close to my body as I drove the car. My two oldest boys were bundled up in the back seat of my car. Normally we don’t attempt to squeeze two car seats into the back of Daddy’s car, but tonight I was taking the boys down the street for a quick bite of Mexican at Moe’s while Mommy went out with the baby. I’d already tried to move my seat back once, apparently not realizing how close my son’s foot was, setting him off with loud yips of laughter that quickly turned to screams as his foot was slowly smashed by the power seat. Woops – I’ll just eat my knees. Sorry son.
We spun out of the driveway and onto the road towards the restaurant. I sometimes like to tear out of the driveway (if there are no cars coming and the kids are securely buckled of course) in the car with the boys because they think it’s fun and I have to keep up the perception in their minds that Daddy’s cool. I can do it when I’m driving alone but no one sees, and doing it with Mommy in the car just doesn’t get the same effect.
“Are you speeding Daddy?” the boys yell from the back seat inches behind my ear.
“No, we’re just getting a quick start.” All true.
We head off to a healthy dinner of burritos and tacos five minutes down the road. I’ve found the best plan with the boys by myself in a fast-food type place is to have them go sit down at a table together while I order. They’re twenty feet away but are in clear view and earshot so I can shoot them threatening looks and gestures to keep them in their seats. The fact that they have coats, hats and gloves within reach complicates matters, but I don’t think anyone else was hit (this time).
I arrived back at the table and handed out the food, hoping for gratitude and no complaints. Alas, horror of horrors, it was quickly discovered that tomatoes were accidentally put in one of their burritos. I’d learned my lesson in the past that it was disastrous to have any beans mixed in with the ground beef. While I was closely monitoring the beans, somehow the guy snuck those rascally tomatoes in. There’s just no winning sometimes.
“I don’t like tomatoes in my burrito!” Josh exclaimed in an annoyingly whiny voice. The look on his face indicated that he was about to cause a serious problem and possibly boycott the entire meal. I wondered if he was still mad at me for crushing his foot.
“It’s not tomatoes,” I replied with great confidence, working hard to sell this exciting news to the boy. “It’s salsa. It’s good – look,” and I took a bite of mine. “Yummy, salsa!”
No luck. So I proceeded to attempt to carefully unwrap the burrito, remove the offending salsa tomatoes and rewrap it back for him. I soon discovered that this place heats up their tortillas which makes them stick together. This is normally very helpful to keep one’s burrito from falling apart. Unless you have to remove the salsa. That burrito was not coming unwrapped without crumbling to pieces, so I carefully scraped out as much salsa as I could get to and covered the rest with more beef so he wouldn’t see it. That worked for about three bites and then I had to repeat that process several more times.
At this restaurant, there are TVs mounted on the wall in front of and behind our table, each showing a different channel. With the two boys, one child has to sit across from me, which means that he is always in view of something out of my supervision. Tonight Matthew was sitting across, but the TV was turned to ESPN SportsCenter so I assumed all was safe, and he gave us occasional commentary about some cool thing that he saw.
“Look, there’s the Giants getting tackled.
“Daddy, is that Yankees Hot Stove?
“What is that…ewww!”
“What is it?” his younger brother exclaimed and he jumped up in his seat, whipping his head around to look.
I turned around to see what strange sport he was watching and to my surprise, there was a commercial with two sweaty young bodies writhing together on the dance floor, barely clothed and madly making out – thus the “ewww” comment. Great.
“Turn around,” I barked to the youngest once I saw what it was.
“Don’t watch that,” I said across the table to my six-year-old. “That’s a grown-up show.”
To his credit, he looked back at his food, seemingly agreeing with my assessment and thankfully not interested to learn what exactly made it a grown-up show tonight.
As we got up to leave, I tried to brush some of the mess from our table onto a napkin but it had little effect. Our seating area looked like a pack of dogs had just invaded. I caught the glance of the woman walking over to bus the table and could tell she was less than thrilled with us. Sometimes I can only pray that people realize the challenge that it is to be out with small children and cut a dad some slack.
I checked Josh’s walk towards the door and didn’t see any sign of a limp. The way I see it, if I can get them out of the house, fed, shield them from excessive exposure to overtly adult content, avoid broken limbs and give Mommy a partial break – that’s a job well done!