Any parent will know going out to eat with young children is only for those who are gluttons for punishment. If you are lucky you can make a reservation, but then you have to remember that this is Portland and brunch is a “thing”. Especially brunch at anywhere besides Shari’s or IHOP. For additional torture, we have decided to go to Screen Door. Yes, the one that always has a line that wraps around the corner. How was this accomplished you ask? Only by showing up before the place has even opened. At 8 AM on a Monday.
We sit down at a spot for 6, something that can only be wish for at any other time. Luckily it is a half booth which is both good and bad news with a toddler. The good news is that you don’t have to deal with a high chair, which for a two year old is like a straight jacket. The bad news is, now the toddler is between you in the booth and has the freedom to grab hold of the butter packets, hot sauce, and slip underneath the table like an eel. At least the baby is asleep and the gap between the table and booth fits the carseat.
The rest of the family arrives, causing obvious angst that can only be alleviated by clinging to one parent or the other, squeezing into your lap and hiding their face. This will happen even if they met them already and played with them the day before. But then, as soon as they realize this can be a source of attention tiny fingers begin to slap and pinch your cheeks, punctuated by demonic giggles.
Time to order. Fantastic, they don’t have a kids menu. Most everything on the menu sounds delicious and probably at least 3000 calories. Hedge your bets by ordering chicken and waffles to share and pray that the toddler will eat anything if it is covered in enough maple syrup. Kill some time by letting her drink the orange juice with a spoon.
Now comes the coloring, a task that can sometimes alleviate strife and fill the time period until the food arrives. Or perhaps sometimes make things worse, depending on whether you correctly color the area vaguely pointed at or if any crayons fall on the ground. Like all things, it’s 50/50 between happiness and complete despair. At least we have outgrown the stage when the fun game is to dump the crayons out onto the floor or peel the paper off in tiny bits.
Sticky. Everywhere. Always sticky. Fingers, hair, face, clothes. There is no escape. Don’t even try wearing nice clothes. As a parent, your uniform is either brown or you’ve just accepted stains in odd places.
We might have enough time to drink our coffee before it gets cold or quickly stuff some of the food ordered in a blind panic as the wriggling toddler is passed between us. The waffle is cut into perfect bite size pieces, loaded with butter and syrup, and placed down in front of her, hopeful. The fork technique is well executed but unfortunately the soggy waffle does not cooperate. Tears ensue. “But you can just use your hands…try this spoon…Here, I put the bite on the fork for you…” NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.
Sometimes you can catch small pieces of adult conversation between coaxing the toddler to take another bite, or try some potatoes. Or maybe just suck the ketchup off the potatoes. Ketchup contains some nutrients I think. A climax is reached with a sugar high that is only slightly better than a tantrum. After about an hour that seems like eternity you get the check. An arm and a leg for your time. Of course.
Walking out into the morning sun after, we look at each other and agree. We had a great time. Right?
*Disclaimer: We did have a good time 🙂