Panic at the Family-Style Chicken Place
For the twins' first birthday, and after this debacle, we decided to try (again at) making some happy family memories outside of the house.
I hate to admit this, but the twins don't get out much, aside from visiting family. This disappointing fact was punctuated yesterday by Maggie's sitting on the floor, howling and undoing the velcro on her shoes, for a good fifteen minutes, before I was able to distract her with a dinner roll. That might have been the fifth or sixth time she's worn shoes. Ever.
We wanted to have a proper 'birthday dinner' for the twins, and had been trying to fit it in all week, with no success. We decided the safest bet would be the family-style chicken restaurant. It's always packed, and always loud. Between the bustle and the noise, our children would blend into the background. Right?
In the interest of full disclosure, we did try this once before. During that visit, Matthew flung pasta shells wildly over his head and ripped most of the paper tablecloth off the table. It definitely could have gone better, but it also could have gone much worse.
When we arrived, it was dark and raining. I pulled up to the door and my husband and mother unloaded our children, a double stroller, and all of our earthly belongings from our van. They assembled our traveling show while I parked the car.
As we made our way to the hostess stand (which, in my mind, was sixteen miles away, and dotted with bubbling piranha pits, nettle, and venomous snakes), Matthew decided he didn't want to hold Grammy's hand anymore, so he broke free and started running circles around the waiting area.
I asked him if he wanted to be carried. He did. So, I held him precariously with my left arm, while pushing the double stroller with my right. If you've had the pleasure of pushing a double stroller with two children in it, you'd know that they are not easy to steer with two hands, never mind one. I manned the stroller as it banged back and forth between a wall to our right and columns to our left, while my husband, up ahead, spoke to the hostess, and my mother, alongside us, carried the diaper bag.
I had begun to break a sweat. This was not how I envisioned a successful outing with my family. I took a deep breath as I approached the hostess stand. We were directed through one dining room and into another. I pushed the twins, very carefully, between two rows of tables. By that point, I was physically shaking. Would Matthew accidentally kick someone in the head? Would Maggie let out one of her blood-curdling screams? Would I hit an occupied table with the baby carriage, sending hot decaf flying into someone's lap?
I was completely stressed. I considered turning tail and running - without the kids - more than once. When we arrived at our table, naturally, activity ceased as everyone's attention turned to us - to count the children, the adults, to pair said children with present adults, and to listen for the bellows of dissatisfied babies...
Not to disappoint, Michael let out a screech, and Maggie joined in. At that point, I felt completely deflated. We were already there, though, and as far as I could see, there was no way out, so I stood up a bit straighter and handled the situation.
I could only imagine the people around us thinking, "Oh, there they go..."
Damn, I thought. Foiled before we even sat down.
Despite the setback, I had no choice but to charge forward. With a little fancy footwork, we secured all three in highchairs, then took seats ourselves. When I finally came to a resting position, I could feel my pulse throbbing in my ears. I was still shaking a bit on the inside.
Matthew busied himself with a golf pencil and a Keno betting card. The twins were subdued by rolls and butter. My shoulders were basically up around my head, and I refused to sit back in my chair, ready to lunge after whatever went flying from the table.
After a few moments, our food arrived. That was the beauty of the family-style chicken place, you see. The food was all prepared and ready to be dealt, like a hand of poker, to each table. Bread, pasta, chicken, salad, fries. Full House.
I, of course, after a spirited round of 'Not It', had charge of Maggie. Matthew went to my husband, and my mother took care of Michael.
And you know what happened next?
We sat and ate a meal. At a table. In a restaurant. Like a family.
By mid-chicken, my shoulders had descended from my earlobes, and I could no longer hear the blood wooshing through my veins. I was satisfied that Maggie was comfortable, based on the fact that she was shoveling pasta shells into her mouth like a refugee. Matthew was alternating bites of chicken with pasta and fries, taking short breaks to color with his pencil and say hello to the busboys and servers. And Michael, well, he just ate. He's good for that.
A woman dining alone, probably in her early sixties, chatted with Matthew and played Peek-a-Boo with Michael, who bounced happily in his chair, laughing and flirting with her.
And when we were done, we got up. And we packed the twins back into their monstrous carriage, and we collected Matthew and our belongings, and we left.
And it was that uneventful. Uneventful, yet so memorable.
Because I think we've turned a corner. A corner that brings me just a little bit closer to having my life back, and us closer to truly enjoying our family.
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