For the first two years of his life, the firstborn was either coming out of or heading into anesthesia. Really not a fun way to spend those years, but by golly was he a relaxed baby. It was misleading, really. He was content to people watch and play toys if we were at a restaurant or walking a mall. My wife and I were lead to believe that, with the routine stressful and expensive eye surgeries aside, kids were fairly easy going beasts. I am pretty sure the firstborn spent years just lulling us into a false sense of security that a second child would be fairly easy and highly unlikely to have eye issues.
We were terribly mistaken.
I want to talk about restaurant excursions with the toddler. Last night we ventured to a local barbecue spot. The firstborn sat at the table taking part in the coloring sheet placed in front of him. My wife guided him through the mazes and connect-the-dot pictures. The toddler squirmed around in his grandmother’s lap. He squawked from time to time and made repeated attempts to crawl over the table. He slapped straws against cups and at one point came into possession of a runaway crayon. The table never stood a chance.
The toddler is big and shockingly strong. His grandmother, while a formidable person and not one that should be “messed with”, had no hope of containing the wee fellow. The toddler was passed over the table to the confines of what I like to call the “Mom and Dad Press.” We flanked him and hoped. Much like Jurassic Park though, nature finds a way. He writhed and wiggled and before long was on my lap.
He bested me. For a time I thought the best way to keep him crawling across the table was to just hold him in the air. He can’t walk if his feet aren’t touching anything!
It was foolish. The thing about kids without eye problems at this age is that they can see. They can see really well. The toddler, as he floated above those of us seated at the table and kicked his little feet and laughed with untiring glee, saw his audience.
To the west of our table, an older couple sat for their dinner. They both looked like they had lived and breathed farm work for the entirety of their lives. He had on his John Deere hat and a pair of jeans that tell a better story than I have ever managed. She had a big dyed bubble of hair atop her head. They both waved and smiled at the flying toddler and he found that to be just the best thing ever.
From that moment on, he worked to make them smile. I hope they got to eat their dinner. The toddler did not. He would not settle long enough.
Just before food arrived I removed the youngster from the building and we played outside. Free range parenting or something like that. You know when you see a big dog in a little yard and think, ‘poor thing needs some running room?’ Some nights a dad just has to approach a one year old like a dog too big for its space. Out in front of the building, the smell of hickory smoke filling the air, he had a ball. There was a bike rack he tried to climb. There was a bench he was just slightly shorter than, he tried to climb it. What he was most interested in doing though was walking across the parking lot to meet the inebriated group talking quite loudly to each other beside their cars. I don’t know if he just wanted to be social or wanted to tell them to shush, but he really wanted to meet them all.
Summoned back inside when food arrived, he waved to all the people we passed and watched everything that happened around him. He kicked and wiggled all the while too. It was not an easy walk back inside. The waitress delivering large cups of water to a ten-top table made me quite nervous as we walked by.
At the start of the meal we thought a booster seat would be enough. He could sit with everyone, elbow to elbow, and it would be easy to manage. We were wrong. Before eating commenced we asked for a high chair. It was not exactly easier.
The toddler still wanted to see the farm couple he was playing with earlier so he pushed himself away from the table. I can’t even do a sit up (more of a ‘won’t’ situation), and here he was pushing himself and a heavy highchair away from a table without so much as a grunt.
Eating was a struggle of letting him be independent and not letting a plate full of food crash to the floor. He demanded a spoon, he swiped mashed potatoes, he squashed baked beans and generally did his best to not let anything get into his mouth.
It was a rough meal. But those around us seemed entertained.