Food for Thought



children fighting in grocery storeEvery now and then I’m reminded of how different my life is from my child-free friend’s. And when I say different, I mean worlds apart. Like Mars and Pluto. But we stay connected by planning an occasional dinner out. Take last night, for instance.

She brought a date and I brought my husband and kids, and we met at a sit-down restaurant; the kind with linen tablecloths. My friend introduced us to her new boyfriend who, I could tell, really dug my pal based on their hand-holding and long, soulful kisses. I believe the last time my husband and I smooched like that was on our wedding day. Nevertheless, we chatted while my boys fought over who got to hold the blinking thingy that alerts us when our table is ready. 

Happily, it beeped within 10 minutes and we were led to our table. Or as I like to call it, musical chairs. “I want to sit next to Dad!” “You sat next to him last time!” Yeah, we were a spectacle. The lovebirds were slightly embarrassed while the other parents in the restaurant just smiled. Quickly I negotiated peace and we all sat down.  

Ohhh, the Options

We all got menus and the blissful couple tenderly discussed the fare while I focused on ordering for the boys. I debated with them over their options, nixed the fries for a vegetable, and avoided total anarchy by agreeing to dessert. Mingled in with this were my husbands’ questions. “Do I like sea bass?” “Yes,” I replied, “but it comes with scallops and you hate them.” Now I’m scanning the entrées for something for him, while assuring the kids that no, they don’t have to eat all the broccoli I’m forcing them to order. 

I then tell my husband he would like the fajitas. “But no green peppers, they give you gas . . . and get the salsa on the side.” 

Now I ask you, how is it possible that I can remember this level of minutia but forget where my car keys are? Then the waitress arrived and I politely asked her for a few more minutes, to the complete irritation of my children. “Mommmm, why does it take you so long to decide?” So I begrudgingly ordered whatever was pictured on the table-tent menu. What does it matter anyway? I haven’t enjoyed a hot meal since 2003.

Once the drinks arrived, my boys started chugging them like dehydrated longshoreman on leave, so I moved the cups next to me. Then I collected the sharp knives, the salt and pepper shakers, and the bread basket. Peering over the heap, I listened to my friend’s stories of weekends in wine country and the concert they just attended. And by the way, interspersed among these tales were exchanges between the couple like: “I love you more.”  “No, I love you more . . .” 

I glanced down at the pile of knives in front me, my eye twitching. To pull it together I began playing hangman with my youngest. Then tic-tac-toe. To be honest, I was a little bit jealous. Not of her love life, but of her freshly showered, well-rested, exuberant self. That used to be me!   

Once our meals came, though, I no longer had time to obsess. I was too busy cutting up food, making sure no foods touched on the plates, removing garnishes, and redistributing drinks. Then my husband asked me, “How is your dinner?” I said “Great!” even though I hadn’t had even one bite yet. But the crew was settled and all was right with the world. Even the sweethearts were getting used to the flurry of activity.

By the time dessert arrived it was like no time had passed at all between my friend and me. And my jealousy? That vanished the moment my son climbed onto my lap and whispered, “I love you Mommy.” I whispered back, “I love you more.” And right there, in the middle of the nice restaurant with the fancy linen tablecloths, Mars and Pluto merged. I realized it doesn’t matter that my friend and I lead such different lives, because in the universe of friendship and love, we are perfectly aligned.

Jane Suter is one funny mom. To share some of your own parenting experiences with Jane, write to her at janesuter@hotmail.com.

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