Ah, the weekend. A restful break from the trials of the Monday-Friday schedules; time to relax, catch up, and renew your spirit.
Unless you live in my house.
Weekends are typically pretty chaotic, with little rest and renewal. My husband usually works part of Saturday, then we attend to whatever the kids have on their schedules, then it’s family dinner time and we’re in bed by 8pm. I stay up to watch tv or read (ok, fine, to play Words with Friends and Candy Crush, whatever), but that happens most nights because I’m just trying to cope with Mark’s snoring. Sundays bring church, then the rest of the day is spent preparing for the week ahead (homework with the kids, laundry, blah, blah, blah).
Not terribly stressful (unless the kids are fighting, or having rough days), but certainly not like the days before kids when we could spend Saturday afternoons shopping, then go out for several hours on Saturday night, and then repeat that routine again on Sunday. I suppose we could, but seriously, we’re just too tired. Plus, when you add up the cost of babysitters, dinners, drinks, movies…who can afford to do it twice a week?
So, we settle for the mundane weekends and look forward to the occasional night out. Tonight happened to be one of those lovely evenings.
With my parents in town, we can occasionally ask them to take the kids for a few hours. Add that to the generous gift card that my husband received from his employees to a local restaurant, and something magical and rare happens: the FREE date night. No child care costs, the dinner tab has been paid. Sign. Me. Up. Once I realized that we could pull this off tonight, I put the plan in action.
The kids were thrilled to spend an evening with their grandparents (and two of the three are sleeping over there, bonus!), so we dropped them off a bit early so we could run some errands in peace. Then we went to restaurant, and because we arrived shortly before the big dinner crowd, we were seated right away.
We were placed in a nice, cozy corner of the restaurant, where I could sit and look out at the other tables. A dinner without the kids AND people watching? Yes, please. Not long after we sat down, a family was seated next to us. I saw the two young children approaching their table, and I’ll admit it, I inwardly groaned at the thought of losing my quiet evening out. Let’s face it, most children can be noisy. My children are very noisy. I always cringe when we have to sit down next to other diners, because you can actually hear people think negative thoughts when they see children in restaurants. I would never say anything, because unlike others, I completely understand that kids can get antsy when you tell them to sit quietly in a new place for longer than five minutes. I may not like it, but I get it, and I deal with it. So, tonight, I was mentally preparing myself for a not-so-cozy dining experience, when I heard one of the nearby kiddos order their drink: “May I please have a lemonade? Thank you!” Manners…without prompting! My kids have pretty good manners (I insist on it), but I do sometimes have to prompt them, especially in restaurants, because they are nervous about ordering (I mean, I can see where it would be awkward, being made to talk to a stranger just so you can have some chocolate milk…). The kids at the table next to us were rock stars through the whole meal; no raising of their voices, no constant trips to the restrooms, no fighting over electronics while they waited for their food. It was nice. After I realized that these children were cool, I could relax again.
That family was in and out of that restaurant fairly quickly (and didn’t leave without the kids thanking their server…maybe they were actually robot children…), and soon another party was brought to that table. This time, a pair that seemed to be father and son. The son seemed to have a developmental disability, although I couldn’t tell what (and it didn’t matter; it was simply an observation, one I’m prone to make as the mother of a child with Down syndrome), and he looked very excited to be dining out. As the father was settling in, he looked up to see me watching them with a smile (as I was reminded of my Alex, who loves eating out in restaurants), and gave me a weary smile in return. I know that expression, all too well. The “yeah, my kid is different, I know” smile. The brief look of concern at having someone watching them. I’ve totally been there. We get stared at all the time. I see people watching us, sometimes with looks of irritation when Alex is not behaving well. It only takes one negative experience like that to master that fake, tired smile. That lightening fast acknowledgment and silent warning to strangers to keep their opinions to themselves comes naturally now, and I could see in that father’s expression that they have experienced it too. I wish I could have silently let him know that I understood, that he’s not alone in those feelings; I could have easily conveyed that had Alex been at the table with us (but, let’s face it, I probably would have been too busy shuttling kids to and from the bathroom to even notice the people around us). Instead, I focused on my dessert selection, but not without stealing glimpses of the duo next to us (this kiddo had excellent manners, too!).
Our quiet dinner came to an end all too soon, and we had to go back into the cold and return to reality. These times are rare for us, and we enjoyed every second. We’ll resume our boring weekend regimen now, and get ready for the week ahead.
But not before I catch up on my words and crushing of the candy…